With the Divisional Round win, the Chiefs advance to their fifth straight AFC Championship game.
Chad Henne’s 98-yard drive
For Mahomes to leave a playoff game for any reason, he had to have been in a significant amount of pain. After sitting on the sideline cold for 19 weeks (other than end-of-game snaps against the San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders), backup Chad Henne entered the Divisional Round game with the Chiefs’ offense beginning on their own 2-yard time.
Henne’s first pass to tight end Travis Kelce had to provide the Chiefs offense with confidence — and the space necessary to work. Henne would go 5-of-7 for 23 yards on the drive, finishing it with a touchdown pass to Kelce. At a moment in which the Chiefs badly needed it, Henne showed no nervousness. He was cool, calm and collected — much like that last time the Chiefs called his number.
The Chiefs extended their lead to 17-7, a crucial part of the game to keep them feeling like they could still win.
Isiah Pacheco. Travis Kelce. Harrison Butker.
Running back Isiah Pacheco had runs of 7, 8 and 39 yards on the drive to alleviate some of the pressure on Henne — part of a 12-carry, 95-yard effort for the game.
When Mahomes reentered the contest, the Chiefs relied on Pacheco to keep the ship steady in a more balanced attack than Andy Reid typically deploys. Saturday’s debut playoff performance for the rookie was a great game.
Just like Mahomes can spin it in anything, Kelce can catch it from anybody. He brought in four Henne balls on the drive, including the score. Kelce broke his six-game touchdown drought by scoring twice — and finished with an astonishing 14 catches for 98 yards. It was a signature outing for the future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer.
With his 13th catch of the game, TE Travis Kelce ties his franchise record for a postseason game (vs. Buffalo, 1/24/21). He now has 119 career postseason catches, passing WR Julian Edelman (118) for 2nd most by any player in NFL history.— Chiefs Communications (@ChiefsPR) January 21, 2023
Following an up-and-down year, kicker Harrison Butker came through in a game in which the Chiefs desperately needed him. With an injured quarterback, the margin gets much smaller. Every point counted. Butker was perfect, finishing 2 of 2 in field goals and 2 of 2 in extra points. Underrated (but worth mentioning) was Butker’s late tackle of Jamal Agnew to save a possible kick-return touchdown.
Chiefs’ defense stands tall with Mahomes ailing
The Chiefs’ defense certainly had a few plays it wished it had back, but sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other team. That was the case when Trevor Lawrence threw a perfect pass to Christian Kirk (as L’Jarius Sneed blitzed) early in the game. The Chiefs largely handled running back Travis Etienne despite his score, holding him to 62 rushing yards. Linebacker Nick Bolton led the Chiefs with 10 tackles — and then, late in the game, dove on the loose ball late to all but seal it.
A member of that old guard really stepped up in a key spot. Defensive end Frank Clark turned back the clock, calling his shot. Credit linebacker Willie Gay Jr. with an assist on the play
Frank Clark told me he was going to be "flying around" in this game and his groin was 100% healthy. I think this TFL shows that a little bit. The flip up probably displays it a little more clear. Freak athlete. https://t.co/3GUoy9NszL— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 21, 2023
Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson had a pass breakup and the game-clinching interception. Safety Juan Thornhill did well to help shut the door on the game by breaking up a late strike from Lawrence intended for Christian Kirk. Veteran defensive end Derrick Nnadi added a sack.
The final word
It never seems to be easy for Patrick Mahomes — who is as durable as they come in the regular season — once he gets to the postseason. For the second time in two seasons, Mahomes will have to limp through the postseason with an injury.
But as he showed on the late touchdown drive — which ended with a score to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling — even a hobbled Mahomes may be better than your guy on his best day.
The road just got a little more complicated for the Chiefs. But on Monday, there will be a silver lining: they will be one of only four teams still on that road.