The Chiefs entered Sunday in first place in the AFC West, winners of four straight, including a dramatic overtime victory over San Diego last Monday. The Dolphins, meanwhile, brought an 0-7 record to K.C. and were smack dab in the middle of a race to the NFL's worst record with Indianapolis.
It looked like a mismatch. And it turned out to be one -- a backwards, head-scratching mismatch.
Miami, which came close to breaking into the win column each of the past two weeks, jumped out to a 14-3 lead on the Chiefs and rolled to a 31-3 victory. The game was as lopsided as the score indicated -- Dolphins' QB Matt Moore threw for three touchdowns and 244 yards, Reggie Bush rushed for 92 more and Miami's D totally stuffed what had been a rolling Kansas City attack.
The outcome brought total relief for the Dolphins, who let a 15-0 lead slip away two weeks ago in a loss to Denver, then blew another fourth-quarter edge in New York last week.
For the Chiefs, meanwhile, it's back to square one.
Maybe they were hungover from their heart-stopping Week 8 win against one of their biggest rivals. Maybe they just wanted to lose so Todd Haley finally would shave and stop looking like he should pick plays out of a bindle thrown over his shoulder.
Whatever happened, something went horribly wrong for Kansas City. In one fell swoop, the Chiefs unraveled everything they had done over the past four weeks.
The K.C. team on display Sunday played a lot less like the AFC West division leader and a lot more like the one that started 0-3, while being outscored 109-27. Miami entered this game with the league's 23rd-ranked defense and 28th-ranked offense.
Those numbers mattered little by about the midway point of the first quarter. Amazingly, Kansas City actually came out and took it right to the Dolphins, with a 15-play drive that mixed run and pass well and resulted in a Ryan Succop field goal.
But two Miami possessions later, the shocking onslaught began. Matt Moore found Anthony Fasano for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Dolphins a 7-3 lead. Then, after the Chiefs' next possession died near midfield, Moore hit Fasano for another score, capping a quick three-play, 78-yard drive -- all coming through the air.
The Chiefs had to feel lucky to get to halftime down just 14-3, but the wheels came off in the third quarter.
Moore connected on another scoring strike with 8:38 left, this one to Brandon Marshall, then Bush broke loose for a 28-yard TD romp two minutes later. It was so bad that Kansas City fans started heading for the exits with more than 20 minutes of game time left. That decision proved justified in the fourth, as the home team twice drove inside the Miami 10 ... and twice came away with no points.
Where Kansas City goes from here is anyone's guess. The Chiefs' remaining schedule is bookended by games against Denver in Weeks 10 and 17. In the middle: New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, the Jets, Green Bay and Oakland.
Was this the last blip before a strong Kansas City close? Or did the Dolphins just doom the Chiefs to a sub-.500 finish?
Suffice it to say, Miami made the latter a much more realistic possibility than it looked before Sunday. As of 24 hours ago, the Chiefs were one of the NFL's hottest teams, with only the 49ers and undefeated Packers riding longer win streaks.
But they basically gave back the win Philip Rivers gifted them Monday, when the Chargers QB inexplicably fumbled in the fourth quarter's waning seconds, preventing a game-winning San Diego field goal.
And there is really no excuse for Sunday's Kansas City performance. Miami definitely deserved to get into the win column -- unlike the Colts, who seem content to finish 0-16 and lose by about 30 every week, the Dolphins have played harder and harder the more their situation has spiraled. They're realistically just a couple plays here or there from being 3-5 instead of 1-7.
That doesn't excuse the Chiefs rolling over for them. Instead of parlaying last Monday's emotional win into a continued string of success, they let their foot off the gas -- a death blow in the parity-filled NFL.
Miami earned its win and can now focus on trying to salvage some positives from a lost 2011 season. Kansas City, in turn, more than got what it had coming to it Sunday. A lifeless, terrible effort resulted in the Chiefs taking a damaging loss at home. At 4-4 and with a brutal schedule coming up, they're suddenly at a fork in the road. A few more efforts like this one, though, and things will collapse quickly.