After a week off, the Kansas City Chiefs came out firing on (mostly) all cylinders. The offense was picking up large chunks of yardage through the air. Even the running game was continuing to pick up positive yardage. Elsewhere, Kansas City’s defense was excelling on all three levels, forcing the Cleveland Browns to alter their game plan early. With a halftime lead of 19-3, all signs were pointing to the Chiefs cruising their way to an AFC Championship Game appearance.
Suddenly, their chances- both for the rest of the game and throughout the rest of the playoffs- drastically changed. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was shaken up, getting up extremely woozy after taking an awkward hit after running out to the right edge on an option play. Immediately, many were unaware of what exactly the injury was. Was it his leg? A neck injury? Or, was it a possible concussion?
Without Mahomes returning to the game, the defense was called upon even more than before. Backup quarterback Chad Henne was suddenly forced to attempt to carry out the same game plan that was provided for Mahomes. And due to the vast depth of the Chiefs team, along with some of the more confident coaches in the league, Kansas City kept their Super Bowl hopes alive.
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Reid, Bieniemy Win With Gambles
Immediately after Mahomes went down, Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy continued to keep their feet on the gas pedal. For the most part, the offense did not change. A balanced attack remained, as the Chiefs finished the day with 38 passes to 24 rushes. And for Henne, he was not just thrown to the fire, Kansas City asked him to carry them through it.
Similar read action pass plays and throws into the middle of the field or tight windows were still a staple of the offense. And other than a horrible overthrow into the end zone for an interception, Henne was calm, cool and collected. There were a few throws where Reid and Bieniemy asked him to gamble on his receiver winning one on one matchups. Meanwhile, Henne was able to stand tall against the Cleveland pass rush whilst the pocket collapsing. Moreover, the 4th and 1 play call was a monumental risk taken by the Chiefs head coach and offensive coordinator. With a backup quarterback in, only up by five points and the ball at midfield, Kansas City threw the ball on a sprint out action call.
This was a similar look to how they iced the game against the Miami Dolphins. Tyreek Hill ran a quick out. Henne placed the ball on his outside shoulder to seal the playoff win. Not many coaches would do that with a QB who had only attempted 43 passes in the previous four seasons.
Chiefs Built For Ultimate Team Sport
Even before the Mahomes injury, the Chiefs were already down multiple playmakers or noteworthy pieces. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Sammy Watkins were not yet fit to play due to injury. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been sorely missed for three months now. And rookie Willie Gay was also injured, who was starting to find his groove.
Kansas City was not just adamant about getting the run game rolling against the Browns. Trusting in Darrel Williams was of high priority. The LSU product ran angry, showing off his physical side and underrated speed in spurts. Not only was he able to pick up dirty yardage in crucial situations, Williams was a focal part of the passing game. He would go on to finish the day with 13 carries, 78 rushing yards and six yards per carry on the ground. Williams also managed four receptions for 16 receiving yards, with one catch picking up a pivotal first down on a third and medium try.
Defensively, the depth on the defensive line made plays all over the place. Tershawn Wharton, Mike Danna, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Mike Pennel and Derrick Nnadi all succeeded in providing interior pressure or setting the edge. Chris Jones was consistently able to get after Baker Mayfield. However, these other defensive linemen loomed large in both the run and pass defense. L’Jarius Sneed not only continues to be air tight in coverage, he has also been persistent when opportunities arise in the backfield. Finally, Daniel Sorensen and Juan Thornhill may not be flashy. They continue to make the necessary hits or difficult stops, though. Both remain perfect compliments to do-it-all defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
While Mahomes’ status is still very much up in the air, the expectation from some is that he will play in the AFC Championship Game. Stay tuned to our Twitter account, @FPC_Chiefs, for updates throughout the week.
Furthermore, one would think that with another week off and working through injuries, that both Edwards-Helaire and Watkins could be back. We remember how dominant the rookie running back was in the previous matchup against the Buffalo Bills. His 161 rushing yards on 26 carries led to a gaudy 6.2 yards per carry. The Bills defense has certainly improved this season since that point. Yet, Edwards-Helaire’s potential return could lead to an even more controlled offensive attack in the AFC Championship.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.