KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Justin Houston kept his eyes locked on Arizona quarterback Josh Rosen.
When Rosen turned to his left to hit running back David Johnson with 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the veteran pass rusher jumped up and snagged the ball out of the air.
Four plays later, Chiefs running back Spencer Ware burst into the end zone for his first touchdown of the season, giving the Chiefs a two-score lead against a pesky Cardinals team.
Active for the first time in a month, Houston made the most of his return to the field with the fourth-quarter interception — one of the most crucial plays in the Chiefs' 26-14 win. Officially, he finished with one tackle, one quarterback hurry and one pass defended along with the interception.
Before Houston's pick, the Cardinals were driving, down just six points in the fourth quarter. Though quarterback Patrick Mahomes broke the Chiefs' franchise record with his 31st touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter, the offense was stagnant for much of the game.
Mahomes (21 of 28, 249 yards, 2 TD) was held to less than 300 yards, snapping his streak of eight games with at least 300 passing yards. Mahomes was one away from setting the NFL record of consecutive 300-yard games.
With the offense lacking some of its usual explosiveness, the defense came through big time. The Chiefs (9-1) allowed just two scores and 214 yards. KC also sacked Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (21 of 37, 204 yards, 1TD, 2 INT) five times.
The defense gave up scoring drives to the Cardinals to open the first and third quarters, but made adjustments to clamp down after that.
After allowing a six-minute, 75-yard drive in the Cardinals' first possession, the Chiefs kept Arizona (2-7) scoreless the rest of the half. Chris Jones recorded a strip sack of Rosen in the second quarter, extending his sack streak to six games. He finished with two sacks.
Rookie linebacker Ben Neimann made his first career start, playing in place of Anthony Hitchens. Neimann led the Chiefs with six tackles. Though Hitchens was active, he was held out of the game as he continues to work through severely bruised ribs. Safety Daniel Sorensen also got into the game, subbing in for a third down package in the first quarter for his first game action after he was elevated from the injured reserve list last week. He finished with four tackles.
The Cardinals opened up the second half with the ball and took 7 minutes, 12 seconds off the clock with a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped by David Johnson's 1-yard touchdown run. Johnson gashed the Chiefs for 98 rushing yards on 21 carries and 85 receiving yards on seven receptions. With Arizona's score, the Chiefs' lead was reduced to six points with 7:48 to go in the third.
The Chiefs' offense stagnated on their next drive, punting as a screen pass from Mahomes to fullback Anthony Sherman on 3rd-and-long only produced a two-yard gain.
Still up just six points, the Chiefs' defense protected the lead on the ensuing drive, forcing a three-and-out. Houston picked off Rosen on Arizona's next possession to essentially end Arizona's shot of an upset.
Mahomes started out the game strongly enough, recording his 30th touchdown pass of the season when he hit Tyreek Hill three plays into the first drive for a 37-yard touchdown. But he wouldn't throw the record-breaking touchdown — another pass to Hill — until late in the second quarter as the offense had to settle for two long field goals.
For as strong as the offensive line has been through injury-forced turnover, the unit faltered on Sunday. After allowing just 12 sacks all season entering the game, it allowed four in the first half. Mahomes was also hit six times in the opening quarters. A couple of them were the result of left tackle Eric Fisher not blocking Chandler Jones, but other times, Mahomes seemed to hold on to the ball a bit too long.
In the fourth quarter, Josh Bynes recorded Arizona's fifth sack of Mahomes, slipping past Wylie on the inside to get to the quarterback.
The Cardinals' defensive line also slowed Kareem Hunt, tackling the running back for a loss four times. Hunt finished with 71 yards on 13 attempts.
The Chiefs were held scoreless in the third quarter, adding only 54 yards and four first downs in the period. They finally got back on the board in the fourth with Ware's game-sealing score.