""Buffalo, cold, playoff game? Doesn't get any better baby.""- Travis Kelce, press conference on 1/19
After a year full of disappointing outputs by the usually-stellar Kansas City Chiefs offense, the defense was poised to bring Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid to their sixth-straight AFC Championship game. Sunday night's Divisional matchup against the Buffalo Bills instead brought renewed faith in the team's offensive scheme and skill players.
The Chiefs' offense scored 21.8 points per game this season, good for 15th in the NFL behind teams like New Orleans (23.6) and Indianapolis (23.3) who both managed to miss the playoffs entirely. Kansas City's measly ppg average was over 15 points below their league-leading 36 ppg in 2021 and also a full 7.4 points below their league-leading 29.2 ppg last season under Eric Bieniemy in his final season as offensive coordinator with the Chiefs before heading off to Washington.
The Chiefs offense, which only averaged 23.3 points at home (including last week's game against Miami), has obviously flourished on the road which makes next week's AFC Championship game in Baltimore a little less stressful. What do I mean by that? Well, including this 27-24 victory, Kansas City's offense under Nagy this season has scored 27 or more points five times with three of them being on the road.
After one of the most complete games of the year, the Kansas City Chiefs' offense finally looks to have hit their stride.
So this season, rightfully so, the Chiefs have had to rely heavily on their top-rated defense which finished the regular season ranked second in points allowed per game (17.3) behind only the Baltimore Ravens, who they now have to beat at their own home on Sunday afternoon. That meant that most (smart) people believed that this Divisional Playoff game would ride on the shoulders of Chris Jones, L'Jarius Sneed, and the rest of the "Chiefense."
But, in true NFL playoff fashion, the script was flipped almost immediately once the ball was in play at Highmark Stadium.
The Chiefs' defense, which has only allowed 113.2 rush yards per game all season, gave up 62 on the ground in the first quarter alone—over half of that per-game total—which meant that the Chiefs' offense needed to pick up the pace. Luckily for every Chiefs fan on the globe, Mahomes, offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, and Reid were up to the task alongside his key teammates like tight end Travis Kelce and running back Isiah Pacheco.
After the defense was able to stop Josh Allen and the Bills inside the red zone, ending with three points on the board to start the game, Mahomes and the offense got going instantly with a 25-yard catch-and-run for Rashee Rice and a 15-yard pickup through the air for Kelce. Sadly, the Chiefs' red zone offense once again fell short and ended with a 47-yard field goal by Harrison Butker.
The Chiefs' offense kept it going all night long though, scoring three or more points on every drive of the first half except for the final one—understandable considering Mahomes and the Chiefs only got the ball with 26 seconds to go before hitting the locker room at halftime.
These scores were all thanks to how Nagy and Reid were able to scheme open multiple pass catchers and utilize the extremely strong legs of Pacheco when needed. This resulted in a 215-yard passing performance by Mahomes, along with 2 passing touchdowns to Kelce, finishing with his fourth playoff game with a passer rating of 131.6 or higher.
Not only that, Reid and Nagy were able to utilize Pacheco's strength once again which ended with 113 yards from scrimmage—97 on the ground—and a rushing touchdown. Add in Kelce's 75 receiving yards and Marquez Valdes-Scantling's 62 yards (!) on two catches and this offense can run through anyone on any given day, which is somewhat surprising considering how most analysts and talking heads believed Rashee Rice had to get the ball the most for the Chiefs to have a chance to win.
Once the second half started, it was the Mahomes show once again with a perfect pass to Valdes-Scantling (below) that got every Chiefs fan up out of their seat and screaming with excitement at their television.
With Mahomes safely and securely trusting Valdes-Scantling after a year full of drops, six to be exact, it was obvious that the offense was not missing a beat. Then, after a long scramble by Mahomes led the Chiefs to their first touchdown of the second half and kept the momentum on the sideline with the red-and-white jerseys.
Not only that, the Chiefs' second touchdown of the game was Mahomes and Kelce's 16th postseason connection in the end zone which now means they hold the record outright after surpassing Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski's total of 15—something that took them nearly a decade compared to Mahomes and Kelce's 5.5 seasons.
But, to nobody's surprise, the Chiefs' receivers finally started shooting themselves in the foot midway through the second half as Mecole Hardman almost ended Kansas City's season when he fumbled the ball through the end zone after Kansas City's defense made a much-needed stop on a fake punt attempt (below) after a rather mediocre game up to that point.
If Hardman had held onto the ball or even scored on the play, then Reid's offense (under the guise of Nagy) would have been up 10 points and scored the most in a game since the lowly Chicago Bears visited Arrowhead back in Week 3—and that is something to be excited about this late in the season.
Once the Chiefs got the ball back their offense was helped by a questionable pass interference call before stalling out for the first time all night long. This was the only moment that Kansas City fans were sitting in fear, mainly because the offense had been nearly perfect up to that point. But, once again, the defense was able to hold the Bills to a field goal that they would inexplicably miss wide right (below) which was a haunting reminder for Bills fans and enough to send the Chiefs to their sixth-straight AFC Championship appearance.
In the end, Kansas City's offense put together 19 first downs, something they've only done eight times so far this year, and Mahomes was able to put together a strong performance that will give him and the entire offense a boost heading into their sixth-straight AFC title game. The only difference is Rice, MVS, Pacheco, and Kelce will be going against a much tougher (and healthier) opponent on their home field in Baltimore.