By defeating the Atlanta Falcons 17-14 on Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs won their 14th game of the season, securing the first seed of the AFC playoffs — and a first-round bye.
Even if this game wasn’t as pretty as we would have liked, it’s still a great day to be a Chiefs fan. The defense had some really good moments. And while the offense struggled, when Mahomes gets the ball late in the game, good things are going to happen.
Here are a few standouts from Sunday’s win.
- Chris Jones: The star defensive tackle was a problem for the Falcons all afternoon. Credited with a sack and four quarterback hits, he lived in the Atlanta offensive backfield. He added a tackle for loss and a tipped pass for good measure. When facing a pass-heavy offense, Jones can absolutely take over a game — and be a nightmare for opponents. That’s why he got paid this offseason.
- L’Jarius Sneed: The rookie cornerback is making his presence felt... as a pass rusher. Sneed had another sack and two quarterback hits to go along with a solid day in coverage. Once again, Sneed was also physical in the running game and open-field tackling, collecting seven tackles. Given his draft pedigree and relative lack of experience, being a complete player this early in his rookie season is absolutely remarkable.
- Willie Gay, Jr: Whether it was due to Ben Niemann’s injury or if it was planned all along, we got what we wanted to see: the rookie linebacker finally having a solid day. He led the team in tackles with nine — including one for a loss — and was consistently around the ball. He’ll have some things to clean up, but it’s great to see him flying around the field and gaining confidence.
- Tommy Townsend: Last week’s AFC special teams player of the week followed up that performance with another great one. The Chiefs needed his services more than we’d like, but Townsend was able to flip the field on a number of occasions. His longest punt was 58 yards, and three of his four kicks were downed inside the 20 — one at the 8-yard line and one at the 4-yard line. It’s safe to say that in this undrafted rookie, the Chiefs got a good one.
- Frank Clark: The Closer is back — as is #SackNation — just in time for the postseason run. Clark had a sack — and very nearly another to end this game. He had Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in his grasp and knocked the ball out, but it was ruled a forward pass instead of a sack, fumble and Turk Wharton recovery. Even though that play didn’t count, Clark’s intensity and clutch-ness are a welcome sight as the Chiefs close out the regular season.
- Travis Kelce: Catching passes and breaking records. That’s what he does.
The best season ever for a TE and there's still a week to go pic.twitter.com/bJIWVruAXn— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 27, 2020
- Sammy Watkins: It’s not Watkins’ fault the Chiefs tried a ridiculous trick play on a fourth down, but he really telegraphed the pass to quarterback Patrick Mahomes — and it was picked off. Then, after catching two of four targets for 14 total yards, he left the game with a calf injury. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, because the Chiefs offense is better when he’s on the field. But either way, Watkins didn’t have his best day.
- Ball security: When your quarterback’s “bad day” is 278 yards and two touchdowns — including a game-winner — you can’t complain too much. But Mahomes did throw one interception — and should have been intercepted at least two other times. After throwing three picks against the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago, let’s hope this isn’t turning into a pattern. He’ll have a couple of weeks to watch the film and clean things up before turning it on in the playoffs. But even though it hasn’t happened yet, turnovers are the one thing that could give this team a loss.