Catastrophic failures and spectacular successes made this one of the most frustrating — and most spectacular — performances we’ve seen.
After the first quarter, we weren’t sure there would be anyone in the Winners column — but all of that changed as the Kansas City Chiefs came roaring back to defeat the Houston Texans. In doing so, they ensured that for the second year in a row, the AFC Championship game will be held at Arrowhead Stadium.
There were plenty of winners and losers in this game — including one who straddled both categories.
- Patrick Mahomes: Prior to this game, we thought Mahomes would not let his team fail. But after the first quarter, he looked powerless as mistake after mistake put the Chiefs into an ever-deeper hole. But the MVP came charging back with an historic performance, leading his offense to touchdown after touchdown. Mahomes ended the game with 321 yards passing, five touchdowns and 53 yards rushing — and became the only quarterback in NFL postseason history to put up those numbers. More importantly, he once again rallied his team to victory — and the AFC Championship.
- Frank Clark: For much of the day, the pass rush wasn’t really getting home. Clark ran into many double teams — and let Deshaun Watson slip through his hands a few times. But Clark was relentless. In the game’s final minutes, it was Clark who ended the Texans’ garbage-time drive with his third sack of the day. This is why the Chiefs invested in Frank Clark.
- Travis Kelce: Fighting through an injury before the game — and another after it started — Kelce led both teams with 10 receptions, 134 yards and three touchdowns. It was just a dominant performance from the best receiving tight end in the league. He can’t be covered — or stopped.
- Damien Williams: Another playoff game — and another three touchdowns for Williams. He only had 68 total yards, but served as the team’s go-to back, helping finish drives when the team desperately needed to score. Williams was the only running back to touch the ball against the Texans — and ended up being part of the solution.
- Second-through-fourth-quarter Andy Reid: With their backs against the wall in the second quarter, Reid’s team responded by exploding in all three phases. The play-calling was on point and the execution was fantastic; the team we saw for three quarters on Sunday can win the Super Bowl, The head coach was a big part of making adjustments and getting them re-focused. It also seemed like Reid “kept his foot on the gas;” he wasn’t satisfied with a lead in the second half. The team attacked until the game was essentially over.
- Tyreek Hill: While Hill still made a couple of plays, this wasn’t his finest game. His fumble on a punt return was a pivotal play that pushed the deficit to 21-0. Sunday was Kelce’s time to shine. Perhaps Hill will take the spotlight in the conference finals.
- Demarcus Robinson: A big part of the rough start were dropped passes — and nobody had more than Robinson. A complementary piece on the Chiefs offense, Robinson is on this team for his blocking — and for his improvisational connection with Mahomes. He isn’t expected to be a big part of the offense — but when called upon, we’d like to see him come down with the football.
- Charvarius Ward: We’ve been heaping praise on Ward in recent weeks, so it’s fair to call him out when he struggles. Watson targeted Ward early and often — and with plenty of success. There were several plays where Ward appeared to expect deep help and let his receiver go. Could it be that he will be the player who misses Juan Thornhill the most?
- First-quarter Andy Reid: We expected this team to be sharp and well-prepared after earning their surprising bye week. But in the first quarter, the Chiefs were as inept and mistake-prone as we’ve ever seen them. This wasn’t just a slow start. It was a total collapse that took a near-miracle to erase. If the Chiefs aren’t ready to play in the next two games, they might not be able to dig themselves out.