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Five things we learned as the Chiefs beat the Dolphins

The Chiefs once again had to outlast another team, but they still managed to get their 12th victory. What does that teach us?

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Miami Dolphins 33-27 on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium, extending their season record to 12-1 and clinching their fifth-straight AFC West title.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

1. Patrick Mahomes is human — that is, until he isn’t

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Chiefs quarterback, it’s that as long as he is your quarterback, you’re never really out of a game.

Even when that’s all his fault.

By all rights, the Chiefs should have been facing a 21-0 deficit by the middle of the second quarter — all thanks to Mahomes errors: a bad decision to throw into a forest of outstretched arms that created a tip-drill interception, being chased backward for a 30-yard sack — and finally, a badly-thrown ball that resulted in another pick. (I’ve deliberately left out Mahomes’ mishandled snap that could have given the Dolphins the ball at the Kansas City 35-yard line; Mahomes managed to cover the ball).

All of these Mahomerrors gave Miami good field position. But the Chiefs’ defense played these adverse situations well enough to keep the Dolphins from building a three-touchdown lead. And then Mahomes did what Mahomes does: shake off the bad ju-ju and start playing his game again. By halftime, the Chiefs had the lead. Three plays into the second half, the Chiefs had scored 21 unanswered points. Four plays later, Mecole Hardman scored on a 67-yard punt return — and the Chiefs led 28-10.

It’s not just that Mahomes is a supernaturally-good quarterback — although he is. It’s not just that Kansas City has such amazing offensive weapons — even though they do. It’s that even when Mahomes reminds us that he is human, he is still able to shake it all off, restart the icewater IV — and deliver.

2. The Chiefs offensive line still needs help

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

For the third consecutive week, I’m using some of this space to highlight issues on the team’s offensive line. While Mahomes continues to make the lives of the men up front more difficult by dropping back further than he should — the 30-yard sack he gave up being an egregious example of that — the simple fact is that the offensive line just isn’t getting it done.

Several times in this game, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire showed patience and vision — not to mention dogged determination. It was an impressive performance from the first-round rookie — but you’d never know it from the stat sheet, which shows 16 carries for just 32 yards. Regardless of Edwards-Helaire’s talent — which is clearly considerable — he cannot run through holes that do not exist.

Nor should the Chiefs continue to expose Mahomes to opposing pass rushers the way they have been doing. Though he is magnificent when under pressure, it’s ultimately a losing game to play. He can’t do those things when he’s on the sidelines with an injury — and until the Chiefs can get him some real protection, that’s what we’ll eventually see.

And things got worse on Sunday. Backup offensive lineman Mike Remmers — who has been playing in place of the injured Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle — left the game in the third quarter with what was described as a back injury. Undrafted rookie Yasir Durant — not veteran Stefen Wisniewski — took his place. Another backup — Martinas Rankin — was inactive for the game.

So the Chiefs’ options remain limited. But something needs to change.

3. We shouldn’t miss any of Travis Kelce’s spectacular season

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

We have become so accustomed to watching Kelce play, it’s pretty easy to take it for granted. On Sunday, he collected 136 yards and a touchdown on eight catches — once again leading the team in targets, receptions and yards — and routinely making difficult plays look easy.

Ho hum.

As you know, Kelce’s season is already historic; he’s become the first tight end in the league’s history to record five 1,000-yard seasons. But it’s becoming more and more clear that it’s going to be historic on multiple levels. We should do our best to appreciate it as much as we can.

Because while it may look that way to us, there is literally nothing about it that is ho-hum.

4. The Chiefs had no business winning a game like this one

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Chiefs gave up four turnovers on Sunday. The Dolphins surrendered only one.

Historically, that minus-three turnover margin is one of the most reliable indicators of teams that lose games. Since the merger in 1970, 2,808 games have been played in which teams have had a turnover margin of minus three or more. Those teams won just 238 of those games — a paltry 0.0848 record. In most seasons, that kind of record will get you the first-overall pick of the draft the following year.

In fact, the Chiefs have been even worse than most teams at overcoming such an obstacle to victory. During that same period, the team has found itself in 66 such games — winning just three of them.

Until Sunday.

We should continue to be concerned about the reasons why the Chiefs found themselves in such a pickle against the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. But we should also note that it says something about the character of the team Andy Reid has assembled. They just keep finding new ways to win.

5. These Dolphins are going to be around for a while

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

After being one of the league’s top teams during the first three decades following the AFL-NFL merger, Miami has faced tough times during the last two. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2000 — and have appeared in the postseason just three times since then.

Part of that, of course, has been because of the dominance of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady New England Patriots, which won the AFC East 17 times between 2001 and 2019. But the team is young and on the rise — with an emerging defense, a blue-chip quarterback and a smart head coach.

To be sure, the world champions gave them some openings on Sunday. But with a hobbled offensive line, the middle of their defense in shambles and a talented rookie quarterback still going through growing pains, Miami gave the Chiefs a run for their money.

In the years to come, they’re going to be a team to watch.

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