By Terrance Turner
Dec. 6, 2020 (Updated Dec. 13, 2020)
The offense took a while to warm up, and its run defense continued to be poor, but the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed. High-level play by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a deft interception by safety Tyrann Mathieu, and late-game heroics by kicker Harrison Butker helped the team win. The Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 22-16 tonight in Arrowhead Stadium, earning a spot in the NFL playoffs.
Denver began with a field goal. The Chiefs responded with a field goal drive of their own. “Alert! Alert!” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes to his teammates. “Roll it back! Roll it back!” he said afterward. It turned out that the play was a decoy. According to NBC Sports announcers, Mahomes was at first indicating a running play, but then reverted to the original play call: throwing the ball to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. That catch was good for 19 yards.
Then, on 3rd and 4, Sammy Watkins made a catch to get the first down. As announcer Al Michaels noted, Mahomes dealt with the blitz simply — “throw the ball on top of the blitz”. Then Mahomes found Kelce for another 19-yard play. With that play, Kelce passed 1,000 yards for the season. He is the first tight end in NFL history with five straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Later, the play was followed by an unbelievable near-miss: receiver Tyreek Hill caught the ball in the end zone, then lost it — and then regained possession as he landed. The ball never touched the ground. That should’ve been a touchdown, but the refs failed to recognize it, and the catch only became clear on replay. By that point, it was too late to challenge. But the play will surely inspire all kinds of watercooler discussion tomorrow.
That proved to be a costly mistake. The damage could have been averted had the Chiefs defense actually been able to stop the run. But on 3rd down, Broncos running back Melvin Gordon ran 63 yards, dashing past Chiefs defenders for one missed tackle after another. That led to a touchdown by the Broncos.
A horse-collar tackle on the Broncos led to a 15-yard penalty. That gave Chiefs a first-down. Hill went to the 24-yard line, and Mahomes took off on a daring run to the four-yard line. That put them at first and goal. Yet despite that auspicious start, the Chiefs were unable to break through to the end zone. They settled for a field goal.
Denver took over with the ball and attempted a long field goal, with the help of reliable kicker Brandon McManus. But the 57-yard kick was no good. The score remained 10-6. The Chiefs took over, and Kelce notched another first-down catch. The Chiefs made it to 1st and goal (again). But thanks to a batted-down pass by a Denver defender, the Chiefs had to settle a field goal.
That proved to be the story of the half. Chiefs moved down the field efficiently, but were stopped four times in the end zone. Thanks to the stout Broncos defense, the Chiefs had to settle for four field goals. Three of those field goals came in the first half; the last one made it 10-9 at halftime.
But the offense finally broke through in the second quarter. After a Denver touchdown that put the ahead 16-12, Mahomes got the Broncos defense to jump offsides, then hurled a pass to Kelce for the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the night. That made it 19-16. As the fourth quarter neared its close, kicker Harrison Butker drilled a field goal to make it 22-16. The Broncos tried to mount a game-winning drive, but Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted QB Drew Lock to seal the win.
With this win, the Chiefs are in the playoffs! This is their seventh straight win, according to NBC Sports. This takes them to 11-1 for the season. Mahomes celebrated by crashing Kelce’s postgame interview, pouring cold water down his neck in the cold. (Photo above — and video below — courtesy of Twitter.)
UPDATE (Dec. 13, 2020): The Chiefs won again today, scoring 27 straight points to overcome an early lead by the Miami Dolphins. Mahomes threw three interceptions for the first time ever, but he also threw two touchdowns and 393 yards. Kelce scored a touchdown in today’s game. So did Mecole Hardman, who returned a punt all the way to the house for 67 yards. Chris Jones sacked Miami’s rookie quarterback for a safety, for a 30-10 Chiefs lead. A field goal by Harrison Butker late in the fourth quarter helped ice the game. The Chiefs beat the Dolphins 33-27; this is their 10th straight road win. They improve to 12-1, winning their AFC West division for the fifth straight season.
UPDATE (Dec. 27, 2020): The Kansas City Chiefs are now 14-1 The Atlanta Falcons had a chance to tie their game versus the Chiefs today and go into overtime. But the Falcons’ field-goal kick was no good. Mahomes exulted, running down the sideline and ripping off his mask in excitement. He had good reason to be excited: the Chiefs won, 17-14. They clinch home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
This is the team’s 10th straight win. It’s also the seventh win to come by six points or less. (Today, the team won by three points — the same margin by which they beat the Saints last week. Their victories against the Broncos and Dolphins were by six points apiece. They narrowly defeated the Bucs by three points, the Raiders by four, and the Panthers by two.) At 14-1, the Kansas City Chiefs have the league’s best record. They have attained the #1 seed and automatically advance to the next round of the NFL playoffs, which start on January 9.
Also, Travis Kelce made history: he has 1,416 receiving yards this season, the most ever by a tight end. He also became the first tight end to record a pair of 100-catch seasons, according to NBC Sports. But it was the team’s stellar record that impressed Kelce most: “The real record I’m proud of right now is that it’s the first time the #Chiefs have ever been 14-1,” he told reporters after the game. “And we’re gonna try and make it 15-1 next week.”