Prior to the 2022 season, a cavalcade of all-star players joined the AFC West looking to change things up.
On Sunday, however, it was reaffirmed that the division still belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs as they defeated the Houston Texans 30-24 in overtime to clinch their seventh consecutive division crown.
The Chiefs (11-3) are headed to the postseason for the eighth straight season.
Kansas City could’ve wrapped up the division last week after defeating the Broncos, but the Los Angeles Chargers’ win over the Dolphins put off celebrations for seven days. The Chiefs controlled their own destiny this week and are moving forward with a home game to open the postseason, as has become a tradition.
The Broncos traded for quarterback Russell Wilson in the biggest move of a bevy of offseason additions within the division, while the Chargers added the likes of J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack. The Las Vegas Raiders traded for Davante Adams and brought pass rusher Chandler Jones into the fold.
It’s made no matter, though, the AFC West is still the Chiefs’ division.
During the course of the game, Mahomes ran for his 11th career rushing touchdown. In doing so, Mahomes now has the most rushing touchdowns by a QB in franchise history in their career. It breaks the tie that he held with Alex Smith (10) for the most rushing touchdowns by a QB in franchise history. Keep in mind, this is only the fifth year that Mahomes has been a starter for the team. It’s also not the only record that Mahomes claimed from Smith on Sunday.
In addition to his rushing prowess, Mahomes had a dominant day throwing the ball. He completed 36-of-41 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns in Houston. That’s an 87.80% completion percentage — which is now the highest completion percentage (minimum of 20 attempts) by a Chiefs QB in a single game in franchise history.
In the third quarter of the Week 15 game against the Texans, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster earned a $500K incentive with his fourth reception of the afternoon.
When JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Chiefs signed the contract in March, it was loaded with incentives. After $1.035M in base salary and $1.7M in signing and workout bonuses, he has the opportunity to earn up to $7.5M in incentives. These incentives range from playing time to team playoff success.
Smith-Schuster earned $500K each for hitting the 40 and 50 receptions thresholds and earned the third and final benchmark with his 65th catch of the season to bring his total catch incentives to the maximum $1.5M on the year. He has already earned a $500K incentive for hitting both 500 and 650 receiving yards this season and is slated to earn another $500K if he hits 900.
Smith-Schuster will earn another $500K if he plays 45% of the offensive snaps or $1.5M if he plays 65%. In addition, he will earn $1M if he’s named to the Pro Bowl, $500K for an AFC Championship Game win, and $500K for a Super Bowl LVII victory (he has to play at least 50% of offensive snaps for the latter two to hit).
Chiefs escape for second straight week. Kansas City has to know what it feels like to have a target on its back after the last two weeks. The Chiefs received the Texans’ absolute best shot on Sunday, but unlike last week against the Broncos, the Chiefs needed to dig themselves out of a hole to win this time around. Chalk it up to underestimating an opponent, if you must, but the Chiefs certainly didn’t struggle: Kansas City broke 500 yards of offense and Patrick Mahomes completed 36 of 41 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs just happened to meet a team that was playing as if it was the Super Bowl. A Week 15 game against one of the AFC’s best essentially was Houston’s Super Bowl, and it acted accordingly. The Chiefs will just need to be better in order to avoid a letdown against better competition. The good news: They won both of their last two games, and they may have realized no one is going to lay down for them.
Another close call ends in defeat for feisty Texans. Despite the loss, Houston deserves a ton of credit for how it played Sunday. Houston got on the board with a Davis Mills dime to tight end Teagan Quitoriano, weathered a counterpunch from Jerick McKinnon (via a 20-yard touchdown) with another scoring drive, and regained the lead late in the third thanks to a second Mills touchdown pass, this time to Jordan Akins. Houston played hard for four quarters (and overtime), establishing a chippy environment as if it was sending Kansas City a message: We’re not afraid of you. The Texans nearly won, but in these matchups, sometimes a talent disadvantage ends up being the difference. The Texans did their job by setting the tone with a physical brand of football; it just didn’t end up being quite enough to secure a massive upset.
Kansas City’s backfield continues trending upward. It took a while, but the Chiefs have found their one-two punch at running back in the form of Isiah Pacheco and McKinnon. Much like last week, McKinnon made a significant impact in the passing game, catching eight passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, and Pacheco paced things on the ground with an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Their combined efforts accounted for over 200 yards of offense for a second straight week and brought some much-needed balance to an offense that tends to rely a little too much on Mahomes. It opened things up for the Chiefs, who finished with a 50% conversion rate on third down. They’ll just need to clean things up elsewhere, as evidenced by their 10 accepted penalties (for 102 yards) and two turnovers.
