Chiefs Win Wild Card Matchup Over Pittsburgh
Kansas City advances to the Divisional Round with 42-21 blowout of Steelers
After a sluggish offensive start, the Chiefs poured it on the Steelers en route to a 42-21 blowout in the AFC Wild Card round Sunday night at Arrowhead. Kansas City flexed its muscles in the second and third quarter and showed people why they’ve been a perennial Super Bowl favorite.
The Chiefs advance to play the Buffalo Bills next Sunday at Arrowhead.
Here’s what stood out in the Chiefs’ win against the Steelers.
The Chiefs’ offense was struggling. The Chiefs offense couldn’t get any points on the board, couldn’t sustain any drives, and quite simply looked extremely discombobulated. During this stretch was a tipped interception deep in the Steeler’s territory and then the dreaded fumble-scoop-and-score.
The Chiefs got the ball back with 10:32 left in the second quarter down 7-0. The defense was playing fantastic so their back wasn’t pressed hard up against the wall but they needed to start putting some offense together and they did.
Play of The Game
First play while down 7-0 saw the Chiefs finally attempt to push the ball somewhat down field and it worked. Tyreek Hill hadn’t had a target up to this point but the Chiefs came out with a plan to fix that. After a hard play-action sell, the Chiefs ran a three man route to the direction of the run action.
Hill and Hardman were aligned tight in a stack and released in opposite directions. Hardman ran an Out-and-Up to pull the corner back with him while Hill stemmed inside before breaking outside on an Out route. McKinnon ran out his run action into the flat which pulled the hook/flat defender forward and opened up the hole for Hill to settle into.
This play was huge for the Chiefs not only because the offense was struggling but also because of what it sparked. Up to this point, the Chiefs were attacking shallow and over the middle of the field without much success. Finding Hill 18 yards down field and working outside towards the numbers kind of flipped the switch in how the Chiefs’ thought about attacking the Steelers defense.
Bonus play came later on this same drive as the Chiefs were facing a 2nd and 12. The Chiefs use return motion from McKinnon and then fake a Jet Sweep to Mecold Hardman to create a play-action type effect. To help sell the sweep, Travis Kelce chips the defensive end and then releases out on his route.
Typically the Chiefs would run a little Spot route over the middle of the field in this situation but instead they have Kelce run a Glance route. He stems outside before breaking back inside like he’s running a shallow, skinny Post route. Mahomes fires the ball into a pretty tight window and Kelce pulls down his first catch of the game to set the Chiefs up in a go to goal situation.
As this drive concluded , everything about this game entirely changed. The feel, the efficiency, and the swagger of the Chiefs’ offense seemed to all return instantly. After scoring a Touchdown on this drive, the Chiefs went on to score five more Touchdowns on their next five drives, and they did so by attacking vertically, working outside the hash marks, and simply playing like the Chiefs’ that we saw from 2018-2020.
The story of the game was the defense — a consistent force throughout the game. They forced punts on every possession in the first half. A true team performance — all levels of the defense played well.
Special Teams Flips Field
Mecole Hardman had an outstanding return to flip the field on a punt in the first half. Hardman got the Chiefs to just outside of the red zone with his 48 yard run down the sideline. The Chiefs wasted it however because of…
Early Turnovers Slow Offense
Two early turnovers kept the Steelers in the game early. Immediately after the Hardman return, the first play of the drive — a Mahomes pass — was tipped by TJ Watt and intercepted. The second turnover…
Steelers Defensive Score
TJ Watt scooped and scored the botched exchange for the first touchdown of the game. The Chiefs tried to go a Wildcat formation with Mecole Hardman taking a direct snap, but he Darrel Williams had a miscommunication. Williams scooped up the ball, but then fumbled it again, and Watt put in the end zone.
Offense Gets Hot
The offense said “enough is enough” after the Steelers went up seven. They got blazing hot to end the half — and carried over into the second. The Chiefs reeled off three straight touchdowns to close out the first half — including a drive with under a minute left that finished with a 3rd and 20 conversion to Travis Kelce.
