Chiefs vs. Steelers: How one terrible play changed the game for K.C.

The Kansas City Chiefs are through to the Divisional Round after an insane 42-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Arrowhead. An explosion on offense powered the Chiefs to victory, but it was their worst moment of the game that would change the entire outcome.

Just over four minutes into the second quarter on Sunday night, the Chiefs had the ball on their own 31. It was 1st & 10 and Mecole Hardman lined up behind the center, ready to receive the snap. What would happen next would change the entire course of the game.

With the score still locked at 0-0, it had been a frustrating first half for Kansas City. On their first four drives, the Chiefs had punted three times and thrown an interception.

It took an embarrassing play for the K.C. Chiefs to wake up against the Steelers.

Looking for some sort of spark to get things going, the Chiefs got creative. Kansas City lined up in the wildcat with Hardman in the shotgun, Darrell Williams to his right, and Patrick Mahomes out wide near the sideline. The ball was snapped, and chaos ensued.

Hardman took the snap and handed the football off to Williams, only for it to squeeze through the running back’s arms. Williams picked up the loose ball but had it knocked out again before Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.

It was almost unbelievable. The Steelers had mustered just 27 yards of offense and punted on each of their five drives, but somehow, they now had the lead.

For their part, Kansas City’s offense had been struggling, too. After four uninspiring drives, their fifth ended with a fumble returned for a touchdown. Unwelcome memories of offensive struggles and blowout losses earlier in the season came rushing back.

The play was a total disaster for the Chiefs, but at the same time, it would turn out to be the very thing that swung the game in their favor, the pivotal moment that turned things around.

In a strange way though, it was almost as if the busted play and the scoop-and-score were the very things that needed to happen for the Chiefs to turn things around—the rude slap in the face they needed to finally wake up and kick into gear. Because from that point on, Kansas City absolutely dominated.

Now trailing 7-0 and with momentum seemingly against them, the Chiefs offense burst into life in spectacular fashion. Kansas City piled on 35 unanswered points, storming back into the lead before eventually winning 42-21.

For as dull as Kansas City’s offense was to start the game, they were the complete opposite after the pivotal fumble. After managing just 72 yards of offense and zero points on their first five drives, the Chiefs had 402 yards and 42 points on their next six possessions.

Mahomes had more touchdowns (five) than he did incompletions (four) after the fumble, with those five touchdowns coming in just 10:30 of game time (per Elias Sports).

After the catastrophic outcome of their first attempt at a trick play, the Chiefs would have been forgiven for going more conservative with their play calling—but no. Kansas City stuck to its guns and unleashed the full force of its offensive creativity.

Per Stats By STATS, the Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to have a running back, wide receiver, tight end, and offensive lineman catch a touchdown pass and have a tight end throw a touchdown pass in the same season, and they did all of those things in just one game.

It really was a remarkable turn of events. After the Williams fumble, it looked like every Chiefs fan’s worst fears could be unfolding right in front of them. But instead, Kansas City is heading to the Divisional Round after a very impressive blowout win.

We have seen this kind of thing before. During their Super Bowl run in 2019, Kansas City trailed by double digits in every game, only to suddenly burst back into life and win each one.

On Sunday night, we saw the same thing happen. The situation against Pittsburgh might not have been as extreme as the 24-0 deficit the Chiefs overcame against the Houston Texans or the 21-point turnaround in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl against the 49ers, but once again we saw the Chiefs rally in the face of adversity.

In Denver in Week 18, it was a defensive fumble taken back for a touchdown that was the crucial moment for the Chiefs. This time though, it was a fumble returned for a touchdown on offense that would be the key.

Turnovers can turn the tide of a game and one did again on Sunday night at Arrowhead—just not in the way we might have expected.