Next Gen stat of the game: Patrick Mahomes thrived in the short game Sunday, completing 31 of 33 passes of fewer than 10 air yards for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
Kansas City 30-24 in OT over Houston
Kansas City (11-3) made some ugly mistakes in this game, but fortunately for the Chiefs, they were playing the one team in the NFL where you can afford to make ugly mistakes and still win. The Chiefs lost two fumbles, which both led to Houston touchdowns and that was a big reason why the Texans were able to stay in this game. As close as this game was, Patrick Mahomes seemed hellbent on making sure it wasn’t going to turn into an upset. The QB completed 87.8% of his passes (36 of 41), which is the NFL record in a game where the QB threw 40 or more passes. Mahomes also threw two TD passes to go along with a rushing score. The Chiefs won’t be bragging about this win at the end of the season, but they will probably be bragging about the fact that they just won their seventh straight division title.
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“I don’t know what they’re going to call this one,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said, “but it will probably have a nickname here shortly.”
The Error-maculate Interception? How else to describe Jakobi Meyers’ inexplicable attempt to keep hope alive for the Patriots, rather than simply go down and play for overtime?
Because with three seconds on the clock of a tie game and New England on its 45-yard line, Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson burst up the middle — through Jones’ grasp — for a 23-yard gain before he pitched to Meyers along the right sideline. Meyers then spied his quarterback, Mac Jones, near the middle of the field and uncorked a ball backward that stayed in the air for what seemed like an eternity.
Chandler Jones, after missing the tackle on Stevenson, was again pushed to the ground by Patriots right guard Mike Onwenu but ended up in the right place at the right time for Las Vegas.
“We were in a desperado situation. We knew there was zero time left on the clock, and I think I saw Jakobi kind of spot up to throw it back — and I was just looking for the nearest guy, and Mac Jones was right there,” Chandler Jones said. “I kind of just went up there and got it and broke a tackle and scored.”
Raiders linebacker Denzel Perrymann explained his teammate’s maneuver.
“He stiff-armed [Mac Jones],” Perryman said, laughing, “and got ghost.”
Meaning, he was gone. To the house. Ballgame.
The Buccaneers jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, only to see the Bengals score 34 unanswered points and win.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 27 of 39 passes for 200 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. It wasn’t one of Burrow’s best games, but after the sluggish start he took advantage of a lot of short fields to engineer scoring drive after scoring drive in the second half.
Those short fields came thanks to some awful mistakes by the Buccaneers, including two Tom Brady interceptions, two Brady lost fumbles, and a horrendous fake punt when the Bucs snapped the ball directly to running back Giovani Bernard, who didn’t appear to have any idea they had called a fake.
With the win, the Bengals are now 10-4 and in sole possession of first place in the AFC North. The Bucs fall to 6-8 but remain in first place in the terrible NFC South. These are both playoff teams, but only one looks like a good team.
Mike Tomlin is in his 16th season as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach. There has been one common factor in all of the first 15 seasons. The team has never finished below .500. This is a fact that Tomlin’s strongest supporters quote when those on the other side call for his job.
It is also a fact that hasn’t escaped the players. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson was interviewed after Pittsburgh’s 24-16 win over the Carolina Panthers and said it is important to the team to keep Tomlin’s streak alive.
In order for this to happen, Pittsburgh will need to win out. Next week the Steelers come home to take on the Las Vegas Raiders. Then it is back-to-back AFC North games to finish out the season. First on the road for a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens and then wrapping things up at home against the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore and Cleveland already this season.
“It’s really important to us… We want to finish out strong for him."— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) December 18, 2022
After the @Steelers 24-16 win in Carolina, Diontae Johnson talked about Mike Tomlin’s 15 year streak of seasons with a record of .500 better.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a week to stew on one of the worst games of his career. In Week 14’s 34-28 win against the Denver Broncos, the face of the NFL threw three interceptions — allowing the Broncos back into a game they once trailed 27-0.
Mahomes followed the near-disaster with one of the most efficient games of his career in Sunday’s 30-24 overtime victory over the Houston Texans. The Chiefs’ star completed 36 of 41 pass attempts for 336 yards with a pair of touchdown passes — and no interceptions. He completed his final 19 pass attempts and scrambled for a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On a day the Chiefs had difficulty with an opponent heading for the draft’s first selection, Mahomes’ near-flawless performance was necessary.
Patrick Mahomes completed a season-high +10.3% of his passes over expected in Week 15, including 19-straight completions to end the game.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 18, 2022
The chances of Mahomes' completion streak — based on the difficulty of each throw — was just 0.8%. #KCvsHOU | #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/5b7KRheQjd
Through 14 games, Mahomes leads the league both in passing yards (4,496) and touchdowns (35). A week after his MVP candidacy appeared to be trending down, Sunday’s performance likely keeps him in the race.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid appeared ready to declare Mahomes the winner when speaking after the win. He also credited his quarterback with improving from last week.
“You saw Pat and what he did,” Reid declared. “He took care of business today. He went back to work and worked on it. You’re talking about a guy who if he’s not the MVP of the league — I don’t know what’s wrong with it. He cleaned it up and comes out — and we have almost 500 yards of offense. That’s a pretty spectacular day there. A great example of how you go back to the drawing board and clean everything up.”