If you’ve been reading The First 15 articles we post on the KCSN Substack you’ve noticed Nick Allegretti getting some run as an extra offensive lineman in short yardage situations and on the goal line. This week, they threw to him! Mahomes connected with the third year offensive lineman for one of his five touchdowns. It’s always fun to see a Thicc Six.
Travis Kelce Throws a TD
Speaking of fun, Allegretti’s involvement wasn’t the only fun play we got today — and tendency breaker. Travis Kelce has been lining up for direct snaps in the red zone for years — and the Chiefs finally let him throw from that alignment on a pop pass to Byron Pringle for a touchdown.
Jerick McKinnon Goes Off
Jerick McKinnon had a near career day. His 142 combined rushing and receiving yards were the third highest output of his career — and most since October of 2017. He had a kind of burst we hadn’t seen from the running back position lately. He’s a welcome addition to the home stretch.
Patrick Lavon Mahomes
It was a rough start offensively, but Patrick Mahomes went absolutely bonkers in this game — going 30/39 for 404 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT. He threw five touchdowns on five straight possessions — and did it in less than 11 minutes of game time. He played outstandingly in a win-or-go-home game.
We’re On To Buffalo
A lot of Chiefs fans were gauging the performance of their favorite team against what we saw Buffalo do on Saturday night. The Chiefs have their handful against the Bills — a team that blew out their round one opponent without punting, turning the ball over. It’s a massive test in Arrowhead next week. I can’t wait.
7 - Playoff Wins with Mahomes at Quarterback
The Kansas City Chiefs have won at least one playoff game in each of the last four seasons – all four of Patrick Mahomes’ years as the starting quarterback. This franchise has never had a four-season playoff win streak, and had never put together back to back seasons with a playoff win before Mahomes took over at quarterback. Let that sink in – he’s been the arbiter of success for this franchise in a way that most couldn’t fathom.
While this victory may have felt a bit more “assured” than some others – heck, even Ben Roethlisberger admitted as such before the game – it’s still incredibly important and should be treated as such. There are countless franchises just hoping to land a singular postseason victory. This franchise spent 23 years in that very same boat, just wishing for a taste of success. While this one should have gone in the Chiefs favor, don’t let it be lost on what the win means for the franchise, its players, and its fans.
32.2 - Playoff Points Per Game Scored in Last Four Years
There was an abundance of hand-wringing by Chiefs fans going into this year’s playoffs. The AFC had some explosive offenses that could give the Chiefs fits, and this offense has had some hit-or-miss appearances as of late – ones that they couldn’t when the chips were down in the postseason. And yet, the Chiefs put up another 42 points, pushing their playoff average with Mahomes at the helm to over 32 points – good enough to be 7-2 during that time period.
The Chiefs have also averaged a stunning 407 total yards in the playoffs, moving the ball at will against some of the league’s best. That’s an improvement over the regular season during that time period in both yards and points – despite going up against the NFL’s elite in high leverage situations. Even when the offense has started slow, they’ve more than made up the stagger and put massive points on the board. While they’ll still need all the points they can muster to close out the rest of these playoffs, seeing this team turn on the afterburners in the postseason (again) should help Chiefs fans feel a little more confident.
44 - Total Yards Allowed on the Steelers First 8 Drives
The last time these two teams played, the Chiefs defense played very well. They were able to stifle the Steelers passing game, and the lead Kansas City built was enough to help put the run game on the shelf. A missed field goal, an interception, multiple fumbles, and a turnover on downs helped end drives and keep points off the board for the Chiefs defense. This week against the Steelers, the turnovers and misses weren’t the key – they just stepped up and dominated a bad offense until the game was out of control.
The Chiefs allowed just 1.62 yards per play in the first eight drives – ending with the Willie Gay Jr forced fumble. What’s more impressive is that they only forced three negative plays out of the 27: a sack, a run stuff, and the forced fumble. A couple of Steelers drops aided the effort, but the Chiefs defenders were in the right spots with aggression to lay hits without extra yardage gained or come up with passes defensed at the catch point. This performance was necessary after a couple of weeks with some questionable tackling/defending. Beating up on a bad offense might be just what the doctor ordered going into a big matchup next weekend.