KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was as if the thick cloud cover and rain blanketing Arrowhead Stadium was waiting for the most poetic time to part.
Moments after cornerback Steven Nelson celebrated his first career interception with a defensive back tip drill in the end zone to close the first half, the sun broke through, shining on the field as the Chiefs ran to the locker room with a 20-point lead.
It's not just that the Chiefs shut out the Jaguars (3-2) in the first half of the 30-14 win, it's how they did it. Sharing a field with the best defense in the league, the Chiefs' defensive unit looked elite with a slew of replacements, playing the best four quarters of football they've played all season.
The defensive performance Sunday afternoon bolstered a solid outing from the Chiefs' offense and special teams, despite quarterback Patrick Mahomes (22-of-38, 313 yards) throwing his first two interceptions of the season. Kareem Hunt added 87 yards on 22 carries, while Travis Kelce had a 100-yard game on five receptions.
In the first half alone, the Chiefs' defense produced an interception, a strip sack and fumble recovery, a pick-six and a fourth down stop at the goal line.
The touchdown, courtesy of defensive end Chris Jones' second career interception, was the Chiefs' first defensive score of the season.
Jones swallowed a Blake Bortles pass in the second quarter and ran it in from 20 yards out for his first career score.
The unit, so maligned through the first quarter of the NFL season, seemed to channel all of its frustration into shutting down the Jaguars' offense. Bortles finished with 430 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions on a 33-of-60 effort, though a good chunk of those yards came with the Jags down two scores in the fourth quarter. Bortles' outing had a fitting ending as Orlando Scandrick picked him off in the end zone with four seconds left. Meanwhile, running back TJ Yeldon had just 53 yards on 10 carries along with eight catches for 69 yards.
And the Chiefs (5-0) did it without a full complement of defensive players. By the end of the game, the Chiefs were down five major defensive players — in addition to safeties Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen, who haven't played a game this season. The offense wasn't spared either, as lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif suffered a leg injury late in the fourth quarter when the full weight of DT Marcell Dareus came down on his left leg.
Safety Eric Murray, who's been playing in place of Berry, was the first player to go down, exiting the game with a lower leg injury in the first quarter. That brought on Armani Watts, whose coverage of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins prevented the Jags from scoring on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter.
But Watts came out later in the second quarter after appearing to reaggravate a groin injury, giving safety Jordan Lucas an opportunity to take his first defensive snaps of the season.
Lucas, who joined the Chiefs after the preseason when he was traded from Miami, made the most of his shot. He nabbed his first career interception in the fourth quarter for Bortles' third pick of the afternoon.
Like Nelson, he celebrated his interception — and the 49-yard return — wildly, and the Chiefs' sideline nearly emptied as they rushed out to join the frenzy.
At outside linebacker, Justin Houston came off with a hamstring injury in the first half, bringing in rookie Breeland Speaks.
Speaks played a crucial role, diving on a ball freed by Dee Ford's strip sack for his first career fumble recovery. Ford, who had five tackles, a sack and three quarterback hurries, didn't finish the game either, coming off with 7:37 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Ford was ejected after picking up his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for trash talking Bortles as the quarterback lay on the Chiefs' sideline after being chased out of bounds by four defenders. Jones also didn't play a complete game after he was ejected for pounding the thigh of a Jaguars' player during a point after try in the third quarter. In his absence, rookie Derrick Nnadi, who got his first career start earlier in the day, got even more playing time.
In the days leading up to the game, linebacker Reggie Ragland said the key to fixing the Chiefs' defense was simple: they just needed to be more grown.
Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs did a lot of growing up, and it kept them undefeated.