Chiefs news for 13 January 2020
It says something that the Chiefs didn’t panic when they found themselves trailing 24-0 early in the second quarter. By that point in the game, they’d given up a 54-yard touchdown pass on a blown coverage, a blocked punt for a touchdown and a fumbled punt return that led to a third Texans touchdown. Adding to the futility were four dropped passes in the first 15 minutes of action. Basically, it was easy to see Kansas City losing by 40 points given how this game started.
That was before Texans head coach Bill O’Brien began impacting the game. He decided against going for another touchdown when Houston had a 21-0 lead and a fourth-and-1 opportunity from the Chiefs‘ 13-yard line. The Texans got a field goal out of it, but then Kansas City’s Mecole Hardman returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to set up the Chiefs‘ first touchdown. O’Brien decided to gamble on the next possession with a fake punt that was thwarted by Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen and gave Kansas City the ball at Houston’s 33-yard line. Four plays later, Mahomes hit Kelce with a 5-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-14.
Kelce finished the game with 10 catches for 134 yards and three touchdowns, tying the NFL postseason record for receiving scores in a single game while becoming the third player in postseason history to record 10+ catches, 130+ yards and 3+ touchdowns in a single outing, joining Jerry Rice and Rob Gronkowski.
It was a complete team effort that culminated in the greatest comeback in the 60-year history of the Chiefs while sending Kansas City to a second-straight AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history.
As one of the Chiefs’ most cerebral players, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz suggested that the team’s large deficit forced the offense to do what it does best: pass the ball in the intermediate and deep areas of the field. Schwartz knows most teams, including the Texans, are happy when their opponent must be one-dimensional on offense to move the ball quickly down the field. But in a weird way, Schwartz said, the Chiefs have the perfect quarterback, skill position players and offensive linemen to embody the brand of offensive football most people enjoy playing on Madden.
This time the game was personal for Clark, and he basked in the glow of stopping Hyde and the Texans in the rematch.
“They talk all that stuff and they come out here and we embarrass them,” Clark said. “We sent them home early, we get to see them next year, they’ve got a short season and I hope they enjoy their offseason.”
How the Chiefs win: Similarly, pressure Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Despite his well-earned credit in turning around the Titans this season, Tannehill was disproportionately vulnerable to strong pass rushes during the regular season. His 3.5 QBR when pressured was the NFL’s fourth lowest. He took 31 sacks in 89 dropbacks when pressured. The bet would be that Titans running back Derrick Henry won’t be able to carry the offense if the Chiefs can take away Tannehill’s big plays.
5. After a wobbly start, the Chiefs defense stiffened, holding Houston to just seven second-half points. Tyrann Mathieu made his presence felt all over the field, including a huge pass break-up of Hopkins on a crucial third-and-long near midfield that forced a punt late in the first half with K.C. still trailing. Mathieu once again keyed a secondary that made Watson & Co. work for everything for the final three quarters. Frank Clark came off the edge to help disrupt the QB, picking up three sacks, including the game-ender. The Chiefs D played outstanding down the stretch but hadn’t faced a quarterback quite like Watson in that run. On Sunday, they proved they can pass that test too.
While Deshaun Watson drove the Texans down the field, on the series that would end with a 31-yard Houston field goal, and when Bill O’Brien opted to kick the field goal rather than attempt a fourth-and-1 conversion, the Chiefs offensive linemen sat on the bench, stewing. Then left guard Stefen Wisniewski made a bold prediction.
“We’re going to score 50 tonight,” he told his fellow linemen.
“Yeah, I said it. I just knew what we were capable of and that we had a lot of time left,” Wisniewski told The Athletic later, as he sat at his locker eating a protein bar. “I think instead of getting down, we got fired up. Honestly, it was like they hit a hornets’ nest, and the hornets got going, and sting, sting, sting, sting, sting, seven touchdowns later, here we are.”
“These are things that we haven’t done,” Reid said. “That’s not us, right? It was just a matter of settling it down and calming the storm and making sure that our guys knocked whatever rust off and calmed down and made plays. We’ve been doing that all year and it was important we got back to doing that.
“We were able to rebound. A lot of teams can’t do that.”
“When you’re down 24-0 and you don’t have a good locker room, things can go the wrong way for you,” head coach Andy Reid said afterwards. “The guys all hung together.”
The victory sends the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game at home for the second year in a row. They lost to the Patriots in overtime last year.
They will host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Jan. 19 for a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff.
Is this finally the year for Andy Reid?
Everything sure does seem to be coming up Chiefs right now. They got a bye because Miami knocked off the Patriots in Week 17. They’ll host the AFC Championship Game (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS) because the Titans upset the Ravens. And while they looked utterly awful Sunday in a first quarter in which they fell behind 24-0, they looked utterly unstoppable for the remaining three quarters and beat the Texans 51-31.
Patrick Mahomes is the best player remaining in these playoffs, and if a team can spot you 24 points and beat you by 20 in an NFL playoff game, that’s as scary a team as we’ve ever seen. Once the Chiefs’ offense gets rolling, it’s hard to imagine any team stopping it.
If Steve Spagnuolo’s run defense, which was the seventh worst in the league this season but the fifth best over the final six weeks of the regular season, can find a way to slow down Derrick Henry, Reid should find himself in his second Super Bowl with a strong chance to win his first.