What to watch for: The Bills crushed the Chiefs by a score of 38-20 in Week 5, one of the most eye-opening games of the Chiefs’ 3-4 start to the season. Bills quarterback Josh Allen was dominant, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns while running for 59 yards and two more scores. But the Chiefs are in a much different place now. In their 9-1 finish to the regular season, the Kansas City defense ranked No. 7 in QBR against (39.5). The Chiefs’ opponents threw more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (12) and faced the NFL’s sixth-highest pressure rate (30.7). Allen is coming off an excellent game in the wild-card rouDallas Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy defends QB draw play - ‘Shouldn’t have had problem getting ball spotted’ (espn.com)d, but he’ll face a more energetic defense in this one.
Why the Chiefs will win: There are many reasons to believe that a vintage version of quarterback Patrick Mahomes — and the larger Chiefs offense — has returned. Since Week 14, he has the NFL’s best total QBR (76.2), having thrown 17 touchdown passes and two interceptions in six games, including Sunday night’s 42-21 victory over the Steelers. The Chiefs have averaged 36.5 points per game over that stretch and have committed only four turnovers. When they are playing like that, few teams — even the high-powered Bills — can match them.
Patrick Mahomes is inevitable. The Steelers had the football world momentarily stunned when they scored a defensive touchdown to take a 7-0 lead, but that early shot also woke up the Chiefs’ superstar quarterback. Mahomes responded by throwing five touchdown passes in 10:31 of game time, taking a 7-0 Steelers lead and turning it into a 35-7 Chiefs advantage. That was all she wrote, as Mahomes and the Chiefs cruised from there, with the quarterback finishing with a passing line of 30-of-39, 404 yards, five TDs and one interception via a tipped pass. His 138.2 passer rating was stellar, and after looking like he was again trying to do too much in the first quarter, Mahomes became too much for the Steelers to overcome in less than a quarter’s worth of time. That’s the Chiefs at their best.
Patrick Mahomes threw 5 Pass TD in a span of 10:30 of game time. It's easily the fastest span in NFL postseason history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 17, 2022
The next fastest? Tom Brady did it in just under 25 minutes in 2011.
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/85KneA6ms0
Patrick Mahomes said that Nick Allegretti was like the fifth option on his touchdown play. The #Steelers covered everyone else but him.— Charles Goldman (@goldmctNFL) January 17, 2022
So Nick Allegretti just literally tossed the Defensive Player of the Year to the ground, took 3 steps and caught a touchdown pass. Is there any greater play for an offensive lineman? https://t.co/j2HlJ51DwN— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 17, 2022
This was inside an Arrowhead Stadium suite about a half-hour after the Chiefs’ 42-21 Wild Card playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Donna joined the postgame Zoom news conference to surprise her son, Travis.
“Yes, it’s your mom,” Donna said with a smile.
“What’s up, mom?” Travis, the Chiefs tight end, said. “Glad you made it.”
Yes, it had been quite a journey for Donna to make it to Kansas City to celebrate this occasion. Donna had also attended Philadelphia’s NFL playoff game in Tampa Bay earlier in the day. Her other son, Jason, is a center for the Eagles, who fell, 31-15 to the Buccaneers.
For Donna, though, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She said the schedules had never worked out — in the regular season or NFL playoffs — to where she could see both sons play on the same day.
Until Sunday, that is. “I thought it’d be a neat adventure,” Donna told The Star.
Around the NFL
Why the Buccaneers won
Tampa Bay was able to shut down the Eagles’ rushing attack by sending an extra rusher (typically a cornerback or safety) on the blitz, forcing Hurts to throw under pressure and make mistakes when passing the ball.
The Buccaneers forced the Eagles to pass, knowing Hurts had just one or two options to throw to. Hurts was off on his throws, but the Eagles receivers didn’t make a difference in adjusting when the run was taken away.
The Buccaneers had the opportunity to complete passes early by taking advantage of Philadelphia’s two-high safeties on defense, moving the ball down the field at will early and forcing Philadelphia to throw the ball.
For the Eagles, it didn’t go well. The Buccaneers took the lead after their first possession and never looked back.
McCarthy defended offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s decision to call the run, even with no timeouts. He said he was “shocked” the Cowboys didn’t get a last-play opportunity. The Cowboys call those situations “church clock” situations, and they practice them each week.
“Do you want to be running a Hail Mary play from the 50-yard line or do you want to run five verticals form the 25-yard line?” McCarthy said. “So, that’s the decision, it’s the right decision.”
Prescott said in retrospect he should have gone down sooner, which would have given the Cowboys — and the umpire — time to get set. He said a San Francisco defender jumped on him to slow him down briefly, but he did not think that was unfair.
“When you’ve practiced it as much as we’ve done over and over again, you’re not necessarily worried about it,” Prescott said. “You trust your training that you put into it. ... I mean the rest of it, you don’t prepare for things like [colliding with the umpire], but I guess we’ll start having to, knowing the way this played out.”
“It’s tough, but I’m proud to play with these guys,” Roethlisberger said of the 2021 Steelers, who had to win their last two games just to make the playoffs as the seventh seed. “God has blessed me with the ability to throw a football and has blessed me to play in the greatest city, in Pittsburgh, with the greatest fans and the greatest football team and players. It has just truly been a blessing. I’m so thankful to him for giving me this opportunity.”
“Whatever is there, we got to exhaust every opportunity for our club and right from the owner, she wants us to take a look at every single opportunity to better the franchise,” Carroll told KCPQ FOX 13 Sports Director Aaron Levine in Seattle on Thursday. “That’s what we do. It’s going to take us some time to put it all together and we have a lot of difficult decisions to make this year.”
In the next breath, Carroll said, “I love this team. We’ve got the nucleus of a championship right here and we’re going to try to keep that together.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Byron Pringle: On a day where Mahomes throws for over 400 yards and five touchdowns, there will be plenty of credit available for his receivers. Pringle deserves some recognition for his two-touchdown performance (one each from Mahomes and Kelce) and for continuing to help move the chains like a No. 2 wide receiver.
L’Jarius Sneed: His interception was called back due to a questionable penalty, but that didn’t stop Sneed from celebrating. Kansas City’s best cornerback was a force on Sunday night, leading the team in tackles and showing up all over the field to help frustrate Ben Roethlisberger.
Mike Danna and Tershawn Wharton: We have been talking a lot about the team’s role players — guys who can step up to make impact plays to complement the team’s stars during the playoffs. Danna and Wharton were the only Kansas City defenders to sack Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Wharton nearly had an interception, too. Their contributions made a huge difference during what ended up being a really good day for the defense.
A tweet to make you think
The Chiefs and Bucs lost out on a bye week to shoehorn teams like the Eagles and Steelers into the playoffs. The NFL is not better off for it.— Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) January 16, 2022