For all the struggles this season — and, to a lesser extent — in this game, the Kansas City Chiefs emerged with a 25-17 victory and their eighth straight AFC West title.
The defense locked down the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half, and the offense featured a 100-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher for the first time this season.
Here are a few who stood out this week:
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: A rookie may lead the Chiefs in receiving if he plays next week. Rashee Rice went off for 127 yards on five catches this week. He showed he can make plays down the field, with a season-long 67-yard catch and run. Rice is now at 938 yards on the season, within reach of a 1,000-yard campaign. But, he’s also within reach of Travis Kelce, who now has 984 yards receiving.
Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu: Big No. 90 is really making his presence known, now with sacks in each of his last five games. He batted a pass against the Bengals as the pass rush came alive and frustrated Jake Browning in the second half. Omenihu has been a force from the inside and outside of the defensive front and appears to be playing his best football as the postseason approaches.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: We saw plenty of Pacheco’s trademark angry runs, as he racked up 130 yards on 18 carries, including a 37-yard rampage. He also looked good catching the ball once again — converting all seven targets into catches for another 35 yards. The shoulder didn’t seem to bother him at all, as he showed once again that he could and should be featured in this offense.
EDGE George Karlaftis: A sack and a half gets George Karlaftis to 10.5 on the season. Even if he doesn’t get another snap before the playoffs, it’s a wildly successful second campaign for “Furious George.” He seems to feed off of the momentum of the guys around him, as the pass rush heated up, Karlaftis was there to help close.
Defensive backs Justin Reid, L’Jarius Sneed, and Trent McDuffie: The Chiefs' secondary stepped up in this one, after a slowish start. As per their usual, they played a physical brand of football and didn’t back down when Ja’Marr Chase tried to take the trash talking to the next level. Reid contributed to the pass rush with a pair of quarterback sacks, Sneed held Chase to three catches on seven targets for 41 yards. McDuffie continued his strong season, wrapping up some big tackles and being in perfect position in coverage.
Kicker Harrison Butker: They shouldn’t have needed him this much, but damn, he did deliver. His near-perfect season got back on track with a 6 for 6 performance where he scored the last 18 points of this ballgame.
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling: The nightmare season continues for Valdes-Scantling, as he dropped a wide-open crosser that could have been a massive play. Then, he was unable to connect on another deep pass from Mahomes. His only catch was a 3-yard quick screen. The Chiefs have continued to give him opportunities and snaps, but the results have simply been miserable.
Tight end Travis Kelce: It was another slow week of production for Travis Kelce, as had one drop and only 16 yards against the Bengals. Teams seem to be having more success taking him away of late, whether they are keying in on Kelce, or he’s slowing down, he might be best served with taking next week off.
Left tackle Wanya Morris: When things were going bad for the Chiefs early, part of the reason was the matchup of the Bengals’ EDGE rushers against rookie tackle Wanya Morris. He was beaten a handful of times on speed rushes, including the Trey Hendrickson strip of Mahomes that led to a short-field touchdown for the Bengals. Wanya’s run blocking has been fantastic at times, but he’ll need to refine his pass blocking to secure a long-term job on Kansas City’s line.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.