It wasn’t always pretty but the Kansas City Chiefs pulled out a 28-24 over the Denver Broncos at Mile High.
Let’s be clear, this game was ugly. It was fairly unimportant as far as playoff positioning because as the Chiefs were guaranteed at least the two seed, the Tennesee Titans would go on to beat the lowly Houston Texans, clinging the lone bye week and home-field advantage.
The Chiefs had to know coming in that the Texans would have a long shot to beat the Titans, and it was clear that the Chiefs were going to keep this game as vanilla as they possibly could.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce played sparingly, Any Reid called basic offensive plays, and Steve Spagnuolo didn’t do much to mix up his scheme. All of this, along with some players on a clear snap count lead to a closer game, but ultimately the more talented team was able to pull out the victory thanks to some key play.
In the regular-season finale, Jerrick Mckinnon was able to find the end zone off of a pass in the flats from Patrick Mahomes. Injuries and the emergence of a solid running back room have limited the snaps that he has taken this year, but with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out, and Darrell Williams leaving the game early with a toe injury, McKinnon was able to take some handoffs but displayed his open-field ability with the touchdown. Gone are his days of electric downfield speed, but he still has the strength and shiftiness to make men miss in the open field. His vision remains, this could be something to watch as the Chiefs head into the playoffs.
Mecole Hardman hits 100 yards
In what has been a season of ups and downs the Chiefs ran a game plan that favored Mecole Hardman.
Hardman had his best day ever as a pro, accounting for 103 yards receiving on eight catches. He was used in a variety of ways, even lining up in the backfield and taking a Wildcat snap, but his major impact was felt in the screen game. Late in the game, Andy Reid looked to Hardman on a screen pass. With excellent blocking Hardman hit the hold for 44 yards, flipping the field and effectively ending the game. In a game where Hill and Kelce didn’t log much action, it was nice to see Hardman utilize his talents.
Patrick Mahomes utilized his legs
Mahomes has utilized pocket passing more and more as the Chiefs offense has progressed this season, but once again, and like many times before he found a way to beat the Broncos throwing on the run and also scrambling.
Mahomes has become comfortable with his offensive line as time has gone on. As they have gotten better and better at protecting he has learned when to evade the pocket, and when to sit and throw. This week he made some insane passes outside of the pocket, displaying his full arm strength. He also had a season-high 54 rushing yards. He set up his 25 yards run perfectly, pump faking and getting the defender in the air, letting Thuney punish him. He then uses his eyes and the threat of the throw to pick up more yards. I love the shoulder shake he shows, the defender is anxious to make a play and Pat sets up Thuney perfectly for the block. This is the dynamic playmaking that has led to Mahomes becoming the player he is, the player who has had so many memorable moments in the playoffs.
Melvin Ingram and Nick Bolton prove doubters wrong
The play that would ultimately decide the game came by way of a massive hit from Melvin Ingram and a return for a touchdown by Nick Bolton.
Melvin Ingram has been a difference-maker since coming to Kansas City, and the massive shot he put on Melvin Gordon caused a near-immediate fumble. That hit is illegal in 30 states, Gordon could file a claim for “cruel and unusual punishment”. Bolton was there for the recovery taking ALL the way back for a touchdown to put the Chiefs back on top for good. This capped an excellent rookie season for Bolton. Many had criticized Bolton early on for his lack of athletic ability, or what they deemed traits that “don’t translate to the NFL”. My favorite trait from Bolton out of Mizzou was that he was always around the ball, or always getting in on a tackle. His habit of often hustling to the ball no matter the result paid off.