KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs sit atop the AFC with a 6-1 record, and even though head coach Andy Reid can always find some learning opportunities for his squad, he believes the team delivered its best performance of the season thus far during Sunday night's 45-10 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.
"There's still some somethings that we've got to clean up," Reid said. "But I would tell you I thought collectively that was probably our best game against a good football team of both sides of the ball and special teams playing well."
While the Chiefs offense turned in one virtuoso performance after another through the first six weeks of the season, the defense finally put together its first complete effort from opening kickoff to the final whistle. The Chiefs allowed just 239 yards of offense against the Bengals, almost 150 yards below their previous best of 385 yards yielded to the Broncos in Week 4. The team still ranks dead last in the league with 435.4 yards allowed per game, but their scoring defense now ranks 22nd with 26 points allowed per outing.
That's a step forward, however, and a big enough leap to give Reid optimism.
"I think that's important as you go through the year that you keep taking steps forward," Reid said.
The defense got help from some of its usual suspects Sunday night, but also from young players stepping up in big roles with injuries continuing to take their toll. Linebacker Dee Ford picked up his fifth sack of the season with a forced fumble. He had a second sack wiped out by a penalty. Defensive end Chris Jones also added his third sack of the year, while safety Ron Parker notched his first pick-six in his eight-year career.
But the Chiefs also got big contributions from rookie linebackers Dorian O'Daniel and Breeland Speaks. O'Daniel stepped in for injured linebacker Terrance Smith, contributing as a nickel linebacker and helping hold Bengals running back Joe Mixon to just 1 yard receiving on three catches. Speaks added two tackles and a quarterback hit filling in for injured edge rusher Justin Houston.
Reid said O'Daniel picked up more reps in practice of late and felt he was ready to contribute more on defense. He played 25 snaps against the Bengals after playing just 10 defensive snaps through the first six games of the season.
"You could see his speed and ability and the more he plays the more he's learning as we go here," Reid said. "I think as we go he'll continue to get more play. He can run is what he can do, and you see that he's a violent tackler."
The depleted defense could also see reinforcements coming its way soon. Safety Daniel Sorensen, who remains on injured reserve after surgery during training camp for a tibial plateau fracture, worked out on the field Sunday and could return to practice as soon as this week. The club remains hopeful fellow safety Eric Berry can soon return from a sore heel. The Chiefs filled the breach at safety by re-signing Parker and turning to youngsters Eric Murray and Jordan Lucas, who have picked up valuable experience with the absence of Berry and Sorensen.
Reid says he's willing to work Sorensen slowly back into the rotation depending upon the timing of his return.
"He covered a lot of different areas for us," Reid said. "And at that time, was an important ingredient to that defense. Let's just see when he gets back and how that rolls. Good problem to have though, right. I'm not sure exactly the answer for you. I want to see how he is when he gets back in there."
Reid didn't want to say his defense had turned the corner, but he does continue to see a mentality of his young defense to dig in when it must to make stops at key moments.
"Our guys have done a decent job with that," Reid said. "It takes a certain mentality to do that. Our guys have done a decent job with that throughout this season. When we needed a stop, we've normally gotten the stop."
But he also sees growth in a defensive unit able to hold a Cincinnati team to 10 points that came into the game averaging 27.3 points per game.
"To be able to take an offense like that -- I think that they've got a good offense and they were hot when we played them here when they came in here," Reid said. "To be able to shut that down I thought was a big step."
--LB Terrance Smith left Sunday night's win against Cincinnati with a sprained knee. He played just four snaps before giving way to rookie LB Daniel O'Dorian. The Chiefs expect to provide an update on his condition when they return to practice Wednesday.
--S Daniel Sorensen ran through drills on the field ahead of Sunday's game, providing another indication he's nearing a return to practice. He remains on injured reserve after surgery for a tibial plateau fracture suffered during training camp. The team expected him to miss at least the first half of the season.
--LB Justin Houston missed his second game with a hamstring injury, and he looks likely to miss the Week 8 contest against Denver as well. Head coach Andy Reid said Monday he had not timetable for Houston's return to the field.
--LB Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) played just two special teams snaps against Cincinnati. He entered the game questionable after being limited in practice on Friday. The Chiefs played with just three outside linebackers on Sunday with Dee Ford, rookie Breeland Speaks and veteran free agent Frank Zombo who returned to the team last week.
--S Eric Murray (ankle) played 22 defensive snaps as a third safety and during second-team duty late in the fourth quarter. Jordan Lucas started in the secondary alongside Ron Parker, and may have a hold on the starting job until the expected return of Eric Berry to the lineup at some point this season.