After the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 22-16, our Pete Sweeney’s rapid reaction had a virtual game ball for placekicker Harrison Butker. Matt Stagner included Travis Kelce among his winners and the Chiefs’ red-zone offense among his losers for the game. John Dixon covered some impressive milestones the Chiefs crossed with their 11th win. And the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad weighed in with their big takeaways from Sunday night.
Defensive backs had a night
Tyrann Mathieu and L’Jarius Sneed played great games on Sunday night. Mathieu iced the game with his second interception on the night — and neither play was easy. The instinctual safety showed his preparation and film study by closing on a couple throws from Denver quarterback Drew Lock. It was a welcome sign to see the Chiefs turn the ball over twice. Sneed — a rookie defensive back — looks like the best cornerback on the Chiefs’ defense. He has the best athletic profile of any cornerback on the team and has shown inside-outside versatility. He lined up in the slot again this week and was great in the run game — showing a plus ability to tackle. He nearly grabbed another interception this week as well. Sneed seems to get his hand on at least one ball a game, and that’s not an accident. The ball finds players in the right position and this young guy is consistently where he needs to be.
On Monday, the head coach provided more context about Sunday’s night’s missed challenge that prevented a Tyreek Hill’s touchdown catch from being put on the scoreboard.
“I met with a few of the people here on that situation and how we might be able to not have that happen again,” explained Reid in Monday’s opening statement. “That’s my responsibility there. I mentioned to you kind of how it went down yesterday, and so our people upstairs got the feed as fast as they possibly could up on the board and to the box, and it just wasn’t quite in time to take a review of it before we had to punt. But that’s no fault of theirs, and it’s one of those things. I always check with the player, and I mentioned that’s the first time I ever had a player tell me that he didn’t catch it and he did catch it. So, I’ll put that one into the learning category for me on that.”
On Monday, we reflected on how perceptions about making the playoffs have changed since Andy Reid clinched his first Kansas City playoff appearance.
THORMAN: It’s official: The Kansas City Chiefs will be in the dance. The KC Chiefs on Sunday clinched a spot in the 2014 NFL playoffs. You read that right: The Chiefs clinched a playoff spot in Week 15!
Chiefs on the 2013 roster reacted with more than 20 tweets from their personal accounts. Seven years later, times have changed in Kansas City.
The Chiefs clinched their sixth-straight playoff berth with Sunday’s 22-16 win over the Denver Broncos — and the players barely noticed.
The other big news from the Week 13 games was the Pittsburgh Steelers losing their first game of the season to former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s Washington team — which substantially impacted the Chiefs postseason possibilities.
A Chiefs win and Steelers loss on Sunday would give the Chiefs a little wiggle room. They could afford to lose either of their NFC games (against the Saints or Falcons) and still grab the bye. But even after winning the next three, they could not afford a loss to the Chargers in Week 17. This is because all of the Steelers’ remaining games are against AFC teams; should they win their last three against the Cincinnati Bengals, Colts and Cleveland Browns, they’ll have a better conference record than the Chiefs.
But none of this would be possible without the efforts of Smith and his Washington teammates, who came back from a 14-point deficit to win on Monday. Washington hadn’t defeated the Steelers in 29 years — and since 2004, the Steelers were 109-1-1 in games where they had led by 14 points or more.
The Steelers’ loss also moved the Chiefs into the top spot of most NFL power rankings on Tuesday — even after what might have seemed like an unimpressive win against Denver.
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Even the best NFL teams have “off” games where the offense can’t quite get going and/or the defense is a bit soft. Oftentimes, the difference between good teams and great teams is that the latter find a way to win even when they have one of those down outings.
That’s what happened to the Chiefs on Sunday night against the rival Broncos.
The Chiefs moved the ball well, racking up 447 yards of offense. But they misfired multiple times in the red zone, managing only one touchdown and going 0-for-4 on red-zone opportunities.
Then Kent Swanson went to the film to take a more careful look at what the we saw from the Chiefs’ starting quarterback in Sunday’s game.
Some areas of the Kansas City Chiefs look more January-ready than others. Patrick Mahomes has continued to build great performances on top of each other in the last month of the season. He’s been sharp. His pocket management has been much improved and you’ve seen plays benefit from that in the last few weeks. You’re seeing him continue to perfect the line between madness and brilliance with the risks he takes — he’s not turning the ball over but is making rare throws all over the field in creative ways.
Mahomes looks ready for the playoffs — the Chiefs’ most important cog in the machine is playing the best football of his young career. Even if everything isn’t firing on all cylinders around him, the best player of the world is playing at a level that can elevate the rest of the team around him.
Then Matt Lane looked at Sunday’s defensive film, coming to some conclusions about the secondary.
Mathieu played arguably his best game of the year in every aspect, including interceptions at both the beginning and end of the game.
Sorensen continues to show why he belongs on the field for consistent play. Sneed’s excellent play continued, and he has shown he can excel in the slot and outside. The odd man out is Thornhill, who has left fans desperately asking for safety rotation answers, and we may have gotten them through the play on the field.
Thornhill still looks like a guy recovering, battling some issues stemmning from the injury. He just isn’t performing as well as other options in just about any role at this point. There are times in which giving Thornhill snaps almost feels as though the Chiefs are playing with fire, and the defensive staff simply can’t have the big plays happen.
On Wednesday, we looked at the Miami Dolphins’ young quarterback they’d be seeing Week 14 — and the figure looming behind him.
The Chiefs will have to be prepared not only for a talented left-handed rookie (now 4-1 in five starts) but also for a head coach who probably won’t hesitate to put Fitzpatrick in the game should the Chiefs take a big lead.
“He’s a good football player,” Chiefs head coach Reid said of Tua Tagovailoa when he met with reporters on Wednesday. “So is Ryan Fitzpatrick. They’ve got two good quarterbacks, so you’ve got to make the right side and the left side of it covered. But Tua’s got a great future — and Brian Flores knows that — so they’re working him in and he’s producing for them.”
There’s been nagging concern among fans about the MIKE linebacker’s production relative to the salary cap — and Thursday brought some pushback from the team’s defensive coordinator.
“To me, he’s the glue,” Spagnuolo told reporters in his Thursday press conference. “I showed something this morning from [Wednesday’s] practice, and made the point that we should all feel fortunate that we have Hitch as our MIKE linebacker. He does a lot of things before the ball is snapped, and he helps everyone else play better. I’m sure glad we got him, I think he’s playing some really good football. He’s always played aggressive, he’s always tackled physically... All of us, players and coaches, appreciate what he does.”
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu (hip) popped up on the injury report on Friday — never a good sign with a game approaching two days later. Mathieu was limited Friday due to his hip issue and is officially questionable thanks to the injury.
After not practicing all week, Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson (knee) is out against the Dolphins. Reid confirmed rookie Willie Gay Jr. would be in line to receive Wilson’s reps on Sunday.