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Chiefs-Jets rapid reaction: Chiefs escape with win against feisty Jets effort

Kansas City leaves New York with a 23-20 victory — thanks to a big game by Isiah Pacheco.

Kansas City Chiefs v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs escaped a scare on the road on Sunday night, defeating the New York Jets 23-20 on “Sunday Night Football.”

Here is my initial reaction to the game:

The Chiefs played with fire and managed to come out unscathed.

Last week, I spent the first section of our rapid reaction noting how refreshing it was for the Chiefs — now an annual Super Bowl contender — to take care of a far-inferior opponent without a hitch. The Chicago Bears were an organization in shambles visiting the Chiefs at Arrowhead — and they flew home no better, with Kansas City putting together a wire-to-wire victory.

At the beginning of Sunday night’s game, it appeared as though Chiefs fans were in for the same type of experience. Kansas City jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter in the blink of an eye, but the game changed when a questionable facemask call made on Jawaan Taylor in the end zone turned into a safety.

The Jets got two points for the call — the beginning of a 20-3 New York run. Momentum is a funny thing in the NFL — and for two quarters, the Jets suddenly had it. For a good period of time in the middle of the game, Zach Wilson was playing better than Patrick Mahomes, words I never thought I would type in any capacity on these pages.

You never want to see your team — especially when it is the better one — play with any sort of fire, and the Chiefs opted for three alarms on Sunday night.

Mahomes didn’t have his fastball in this game (I think he’d admit that) — and that’s when it takes something like a couple daring scrambles to make sure you get out of the house unburned.

No, the Jets weren’t in the football game because of the referees.

I know I mentioned the safety call being questionable — and it was. And yes, the Jets were gifted a 30-yard, first-down swing when defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi was wrongly called for a horse collar tackle that could have easily been a face mask call on New York.

But it takes more than two bad calls in 60 minutes of game time to sway the outcome in any particular direction. Mahomes started the night out hot, going 5 for 7 for 104 yards and a touchdown. Then he cooled off significantly, looking as bad as he has in a very long time. The two decisions on the picks were in the realm of... baffling.

And while that was happening, as what sometimes seems par for the course for the Chiefs, Wilson found that to be the right time to tap into his inner Aaron Rodgers, picking apart the Chiefs’ second level, affording the Jets the opportunity to storm back and tie the game.

To be clear, I didn’t love the way the game was officiated. But the Chiefs have got to play better if they are going to achieve their goals.

The game balls go to Isiah Pacheco and Harrison Butker.

During a night of inconsistent play, Kansas City had two pillars of stability — and those were running back Isiah Pacheco and kicker Harrison Butker. Playing in front of what was sure to be a good deal of friends and family in his home state of New Jersey, the back ran angry (as he does) to the tune of 20 carries for 115 yards — and helped to ice the game on the final drive. You could tell just how sweet it was for him to taste the end zone on a 48-yard run.

Make no mistake: without the running back and his efforts, Kansas City would have likely been upset on Sunday night.

And when the offense wasn’t working for Kansas City (and we’ll talk more about that this week), Harrison Butker hit three no-doubt field goals. When it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter, kicks matter — and Butker delivered.

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