Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 51, Houston Texans 31
On Sunday, the best quarterback in football reminded everyone of the facts.
Throughout the season, the storylines have been about Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. But Patrick Mahomes is the last one standing. From start to finish on Sunday, he was exceptional — and the Chiefs rode him all the way to another AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium.
There are things to clean up — but there isn’t a team on the planet that can beat the effort this team put forward during the last three quarters of the game.
Never doubt Patick Lavon Mahomes again.
Some crucial special teams errors in the first quarter dug a hole.
A blocked punt was returned for a Texans touchdown. Then Tyreek Hill uncharacteristically fumbled the ball, giving Houston a very short field. But the Chiefs’ comeback was also partially sparked by an excellent return from Mecole Hardman that set up their first touchdown drive. The Texans tried a fake punt that Daniel Sorensen sniffed out. That gave the Chiefs excellent field position again. Finally, a special teams turnover of their own — that Darwin Thompson scooped up — put the Chiefs inside the 5-yard line.
Early in the game, drops killed the Chiefs — contributing significantly to the hole already dug. With three punts in the first quarter after four drops, the offense was asleep. But everything after that was nothing short of stunning.
Mahomes and the offense got rolling and didn’t look back. After the Hardman kick return it took the Chiefs two plays to find the end zone. On the next drive, they gained 33 yards on three plays on a short field to Travis Kelce. Then after the special teams turnover, they got six yards on three plays — and again went to Kelce. Then the Chiefs had a 90-yard drive capped off by a third-straight Kelce touchdown pass.
So some recent red zone issues were solved in the game. The Chiefs went 7/8 in the red zone. Mahomes was exceptional. He was sharp, decisive and efficient in tight quarters.
The Texans had zero answers for Kelce — even when he was dealing with a hamstring issue. Cornerback Lonnie Johnson was repeatedly beaten like a drum, finally resorting to pass interference. Sammy Watkins also came up big with two key catches for 76 yards. In these last two seasons, his value in the playoffs has been noticeable.
The Chiefs did a little gamesmanship in the warmups and starting lineup announcements, so Armani Watts got the attention — but Kendall Fuller got the first looks at deep safety. The defense forced a third-and-8 early in he game, but Deshaun Watson beat a blitz with a slant to Will Fuller to move the chains. A coverage bust led to the first big play of the game, as the Texans faked a bubble screen. Charvarius Ward and Daniel Sorensen bit on them, leaving Kenny Stills wide open down the field.
Ward had what is possibly his worst game as a Chief, surrendering big plays and being unable to slow anyone down. He was burned late in the game, allowing Houston to get back within two possessions when he gave up on a downfield play to Fuller on a second-and-24 that put the Texans in a goal-to-go situation. He’ll need to do better next week against the Titans.
With a consistently disruptive performance, Frank Clark showed everyone why the Chiefs invested so heavily in him . He finished the game with three sacks of Watson. Dorian O’Daniel and Rashad Fenton joined the sack party, too.