Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 31, Las Vegas Raiders 13
We have arrived at a very simple, critical fact: the Chiefs have the AFC’s No. 1 seed. They’re entering the playoffs with a first-round bye.
Offense (Bryan Stewart)
Kansas City’s offense got the party started on its opening drive with a big downfield strike from quarterback Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Justin Watson, which led to a touchdown a few plays later. This set the stage for something Chiefs fans haven’t seen for quite a while — a totally stress-free victory. Backup quarterback Chad Henne even got to jump in for Kansas City’s final drive.
The offense got through the game without turning the ball over. As the playoffs begin, that will be a key statistical trend to continue.
Mahomes finished with 202 passing yards and a touchdown. His 2022 regular-reason wraps up with over 5,200 passing yards, 41 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. About a month from now, Mahomes is very likely to receive the NFL’s MVP award — although hopefully, he’ll be deep in Super Bowl preparations and won’t be able to accept it in person. With Saturday’s win, he improved his away record against divisional opponents to 16-0.
Kansas City established a solid rushing attack, closing the game with 168 yards at 6.0 yards per carry — another promising trend that will only increase the team’s odds for playoff success. Late in the game, rookie running back Isiah Pacheco broke off a 31-yard rush that set up the final Chiefs touchdown.
The Kansas City offensive line was extremely stellar Saturday afternoon. Over the past month or so, the unit has been playing its best football. Now it’ll get an extra week off to rest bumps and bruises.
Even better, the offense came out of the game with no notable injuries.
Offensive Player of the Game: Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
It was yet another week of good news: Brown’s play was unnoticeable. That’s a good thing. His recent consistency in protecting Mahomes has been a big step forward for the offense. While there were times that Las Vegas pass rusher Maxx Crosby got to Mahomes from the right side, that was really all the pressure the offensive line allowed. Brown deserves some props. After a tough start, his problems now seem to be in the past.
Defense (Caleb James)
The Chiefs' defense stepped up in a big way, holding the Raiders to just 13 points — and it started up front. The defensive line was excellent, constantly creating pressure in the pocket and stopping the running game at the line of scrimmage. Chris Jones led the way with two and a half sacks, while George Karlaftis continued his hot streak by recording a half a sack. All season, Mike Danna has been the unsung hero of the Kansas City pass rush. He recorded two sacks from the interior of the defensive line. Khalen Saunders, Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap all collected quarterback hits — and Dunlap also knocked down a pass.
Justin Reid stood out in the secondary, recording a sack to go along with seven tackles. His sticky downfield coverage held Raiders tight end Darren Waller to just two catches. Juan Thornhill notched his third interception of the season, picking off quarterback Jarrett Stidham late in the second quarter. The Chiefs' young group of cornerbacks — along with L’Jarius Sneed — held Davante Adams to just five receptions for 75 yards by not allowing any explosive plays; Adams’ longest play was for 22 yards.
Shutting down Josh Jacobs — the league’s leading rusher — was a tall task. The defense delivered, holding Jacobs to just 45 yards — a lousy 2.5 yards per carry. The linebackers struggled for most of the game, but Nick Bolton recorded 16 total tackles. He broke the team's single-season record of 176 tackles set by Derrick Johnson.
Missed tackles from Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., and Darius Harris — and some leaks in coverage — led to some easy yards for Las Vegas; covering the middle of the field continued to be an issue for the Chiefs.
But as a whole, the defense played much better. Hopefully, the unit can continue to trend upward heading into the postseason.
Defensive Player of the Game: Chris Jones
Jones has been a man on a mission in 2022. Collecting 2.5 more sacks on Saturday, he raised his season total to 15.5. His rare combination of size, power and quickness was on full display; he disrupted Stidham throughout the game. It was a perfect way to cap an elite season that should have him in the conversation for defensive player of the year — and will hopefully catapult him to a monster playoff performance. This has been the best season of his career. If the team wants a chance for a Super Bowl run, Jones must continue to be a factor.