The Kansas City Chiefs’ electrifying 27-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round of the playoffs was one of the team’s best games of the season — and was also one of this year’s best performances by running back Isiah Pacheco and the Kansas City offensive line.
Pacheco finished with 97 yards — averaging 6.7 yards per carry — while the offensive line handled the dirty work.
Let’s see how they did it.
Starting the fight
This heavyweight bout had just as much to do with the play in the trenches as it did with the play of the quarterbacks. Kansas City didn’t waste time throwing a wrench into the Bills’ game plan. Early on, the Chiefs kept it basic by running their typical zone and power looks.
Offset zone early for KC. The push from Humphrey and Smith off the ball creates a hole for Pacheco to operate. The play isn't perfectly blocked, and the Bills tighten down, but the strain + fight from Pacheco and the entire line tacks on extra yards at the end of the play. pic.twitter.com/5NYOVNDGh7— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
These plays have been staples of the Chiefs’ offense all season — but in Buffalo, the offensive line asserted its dominance, creating movement off the ball and finishing plays to the whistle.
KC is running power but Buffalo actually has men at the LOS ready to meet Pacheco. Fortunately, the double team displaces the 3-tech and Thuney quickly contacts the LB coming to fill. Pacheco is decisive and just hits the hole hard and it turns into a decent gain. pic.twitter.com/bmsnyaqPAh— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
Even when the Bills had players in position to make plays, Kansas City’ physicality on the line — combined with Pacheco’s hard running — still created positive gains.
Explosion to the outside
The Chiefs had shown us some glimpses of outside runs this season — but on Sunday’s big stage, they once again unleashed their creative outside zone runs to make significant gains.
Pin+Pull toss to Pacheco. Taylor and Bell do a good job blocking in space. Poyer steps up to make the stop, but Pacheco breaks the tackle and fights for more. pic.twitter.com/lxQ5OH4x57— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
On this play — stealing a few looks from the Miami Dolphins’ playbook — the Chiefs unleash a pin-and-pull toss with Pacheco. We have seen the team run this look a few times in the regular season. Here, though, they do it out of a pistol look with Pacheco in a neutral position and the formation at even strength: a tight end and wide receiver on one side of the ball and two tight ends on the other side.
On the snap, Mahomes tosses to Pacheco while tight end Noah Gray blocks down to pin the defensive end. Tight end Blake Bell leads the charge and Jawaan Taylor follows. Both get good blocks in space while Pacheco makes one defender miss on the way to a solid gain.
As the season has progressed, some teams have started to pinch down on Kansas City’s running game — that is, have their inside defenders take away inside gaps. But these pin-and-pull plays took advantage of the Bills’ decision to follow suit.
Snapping and pulling is ridiculously hard. Creed Humphrey did so on the biggest stage and on the road of all places. Taylor lets the edge "win" the B gap, but it creates a pin on the down block. Humphrey pulls around to kick out and Thuney quickly climbs to the second level. pic.twitter.com/LBc3qWgOXs— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
On this play, Creed Humphrey executes one of football’s hardest moves: snapping the ball and pulling simultaneously. Mahomes hands it off to the weak side while Taylor tries to manipulate the defensive end into the B-gap and right guard Trey Smith blocks down. Humphrey kicks out the run-blitzing linebacker while left guard Joe Thuney works from the back side to the second level. Pacheco hits the hole with a head of steam.
Later in the game, the Chiefs would go back to their first look — and this time, it nearly resulted in a touchdown.
Pin and Pull toss with Gray pinning and Smith and Bell pulling around the end. Good work by Allegretti Humphrey to seal the inside while and great blocks in space by Bell and Smith. Great cut to make the safety miss. Just couldn't quite walk the tightrope to get in the endzone. pic.twitter.com/TmCRdwoKLr— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
Kansas City runs the play to the left, so Donovan Smith is the tackle to pull around. He makes a fantastic block in space on the second-level player, allowing Pacheco to be one-on-one against the safety. Making one cut, Pacheco blows past the safety and just misses walking the tightrope into the end zone.
For most of the game, Kansas City’s offensive line (and Pacheco) beat the Buffalo front seven with their physicality. Deep in the red zone, a massive surge from the interior offensive line resulted in a touchdown for the running back.
Look at the push-up front. Thuney opens a hole, and Humphrey, Smith, and Taylor all work in combination on the zone to move the 1tech. Smith locks on and finishes as Pacheco finds the endzone. Humphrey continues his beatdown and finishes the play to the echo of the whistle. pic.twitter.com/aoM7StAkPx— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
Here, the Chiefs run an offset zone — and get a big push up the middle- Thuney opens the hole, Humphrey works to the second level and Smith locks on the 1-tech. Humphrey drives the linebacker to the ground — while Smith drives the defensive tackle to the goal line — just as Pacheco slams in for the score.
This display of dominance was great to see — but unfortunately, this is the play where Thuney suffered an injury. Backup Nick Allegretti finished the game.
After the Bills missed a game-tying field goal, Kansas City needed one first down to close out the game. They called on Pacheco to seal the deal.
KC needs a first down to ice the game. Zone right and Pacheco sees some blue but decides to hit the A gap. He lowers his shoulder and Allegretti gets just enough while Smith hammers the run blitzing MIKE. Pacheco's second effort puts him even closer to the line to gain. pic.twitter.com/DCq72OWrn8— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
On this rep, the Chiefs open the drive with zone right; Pacheco looks to cut back into the opposite A-gap. Allegretti maintains his block until the last second, but starts to lose his footing as Pacheco moves forward. Smith does a great job picking off the linebacker. Just as it seems the Bills will bottle up the runner, Smith flings the defender to the ground to create a pile — which helps Pacheco regain his balance and fall forward for a few more critical yards.
The Chiefs would keep the ball on the ground to close things out.
KC kept it on the ground to seal the deal. Allegretti clears space and moves the 3-tech into the A gap. Smith immediately climbs and puts a shot on 52. 23 fills the hole quickly, but Pacheco lowers his shoulder and gets enough for the first. You can tell how bad KC wanted this! pic.twitter.com/HTMqZiN00y— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 23, 2024
Lining up in 13 personnel, Kansas City runs zone right again — and Pacheco again looks to cut back in the back side A-gap. The 3-tech over Allegretti works into the A-gap, but Allegretti uses a great first step to meet the inside slant and drive him out of the hole. Smith sees this. He works directly to the linebacker, delivering a powerful shot that knocks him backward.
The safety steps up to play the run, but the line’s movement — combined with Pacheco’s downhill power — is enough to pick up the first down and win the game.
The bottom line
After the final play, it was clear to see how much this win meant to the Chiefs. Since Kansas City had beated Buffalo on its home field (while dominating the running game), the celebrations were even sweeter.