The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 42-37 on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Here are five hot takes from the game:
That’s how many days it’s been since the Chiefs beat the Steelers on their home turf. Until the game clock ticked down to triple zeros at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon, the previous count had reached 11,592. (Thanks to Gary McKenzie for making the original calculation).
That’s more than 31 years — more than a whole generation, and even longer than the time between Todd Blackledge’s last start as a Chief and Patrick Mahomes’ first one.
And it’s not a coincidence that those two are roughly similar periods of time, and occurred almost simultaneously.
It’s hard to imagine a more telling illustration of how dramatically things have changed for the Chiefs in 2018 than Sunday’s victory in Pittsburgh. And in this moment, it seems appropriate to propose that we change the focus of our record keeping to reflect this new reality:
It has now been 336 days since the Steelers defeated the Chiefs on the road.
Of course, Mahomes will no longer be the Chiefs quarterback when this new streak reaches past 11,592 days. By that time, even my grandson Jack will be reaching the end of his career as Kansas City’s starting quarterback under head coach Eric Berry and offensive coordinator Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Unless — unlike Mahomes — he opts to become a pitcher instead of a quarterback.
2. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
And yes... it is the light of an approaching train. It’s painted entirely in red, and has Patrick Mahomes Hype Train in enormous gold letters on each side, so no one can miss it.
This train has been running a regular schedule throughout the Midwest since April of 2017. But now, its speed is being increased, and its route is being expanded to include the entire country, with stops at every sports news outlet and talk show — along with break rooms and water coolers at every place of business.
I’d normally want to remind you that a train traveling at such a high speed is inherently dangerous to ride, because it can run off the rails so easily.
But it sure is fun, isn’t it?
3. Hello Sammy Watkins!
If you’ve been waiting for the high-priced offseason acquisition to make an impact on the Chiefs offense, your wait is over. On Sunday, he had 71 yards on four catches — plus another 31 yards on an end around. And that was just in the first half! He finished the game with 100 yards on six catches
Watkins really showed his stuff on Sunday — getting big yards after the catch, and repeatedly demonstrating his attitude as a ball carrier.
This is the advantage Kansas City now possesses: when the opposing team has no choice but to prepare to stop Tyreek Hill, you can script your offense around Watkins (or some other receiver) to start the game. It worked beautifully for the Chiefs in the first half, and then they shifted the focus to Hill in the second. But even late in the game, Watkins had another big gain where he reminded everybody why the Chiefs wanted him on their roster.
4. Hello Travis Kelce!
Here’s another new reality to which we now have to adjust: when one of the Chiefs receivers doesn’t have a big game, it doesn’t necessarily represent a problem. Travis Kelce had only one catch for six yards in last week’s victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, and more than a few people pointed it out.
And that’s OK. Back when the Chiefs didn’t have so many offensive weapons, such a thing could be (and often was) a sign that something was wrong.
But in Patrick Mahomes World, all of the Chiefs receivers are going to have days like that. And then they’ll have days like the one Kelce had on Sunday, where he had 106 yards on seven catches, along with two touchdowns. That’s the whole point of having so many offensive weapons — that the opposition has to prepare for all of them, and you get to decide which ones are going to get the emphasis.
5. Goodbye rational discussion about the Chiefs defense.
Now that the Steelers are just the latest team to put up big yards on the Chiefs defense, the drumbeat is going to get louder. The defense is terrible. The Chiefs didn’t do anything about the secondary in the offseason. Bob Sutton is still living in the 1960s.
I’m not going to argue against any of those points — and I doubt it would matter if I did.
I’d just point out that if you have an offense that can score so quickly — which the Chiefs certainly do — the end result is that your defense is going to be on the field longer. On Sunday, the Steelers ran 20 more plays than the Chiefs did, and held the ball four and a half minutes longer. That adds up to a tired defense.
Furthermore, if your team can routinely jump out to big leads early in the game — which so far, has been the case for the Chiefs — the opponent has no choice but to respond with more emphasis on the passing game. That adds up to a lot of passing yards given up.
I’m not suggesting that we should just shrug our shoulders and accept it. The defense is going to have to be better for the Chiefs to have realistic playoff expectations. But with such an explosive offense in hand, it takes pressure off the defense, giving them time to develop as a unit and improve. They don’t have to be the best in the league. But if they can even be average, that might be enough for the Chiefs to be a very hard team to beat at the end of the year.