Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 42, Buffalo Bills 36
Offense (Talon Graff)
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his offense couldn’t have been asked to do much more. In this game, they delivered so many times — and at the end, they were the ones who finished off the Bills. An absolute shootout lit up the scoreboard as the offense put together its second-highest scoring total of the season, matching the 42 points they put up on the Piitsburgh Steelers just a week ago.
Jerick McKinnon got the start at running back — but in his return from injury, Clyde Edwards-Helaire looked solid. The second-year player averaged over eight yards a carry with 60 yards on seven rushing attempts. McKinnon did his damage as a receiver; he was the team’s third-leading receiver with 54 yards on five catches. He carried the ball ten times but only squeaked out 24 yards. The offensive line had a tough matchup against the Bills’ defensive front but they were able to clear the running lanes enough for the ball carriers to be effective.
In pass protection, Mahomes aided his guys up front with multiple scrambles and what seemed to be 20/20 peripheral vision. The Bills got to him twice, but it wasn’t enough to slow down the Kansas City offense. Mahomes was electric with his legs, leading the Chiefs in rushing with 69 yards — and even scored on one of his runs.
Mahomes also lit up the sky over Arrowhead with 378 passing yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers. Tyreek Hill was dominant with 11 catches, 150 yards and a touchdown. His best play came on a 64-yard catch-and-run that gave the Chiefs a late lead. Travis Kelce came in with 96 yards on eight grabs — but he will forever be remembered for bringing in the game-winning touchdown pass during overtime. Mecole Hardman only touched the ball three times on offense, but still scored on an impressive stop-and-go move that fully displayed his lethal speed.
The story of the day was the way the offense continuously overcame the odds. Its performance should quash any remaining doubt about its ability. The chance to gain retribution against the Cincinnati Bengals is now right in front of Kansas City as they host an unprecedented fourth-straight AFC Championship game.
Offensive Player of the Game: quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes was everything the Chiefs needed in the Divisional round: he was his usual do-it-all self — but turned up to 11. His numbers were great, but it was his performance in clutch situations that made him special. He took care of the ball and made play after play to keep the team in the game — and when it mattered most, he put the game on ice.
Defense (Bryan Stewart)
Early on Sunday evening, the bottom fell out of the Kansas City defense after its secondary suffered more injuries to key players — including safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen was incredibly good against the Chiefs’ defense. By night’s end, he had thrown for 329 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Gabriel Davis caught a playoff-record four touchdown passes. Kansas City’s depth cornerbacks coould not stop that connection.
Moreover, Allen led his team in rushing by logging 68 yards on 11 carries. The Chiefs’ defense simply had few answers for the Buffalo offense.
But on a positive note, defensive linemen Melvin Ingram and Jarran Reed each logged a sack — and rookie linebacker Nick Bolton made several key stops against the run.
Ultimately, the Chiefs will likely need more from their defense in order to win a Super Bowl — but they also just faced the best quarterback they will see the rest of the way.
Defensive Player of the Game: cornerback Charvarius Ward
So, about that Stefon Diggs guy? On the flip side of Gabriel Davis’ epic performance, Diggs posted just three catches for seven yards. Much of that was because Ward shadowed Diggs for most of the game — just as he did against the Steelers’ Chase Claypool during the Wild Card win. In the weeks ahead, continuing that performance would be a key part of any success the Chiefs may have.