The Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West title and a spot in the postseason with a 36-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. The Chiefs own the best record in the AFC at 11-4.
The Chiefs have now won the AFC West in six consecutive seasons and have had a winning record in each of Andy Reid's nine seasons as head coach.
Sunday marked their eighth straight victory after beginning the year 3-4. It was an impressive win for the Chiefs, who were without several players, including star tight end Travis Kelce and kicker Harrison Butker, because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, KC: 23/30 for 258 YDS, 3 TD
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT: 23/35 for 159 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT
Byron Pringle, WR, KC: 6 REC for 75 YDS, 2 TD
Najee Harris, RB, PIT: 19 CAR for 93 YDS
Darrel Williams, RB, KC: 11 CAR for 55 YDS and 3 REC for 30 YDS
Diontae Johnson, WR, PIT: 6 REC for 51 YDS, 1 TD
Patrick Mahomes Dominates Without Travis Kelce
Mahomes and the Kansas City offense have struggled at times this season. That was not the case on Sunday against the Steelers, and it really hasn't been the case for weeks.
Even without Kelce, Mahomes had one of his best games of the season, completing 23 of 30 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
Kansas City Chiefs @Chiefs
.<a href="https://twitter.com/MecoleHardman4?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MecoleHardman4</a> gets us back in the end zone 😎<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsKC</a> on CBS <a href="https://t.co/Z920ZirPc5">pic.twitter.com/Z920ZirPc5</a>
Kansas City Chiefs @Chiefs
"Excuse me! Excuse me!!" -<a href="https://twitter.com/pringle_byron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@pringle_byron</a>, probably <br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsKC</a> on CBS <a href="https://t.co/wZAryfHOI5">pic.twitter.com/wZAryfHOI5</a>
Sunday's game marked Mahomes' second consecutive contest with three passing touchdowns. It was also Kansas City's third-largest margin of victory this year.
The Chiefs entered Sunday's game with the second-best passing offense in the NFL, averaging 287.4 yards per game. Much of that success can be attributed to Mahomes. His two top targets (Tyreek Hill and Kelce) have more than 1,000 yards each this season. Mecole Hardman has the third-most receiving yards, entering Sunday's game with 47 catches for 506 yards and one touchdown.
With Kelce sidelined, Mahomes did a tremendous job of spreading the wealth among his receivers. While Hill, who was recently removed from the COVID-19 list, finished with two catches for 19 yards, the Chiefs had four receivers with at least 30 yards.
- Byron Pringle: 6 REC for 75 YDS, 2 TD
- Derrick Gore: 3 REC for 61 YDS
- Mecole Hardman: 3 REC for 31 YDS, 1 TD
- Darrel Williams: 3 REC for 30 YDS
In addition, the Chiefs did a great job of running the ball. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who suffered a collarbone injury, Williams, Gore and Michael Burton combined for 127 yards on 33 carries. For comparison, the Kansas City offense entered having rushed for just 109.9 yards per game.
If anything, Sunday's game showed us that Mahomes can be successful with just about any receiver the Chiefs have rostered, which is a scary thought with the postseason approaching and Kelce primed to return next week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ben Roethlisberger Underwhelming for Second Straight Game
Sunday's game was one of the worst of the season for Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense. The veteran completed 23 of 35 passes for just 159 yards and one touchdown against one interception.
The offensive struggles have become too common for Pittsburgh this season. While the offense entered having averaged 232.9 passing yards per game, this was the second straight week Roethlisberger was held to under 200 yards.
Before Week 15, Roethlisberger had passed for a touchdown in every game.
Roethlisberger had a particularly rough night in the turnover department. First, he threw a costly interception on Pittsburgh's second drive. Mahomes and the KC offense turned it into a touchdown to go up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Roethlisberger had another costly play in the fourth quarter as he was sacked and fumbled for his second turnover of the game.
For comparison, the Kansas City offense finished with 25 first downs, while Pittsburgh finished with 20. The Steelers also went just 5 for 13 on third downs and averaged 4.3 yards per play.
This is an unfortunate time for Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense to have a complete meltdown as teams are making their final push for the playoffs. With Sunday's loss, Pittsburgh has just a 14 percent chance to make the postseason.
It's also disappointing when you think that this could be Roethlisberger's final season with the Steelers or in the NFL. He has been relatively quiet about his future, but at 39, the clock is ticking on Big Ben's career.
It's unfortunate he and the Steelers couldn't do more, but the AFC North has been the most competitive it's been in years with the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6), Baltimore Ravens (8-7) and Cleveland Browns (7-8) all in a tight battle.
The Chiefs will travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2, while the Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 3.