KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs were coming off an exhilarating overtime victory, a hard-fought win over a division opponent that gave them a share of the AFC West lead.
With a short week on deck before Sunday's game against the winless Miami Dolphins, coach Todd Haley struggled with how to structure it. He wound up plowing ahead in practice rather than backing off and letting his guys heal up, and Kansas City paid for the decision in embarrassing fashion.
"We really tried to work hard to make sure we were handling the week correctly, physically and mentally," Haley said. "I'm not making excuses for the guys, but I just think we probably tried to do too much during the week which they just weren't physically capable of handling."
Matt Cassel threw for 253 yards without an interception, but he spent most of the afternoon running from Dolphins defenders. He was sacked five times and forced to scramble nine more, his 38 yards rushing just two behind Jackie Battle's team-leading total.
"I felt that the guys played hard today. I don't know if that was a factor or not," Cassel said of the short turnaround from a 23-20 victory over San Diego on Monday night.
"I felt like this team was prepared," he added, "and we just didn't go out and execute."
There was no disputing that.
Already trailing 14-3 in the third quarter, the Chiefs tried to get cute with their field goal team and everything went haywire. Punter Dustin Colquitt, the holder, was supposed to toss the ball back to kicker Ryan Succop for a pooch punt, but only about half the team appeared to have heard the play call. Colquitt fumbled amid the chaos and the Dolphins took over on downs.
Any chance of a comeback ended early in the fourth quarter, when Kansas City failed to convert on fourth down at the Dolphins 3. The Chiefs also couldn't score on fourth-and-goal at the 5-yard line in the closing minutes of the game.
"I felt like we were focused and ready, but it didn't happen, man. It didn't happen," linebacker D.J. Johnson said. "We have to do much better. If we want to win this division and play like we did Monday night, we've got to be more consistent across the board."
Johnson said the loss reminded him of the first two games this season, when Kansas City was outscored by Buffalo and Detroit by a combined 89-10.
"We've been through this type of loss before. We'll bounce back," he said. "We'll fight hard next week. We'll do a lot better. You've got to have a short-term memory in this game. But things like this — gosh — you have to somehow forget it."
Brandon Marshall finished with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown for Miami, once again making for a miserable afternoon for the Chiefs. The former Broncos wide receiver has 52 catches for 689 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games against Kansas City in his career.
The virtuoso performance by the Miami offense helped brush away the specter of an 0-7 start, which included a pair of disheartening losses the past two weeks: The Dolphins blew a 15-point lead in an overtime loss to Denver and a seven-point lead last week against the New York Giants.
"This is all about the players," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "These guys did a super job all week long of putting all the garbage behind them."
Things looked promising for Kansas City on its opening possession, when it put together a grinding, 14-play, 53-yard drive that Succop finished off with a 43-yard field goal.
The Chiefs didn't do much after that.
Miami answered with a touchdown later in the first quarter when nobody pick up Anthony Fasano off the line of scrimmage. Moore simply tossed a pass to him from 3 yards out, the first of 31 straight points scored by the Dolphins — more than they'd scored in any game this season.
On the Dolphins' ensuing possession, Moore found Fasano open down the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
The Dolphins' offense really hit the accelerator in the third quarter, when Moore found Marshall for a 14-yard touchdown pass, and Bush shook loose for a 28-yard scoring run, the former No. 2 overall draft pick's first TD on the ground since Nov. 15, 2009.
"This was not the kind of performance we expected or wanted," Haley said stoically. "This was a very dangerous team that was playing a lot better than their record. It's hard to win in the NFL and they just did a better job than us."
Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers put it more succinctly.
"We got beat," he said. "We got beat pretty bad by the Miami Dolphins. At home."
Notes: LB Jason Taylor played in his 196th game for Miami, tied with OL Bob Kuechenberg for second place on the franchise list. ... The three points allowed by the Dolphins were the fewest since they beat Buffalo 16-3 on Dec. 7, 2008. ... Battle carried 14 times for 40 yards. ... The Chiefs have lost eight of their last 10 games against Miami.