Here are the game’s winner and losers:
- This is normally an article in which I will pick and choose from names of coaches and players, and I will get to that—I assure you. But I find that a night like Sunday is first and foremost for Chiefs fans. The Chiefs have been in Kansas City since 1963, and in that span, they have one Super Bowl to show for it. The NFL has been working with six-seeded brackets since 1990, and in that span, the Chiefs have been the top seed only two other times. The last time was 1997. That means clinching the No. 1 seed was more than two decades in the making.
- And the main reason for the clinch? The quarterback. Nothing against Alex Smith, who did a fine job in Kansas City from 2013-17, but Patrick Mahomes is the reason Kansas City is part of the national conversation again. Mahomes had 281 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on Sunday night, finishing the season with 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Only two other players—Tom Brady and Peyton Manning—have thrown for 50 touchdowns, and only Manning has done it while throwing for more than 5,000 yards. Mahomes also set the franchise record for most completions in a season with 383.
- Mahomes’ partner in crime, Travis Kelce, owned the NFL’s all-time single-season receiving record among tight ends with 1,336 yards for about a half hour before 49ers rookie George Kittle passed him by finishing the season with 1,377. Kittle and Kelce are now one and two in the history books for receiving yards in a season by a tight end. Kelce, already the single-season record holder in receiving yards among tight ends in Chiefs franchise history, also set the franchise record for pass receptions in a season by finishing with 103. Kelce had five catches for 62 yards on Sunday.
- Tyreek Hill showed no signs of what had been a lingering foot injury when he was highly productive for the Chiefs on Sunday. Hill finished with five catches for 101 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown to break the Chiefs’ single-season franchise receiving record. Hill passed Derrick Alexander (2000), who was in attendance to capture the moment.
Hill added another touchdown on a 15-yard rush attempt to seal the Chiefs’ 35-3 victory. And there was also this:
#Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill now has 16 career TDs (67-yard TD catch today) of at least 50 yards and tied Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (16) for the most TDs of at least 50 yards by a player in his first three seasons.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) December 31, 2018
Mahomes gets all the love, but Hill is having an early historical start to his career in his own right.
- Anthony Sherman deserves a tip of the cap for keeping the Chiefs’ opening drive going. I know by the end of the game, it was a dominant Chiefs performance, but AFC West games are tricky, and you never know what could have happened if the Chiefs had to punt on their first drive. Instead, on third-and-10, Sherman willed his way to a 12-yard gain and the Chiefs ultimately went up 7-0 on Hill’s 67-yarder. Rounding out the running back room, with Spencer Ware sidelined again, Damien and Darrel Williams combined for 22 rushes and 82 yards. Damien had a touchdown.
- Demarcus Robinson had just one catch, but he made the most of it, breaking away from cornerback Rashaan Melvin and backpedaling 15 yards into the end zone. Robinson took a taunting penalty on the play, which wasn’t great, but the silver lining is that the Chiefs as a team only took four penalties on the night. That’s something to build on.
- On the defensive side of the football, let’s start with cornerback Kendall Fuller, who couldn’t play last week when he was on the wrong side of a game-time decision after having a procedure on a fractured thumb/hand. Fuller played on Sunday and led the Chiefs in tackles with 12. As we continue to wonder why others have trouble finding the field, remember that Fuller is doing whatever it takes to be out there.
- With the Raiders being somewhat inexperienced along their offensive line, especially on the right side, I thought Justin Houston could be in line for a big night. He followed through, tallying 1.5 sacks on the night, including a strip sack of Derek Carr and a fumble recovery. Houston finished with 9.0 sacks on the season, forcing a single-season career-high five fumbles on the season. Xavier Williams shared one of Houston’s sacks.
- Dee Ford also got involved by sacking Carr and forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Oakland. Ford set a single-season career-high in sacks this season with 13.0. It remains to be seen how the Chiefs handle Ford, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent, this offseason. Ford forced seven fumbles this season. Early in the game, defensive lineman Allen Bailey forced a fumble on Raiders running back Doug Martin and recovered. There has seemed to have been a clear emphasis placed on attacking the ball this year for the Chiefs.
- Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen recorded a pick-six on one of the worst miscommunications I have ever seen between Carr and Jared Cook. The 54-yard touchdown made the score 14-0 Chiefs, and the team never really looked back after that. Linebacker Reggie Ragland also had an interception, his at the Kansas City 29-yard line, and he nearly returned it for a touchdown before being stopped at the Oakland 4-yard line. Ragland injured his hip on the play but eventually returned to the game.
- In his second game of real playing time, rookie cornerback Charvarius Ward led the team with two passes defensed, adding nine tackles (all solo). The Chiefs may have made the right decision when it comes to Ward.
- Backup quarterback Chad Henne (!) saw his first action of the season on Sunday night. He finishes the season 2 for 3 for 29 yards, only 5,068 yards shy of Mahomes.
- Jon Gruden reportedly signed a 10-year, $100 million contract to coach the Raiders, then traded Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and drove out his entire personnel department. He went 4-11, then talked about beating the Chiefs all week:
The hating Kansas City Chiefs Jon Gruden pic.twitter.com/RnN6CaFRZX— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 28, 2018
The Chiefs won 35-3, and the Raiders finished 4-12 on the season.