Wild Card: Grading The Chiefs Performance

January 19, 2022
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On Sunday, the Chiefs reminded the NFL why they should have never added the seventh seed to the Playoffs. The Chiefs demolished the Steelers at home to advance to the Divisional Round next week. The final score in this one was 42-21. At one point, Kansas City led by a score of 35-7. This one really was not remotely close.

Despite a slow start, the Chiefs finished strong. They were firing on all cylinders to open the playoffs. Let’s grade the performance in the Wild Card round:

Offense: A

Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdowns in just ten minutes and thirty seconds of game time. That sums up how dominant the Chiefs offense was this week. The Chiefs manhandled the Pittsburgh defense in all phases. The run game for Kansas City averaged 4.8 yards per rush, led by Jerrick McKinnon. McKinnon finished the night with 12 carries for 61 yards and an additional six receptions for 81 yards and a receiving score.

In the passing game, Kansas City eclipsed 400 yards passing and averaged 13.1 yards per reception. Mahomes was hitting deep touchdowns for one of the first times this season. Maybe they were holding out for the playoffs?

The NFL is cooked if the “Third and Long” version of Mahomes is back. Not only did McKinnon show up on Sunday; Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce both logged 5 catches and a touchdown apiece. Eight different Chiefs caught a pass; six of those caught at least four. Mahomes was spreading the ball around all night and could have likely thrown for 7 touchdowns if given the chance.

One of the few downsides of the night; the offensive line allowed three sacks of Patrick Mahomes. They didn’t play poorly by any means but look for this to be buttoned up heading into next week’s showdown with the Buffalo Bills.

Defense: A

Surprising to no one, Ben Roethlisberger struggled to force the ball downfield in the final game of his career. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Ben’s arm didn’t have anything left. The Chiefs’ defense held the Steelers to just 4.9 yards per pass attempt. Although Roethlisberger finished with 215 yards passing, much of this came in garbage time late in the second half. At half-time, he had compiled just 24 yards passing. Nine different Steelers caught at least one pass and not a single one eclipsed 40 yards receiving:

A big part of the defensive success for Kansas City was the early pressure on Big Ben. Wharton (above) came through the offensive line untouched for the sack. This was just one of the multiple plays in the first quarter in which Pittsburgh couldn’t protect the quarterback at all. In the running game, Pittsburgh didn’t fare much better. The Chief’s defense held the Steelers to just 56 total rushing yards on the night and 2.8 yards per rush. Najee Harris also lost his first (and only) fumble of the season.

The Chiefs’ defense will have to play much different football against the powerful passing attack of the Buffalo Bills next week. Even still, if Sunday is any indication, this unit showed up ready for another Super Bowl run.

Special Teams: A

Even the special teams made sure to put their mark on the Chiefs’ victory this week. The return game was fantastic against the Steelers. Byron Pringle tallied 50 return yards on his two kick returns. Mecole Hardman also made his mark in the return game. In three punt returns, he earned 70 return yards. One of which he almost took for a touchdown:

Harrison Butker didn’t need to impact this one at all. The Chiefs didn’t kick a single field goal but he did make on all 6 of his extra-point attempts. The Chiefs struggled to move the ball early but Tommy Townsend was exceptional on his four punts early in the game. He punted four times on the night, averaging 34.5 yards per punt. Three of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line of the Steelers. Yet another fantastic performance by Townsend allowed the Chiefs to dominate the early field possession game.

I feel like the Chiefs are bound to break a long return touchdown sometime in the playoffs. Look for Dave Toub to work his magic and get a return touchdown next week against the Bills.

Next Up: Buffalo

Next week, the Buffalo Bills come to town. The Bills thrashed the Chiefs in the first matchup of these two teams, back in Week 5. The Bills won that game 38-20 and led 31-13 at one point. Chris Jones missed that matchup and Daniel Sorensen played 100% of the snaps. Sorensen was the Chiefs’ third-leading tackler on the night. Even more impactful, the Chiefs turned the ball over four times in that matchup; two interceptions and two fumbles.

The Chiefs now are not the same team as the Chiefs then. Perhaps neither are the Bills. However, the Bills enter coming off of the first perfect game in the Super Bowl era. Against the Patriots last week, the Bills scored a touchdown on every single offensive drive. They did not punt, they did not kick a field goal, they did not turn the ball over.

The Chiefs and Bills both enter coming off of their best game of the season. It’s going to be a special matchup next Sunday.