KC Chiefs dominate Pittsburgh Steelers: analysis, commentary

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The leaders are there.

Now that’s pretty much where they fall into place.

The Chiefs won a sixth straight AFC West championship – and the playoff spot that came with it – with a resounding 36-10 victory over the Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

Wait, let’s add some details: The Chiefs, playing without eight players who were on the COVID-19 roster in the week leading up to the game, including star tight end Travis Kelce, had no problem sending a squad of the Steelers fight for his life in the playoffs.

The result guarantees at least one playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in January, and it preserves the Chiefs’ place as the AFC’s No.1 seed with two weeks to play.

Patrick Mahomes has never played a road playoff game. Maybe not this year either.

Speaking of this guy from Mahomes, he’ll walk us through the game’s five observations this week:

1. Patrick Mahomes with all the elk

Twelve days ago, Patrick Mahomes received a question about the concept of momentum in the NFL. More specifically, can it continue from week to week?

“Yes, it can,” he replied, “if you use it the right way.”

That would qualify, yeah?

A week after his end by any means necessary for overtime victory in Los Angeles, Mahomes hasn’t skipped a beat. He was hot from the jump, and a few of his first-half throws will be part of his end-of-season highlight.

He threw a handgun at Byron Pringle in the back of the end zone. He found Derrick Gore – of all people – after a creative run on the right side, at a reception that lasted 50.

He put the whole offense on the line on a day when the Chiefs had to deepen their depth chart that most weeks. The Chiefs had five first-half practices – all five advanced inside the Steelers’ 30-yard line.

2. The peak at the right time

It’s not just Mahomes. It’s not just the offense either.

The mid-season defense flip-flop continued for another week. Have you ever worried that the Steelers might set up a few discs and get back into the game? Based on what evidence?

The Steelers never threatened. Admittedly, their attack is a far cry from when No.7 was at its peak. But the chefs also deserve some credit here.

The first time the Steelers had football, the Chiefs rushed to just four third goals. Frank Clark pushed Ben Roethlisberger to his left. Jarran Reed welcomed him there, so Roethlisberger came over again. Clark stepped back and ditched him for a sack. Punt.

The second time the Steelers had the football, Roethlisberger returned a pass that seemed to almost hit his target – Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward, who was happy to oblige and call off the interception, needing only with one hand as he fell to the ground.

3. Oh, yeah, they were shorthanded too

The Chiefs had eight players unavailable after arriving on the reserve / COVID-19 roster last week – some more critical than others. Most notably, they played without tight end Travis Kelce, who entered the week leading all NFL tight ends in receiving.

Who would fill his shoes? Well, what about everyone?

The Chiefs offered his snaps to a combination of Noah Gray and Blake Bell, but Mahomes didn’t just send Kelce’s targets to them. Instead, he divided the work – nine teammates caught a pass in the first half alone. Seven caught at least two passes.

But no one profited more than Pringle. He caught six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

4. Some improbable scores

The Chiefs were really good in their first half practice, but their paths to the end zone were pretty unconventional.

On their first touchdown, Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane punctured a hole and pierced running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Did not conclude, however.

Edwards-Helaire managed to keep his feet on his toes and he came close to the edge in the end zone. The game only had a 17% chance of ending in a touchdown, according to Next Generation stats.

On their next possession, Mahomes fired that handgun pass towards Pringle, but only after having had more than seven seconds to observe the secondary. His left tackle, Orlando Brown, served as the main bodyguard, blocking defensive tackle Cameron Heyward the entire time.

5. These opening readers … always a thing of beauty

This opening script.

Again.

The Chiefs’ offense hasn’t been at its usual best this season, but that hasn’t affected their opening practices a bit.

They scored an opening touchdown for the eighth time this season – more than any other team in the NFL.

All it took? More than eight minutes. The Chiefs covered 73 yards in 14 games, completing passes to five receivers, converting a fourth down and leaving their shorter player to absorb the bigger blow and keep moving forward.

Kansas City Star Stories

Sam McDowell covers chefs and the sports business for The Star.


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