Divisional Round: Grading The Chiefs

The Chiefs and Bills completed one for the history books. Grading the Chiefs win in one of the greatest games we've ever seen.

Perhaps the greatest playoff game in the NFL’s illustrious history has come to a close. Both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes put on a show for the ages last night. 34 of the games 78 points were scored in the fourth quarter or overtime. Both quarterbacks passed for over 300 yards, at least three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and led their team in rushing, with at least 60 yards each. The Chiefs and Bills just completed a heavyweight bout for the ages.

When the dust settled, the Chiefs outpowered the Bills by a score of 42-36. Patrick Mahomes indeed refused to lose. After this game for the ages, let’s grade all three phases of the Chiefs victory.

Offense: A+

The Wild Card round against Pittsburgh was the best offensive performance we’ve seen from the Chiefs in months. This week’s game against the Bills saw the Chiefs’ best offensive performance in years. Not only did the Chiefs score 42 points against the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The Chiefs scored 10 points in the final 1:42 of regulation before scoring a touchdown in overtime to win the game. The Bills had no answer for the Chiefs’ passing attack all game.

The Chiefs dominated this game through the air. They compiled 0.51 EPA/play on passing plays. This jumped to 0.94 on late downs. The Chiefs earned nearly a full point per play on third and fourth down pass attempts against the NFL’s top defense.

The Chiefs’ biggest play of the entire night, a 25-yard strike to Travis Kelce, was not even the designed play. Patrick Mahomes took over this game in a fashion that we’ve never seen in the history of the NFL. The Chiefs passing attack was playing at all-time historic levels last night. In the screen game, Jerick McKinnon was fantastic. The run game, fueled by a resurgent Clyde Edwards-Helaire, was also outstanding. All phases of the Chiefs offense were playing great last night against the best defense the NFL offers. It’s hard to imagine anyone slowing this unit down.

Defense: C

I truly wanted to write something great about the Chiefs’ defense. Last night, watching the game, I felt great about the defensive performance as the third quarter came to a close. Tyrann Mathieu exited on the first drive last night after taking a shot to the head and entering the concussion protocol. Even without the leader on the defense, the Chiefs defense held the NFL’s third-ranked offense to just 21 points in the first three-quarters of the game.

Josh Allen was relying on his legs to move the ball more than his arm. Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox, and Emmanuel Sanders were removed from this game. The Chiefs were applying pressure to Allen on many plays and disrupting his timing. Then this happened:

With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Bills’ high-powered offense had mustered just 14 points. Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis on a deep 75-yard touchdown to bring the Bills within two points. As the rest of the game unfolded, Allen would find Davis again, and again, and again. Davis set an NFL playoff record with four touchdown receptions. Two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs had zero answers for the Bills’ deep passing attack without Mathieu. They seemed content to play soft coverage and give up underneath passes all game but somehow got torched deep in the fourth quarter. Whether Mathieu is back next week or not, the Chiefs need to find the answer in the deep and intermediate passing game to have a chance against the Bengals’ elite receivers.

Special Teams: B

The Kansas City special teams gave us a mixed bag this week. There were plenty of outstanding plays that helped win the game for the Chiefs. Some simple mistakes changed the path to victory massively.

The Chiefs lost the field possession game pretty handily this week. Kansas City started with the ball inside their 15-yard line on two consecutive drives in the first half. Harrison Butker missed a 50-yard field goal entering halftime that would’ve given the Chiefs a three-point lead at the half. The kick had the distance but barely inched right, narrowly missing the mark. On the Chiefs’ second drive in the third quarter, Butker missed the PAT wide right as well.

Aside from the missed PAT, their special teams played much better in the second half. A Tommy Townsend punt late in the third quarter pinned the Bills back at their eight-yard line. The Bills would then punt to the Chiefs on a play that saw Tyreek Hill return the punt 45-yards to the Buffalo 16 yard line.

Butker fixed his kicking woes when he hammered home the game-tying 49-yard field goal as regulation expired to send the gameovertimetime. Special teams’ mistakes didn’t continue into the second half. Dave Toub deserves credit for fixing the unit at halftime and allowing them to contribute to the win when it mattered most.

Back To Back To Back To Back

The Kansas City Chiefs are the first team in history to host four consecutive conference championship games.

They move on in the playoffs to host the Bengals next Sunday with an appearance in Super Bowl 56 on the line. The status of Tyrann Mathieu will be very much in question this week, especially with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow coming to town. If unable to go, I’d like to see Kansas City use L’Jarius Sneed more at safety. If Rashad Fenton can return next week, this would be even easier to manage. It’s still too early to tell; hopefully, all Chiefs can return healthy next week and earn a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

On to the next.