The Kansas City Chiefs are two wins away from their third straight trip to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21 in Sunday's AFC Wild Card Round game at Arrowhead Stadium. Patrick Mahomes was unstoppable and led the way for the victors, who continued their recent dominance of the AFC.
While the Steelers actually scored first, it was quickly clear how overmatched they were on both sides of the ball in what may have been Ben Roethlisberger's final game. They are also still looking for their first playoff win since the 2016 campaign.
Notable Player Stats
- Patrick Mahomes, QB, KC: 30-of-39 passing for 404 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
- Jerick McKinnon, RB, KC: 12 carries for 61 yards; 6 catches for 81 yards, 1 TD
- Travis Kelce, TE, KC: 5 catches for 108 yards, 1 TD; 1-for-1 passing for 2 yards, 1 TD
- Tyreek Hill, WR, KC: 5 catches for 57 yards, 1 TD
- Byron Pringle, WR, KC: 5 catches for 37 yards, 2 TDs
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT: 29-of-44 passing for 215 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Chiefs Offense Overcomes Slow Start in Dominant Fashion
Kansas City already beat Pittsburgh by 26 during the regular season without Travis Kelce and has far bigger and realistic goals than a first-round win, meaning anything but a straightforward victory would have qualified as a surprise.
The start of the game did not follow the script.
Kansas City's first five possessions ended in three punts, Devin Bush intercepting Mahomes and T.J. Watt returning a fumble on a botched wildcat play for a touchdown to give Pittsburgh the initial lead. It was a rather shocking development, and it looked as if the Steelers were going to take the lead into the half.
Mahomes had other ideas.
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Chiefs answer back 🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/brgridiron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brgridiron</a> <br><br>Mahomes goes underhand for the TD <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/gcpIcm2PDi">pic.twitter.com/gcpIcm2PDi</a>
He ripped off three touchdown passes in the last six minutes of the first half with the first one going to Jerick McKinnon on a shovel pass, the second one going to Byron Pringle with a perfectly placed ball in the corner of the end zone and the third going to Kelce after he broke free on an inexplicable busted coverage in the final seconds before intermission.
Suddenly the Chiefs could do no wrong as McKinnon darted through Pittsburgh's defense, Demarcus Robinson made plays downfield and even offensive lineman Nick Allegretti caught a touchdown on a trick play. Throw in a deep ball to Hill for a touchdown, and the game was over in the blink of an eye when it looked for a moment as if Kansas City would be challenged.
Instead, it felt like the home team could have picked the score when it went even deeper in the playbook and had Kelce throw a touchdown pass to Pringle in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals or Buffalo Bills will stop the Chiefs from reaching a third straight Super Bowl this season, but the version of Mahomes and Co. that took the field Sunday looks ready to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Pittsburgh's Offense Overmatched Until It's Too Late
Frankly, Sunday's game felt like a formality on paper. After all, the Steelers barely snuck into the playoffs thanks to the Indianapolis Colts' stunning loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and were given the daunting challenge of facing the Chiefs in Kansas City as a reward.
It was far too great of a challenge.
While the Steelers' defense deserves plenty of credit for not only keeping them in the game but actually giving them a lead in the first half with a touchdown, their offense was completely overmatched.
Roethlisberger struggled to hit anyone downfield, and Najee Harris had no running room against Kansas City's defensive front. Perhaps the Roethlisberger of old could have used his legs to keep plays alive and find streaking receivers, but there is a notable lack of zip on his throws at this point.
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Milestone ✅ - <a href="https://twitter.com/_BigBen7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_BigBen7</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/steelers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@steelers</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HereWeGo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HereWeGo</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsKC</a> <br><br>🤝 <a href="https://twitter.com/providence?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@providence</a> <a href="https://t.co/EJXxN0S5po">pic.twitter.com/EJXxN0S5po</a>
James Washington rises up for the <a href="https://twitter.com/steelers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Steelers</a> TD! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HereWeGo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HereWeGo</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWildCard?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWildCard</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsKC</a> on NBC<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/yRnRgTWKtJ">pic.twitter.com/yRnRgTWKtJ</a>
Pittsburgh finished the first half with seven punts and two first downs in an abysmal offensive performance that likely had neutral fans wishing Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers made the playoffs instead of the No. 7 seed.
Things somehow got worse when Harris lost a fumble on the Steelers' first offensive snap of the second half after the rookie didn't lose a fumble during the entire regular season.
Garbage time came fast, but Big Ben at least got the offense on the board with touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson and James Washington in the second half. Yet all it did was make the final score slightly better for a team that was far behind the competition on the road.
The Chiefs are headed to the Divisional Round and will host the Bills.