The Kansas City Chiefs, impressive one week ago against the New York Jets, couldn't sustain the momentum against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Chiefs forced eight turnovers during a win against the Jets, but were unable to build on it against a Steelers' team that suffered its worst loss in 27 years last week at Philadelphia.
The return of All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles didn't help as the Chiefs' offense sputtered and committed two costly early turnovers while Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the defense, throwing five touchdown passes during a 43-14 win against Kansas City on Sunday.
"I really feel like the turnovers changed the game," Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith said. "Two turnovers, and then all of the sudden we were down. It was a different game."
Charles completed his nearly yearlong comeback from a torn ACL in his right knee, but the return was spoiled by the Steelers. Charles had just two carries for seven yards during his season debut for the Chiefs, who haven't won in Pittsburgh since 1986. Smith completed 30 of 50 passes for 287 yards with an interception and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Kansas City defense allowed the most points since the 2013 wild-card playoff game against Indianapolis.
"You learn a lot about yourself after you get your butt kicked, and today, we got our butts kicked," Chiefs' linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
The Pittsburgh secondary entered the game allowing more than 300 yards passing during its first three games, and Smith nearly made it four straight. But Smith and the Chiefs were unable to expose the Steelers like Philadelphia and Andy Reid disciple Doug Pederson.
Philadelphia slashed the Steeler defense a week ago, turning short screen passes and underneath routes into big gains. Kansas City employs a similar offensive scheme, but it didn't work on Sunday as the Steelers eliminated costly missed tackles that plagued them against Philadelphia.
The Steelers also controlled the line of scrimmage, finishing with four sacks after entering with one in three games. Pittsburgh was reluctant to bring pressure during the first three weeks, instead opting to drop seven or eight players into coverage, but the Steelers harassed Smith throughout the night.
"Hats off to a team for bouncing back after getting their tail whipped," Kelce said. "We're going to have to do the same thing."
The Chiefs fell apart early on Sunday as the Steeler defense forced two turnovers in the first 10 minutes that led to touchdowns.
Cameron Heyward struck first when he forced a Spencer Ware fumble, recovered by Ross Cockrell. Heyward helped force the Chiefs' second turnover when he tipped a pass that was picked off by linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Roethlisberger attacked the Chiefs' secondary after the turnovers with touchdown passes to Darrius Heyward-Bey and Antonio Brown. He threw for two more scores in the first half and opened the second with another as Kansas City trailed by 36 points early in the third quarter.
"When they got the lead they were able to feast," Smith said. "They had the crowd noise rolling and they were able to bring the pressure."