From the moment Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs took over the football early in the second quarter until defensive tackle Chris Jones brought down Tua Tagovailoa for a safety, the Chiefs did not look like the team of last year that won the first Super Bowl championship in 50 seasons. They looked better.
That stretch saw three touchdowns from the offense, including one in the red zone, three sacks from the defense — including one from Frank Clark and a safety from Chris Jones — and a Mecole Hardman’ 67-yard punt-return touchdown from the special teams unit.
At 30-10, did it feel like the Dolphins had a smidgen of a chance in the game? I’ll answer for all of us — no. And that is both the good and bad of Sunday’s win.
When the Chiefs play as well as they did for that quarter and a half, no team in the league can touch them.
Who can stop a Tyreek Hill sweep or a 44-yarder through the air in stride? How does a defense account for Travis Kelce — knowing that Mahomes will find him in a soft spot in the end zone? How can a quarterback operate when Jones, Clark, Tershawn Wharton and Alex Okafor are making him so uncomfortable — and with Tyrann Mathieu ready to collect?
There are no answers to those questions — and that is why the Chiefs won on Sunday, despite losing the turnover battle 4 to 1. Usually winning with a minus-three ratio in that department is unheard of — but the Chiefs managed to pull it off. Mahomes had one of his worst games as a pro, throwing three picks for the first time since 2018, but he still had over 390 yards and two touchdowns.
File it under a cliché we know and love — that great teams find a way to win when they don’t have their best day.
But there is also a distinctly bad taste about Sunday — one that is becoming a growing concern as the Chiefs near the NFL playoffs. The Chiefs haven’t had their best, complete day in about six weeks (against the New York Jets).
After Jones’ safety to make it 30-10 against the Dolphins, the Chiefs offense punted and threw an interception. Meanwhile, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins put together two touchdown drives. And so for the fifth straight game, it got interesting. But for the second time in three weeks, a Mahomes-to-Hill connection iced the game.
The Chiefs are on a magical two-year run; really, a five-year run, as they clinched their fifth consecutive division title on Sunday. It would be nice for that to continue. At this point, though, it is starting to become more difficult to ignore the what-ifs.
What if the Panthers had a closer-than-67-yard field goal? What if Tom Brady or Tua Tagovailoa had one more shot?
Ahead of the 2019 season, the question was, “Can the Chiefs finally finish?” And they answered that bell emphatically by doing so on the grandest stage. Then they named their goal for this season: run it back.
This season, the question is no longer, “Can the Chiefs finish?” We saw it with our own eyes on that same field they played on Sunday 10 months ago.
Now the question is, “When will we see it again?”