2021 NFL playoffs: What we learned from Chiefs' win over Steelers on Super Wild Card Weekend

Kansas City Chiefs
2021 · 12-5-0
Pittsburgh Steelers
2021 · 9-7-1

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1. Patrick Mahomes is inevitable. The Steelers had the football world momentarily stunned when they scored a defensive touchdown to take a 7-0 lead, but that early shot also woke up the Chiefs' superstar quarterback. Mahomes responded by throwing five touchdown passes in 10:31 of game time, taking a 7-0 Steelers lead and turning it into a 35-7 Chiefs advantage. That was all she wrote, as Mahomes and the Chiefs cruised from there, with the quarterback finishing with a passing line of 30 of 39, 404 yards, five TDs and one interception via a tipped pass. His 138.2 passer rating was stellar, and after looking like he was again trying to do too much in the first quarter, Mahomes became too much for the Steelers to overcome in less than a quarter's worth of time. That's the Chiefs at their best. 1.


2. The Chiefs' offense might be deeper than we realize. Like he did in their regular-season meeting, Byron Pringle rose to the occasion once again, catching five passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns. His first score gave the Chiefs a 14-7 lead, and his last turned the game into an official blowout, pushing their advantage to 42-14. Jerick McKinnon became a valuable asset in the passing game, catching six passes for 81 yards, while Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill combined for 10 catches, 165 yards and two scores. Even offensive lineman Nick Allegretti got involved, catching a touchdown pass on a creative goal-line play. The Chiefs can hit you from a number of directions and certainly did so Sunday night. If they can keep this up, they'll be a tough team to eliminate.


3. Pittsburgh getting here was an accomplishment in itself. We could spend a point lamenting the Steelers' offensive struggles, but that would be a waste of time. We knew this was who the Steelers were well before we got to Super Wild Card Weekend. The only surprise would've been if they'd suddenly discovered an explosive gear to at least make this a game. They didn't, of course, with their two offensive touchdowns coming in what was essentially garbage time in a lopsided game. Ben Roethlisberger capped what is expected to be his final season with another ugly and occasionally successful game, while Diontae Johnson continued to struggle with drops, and Najee Harris fumbled for the first time in his young NFL career. Pittsburgh's defense was no match for Kansas City, and the result we expected became reality before the fourth quarter arrived. The fact a team with these types of issues even got here is commendable, and reflects positively on coach Mike Tomlin. Now it's about finding a replacement for Roethlisberger.


4. T.J. Watt's season is over, and it just might get him a major award. Watt entered the postseason as the new co-leader in the NFL's single-season sack record books and didn't waste much time making an impact Sunday night. His deflection of a Mahomes pass led to an early interception for Devin Bush, erasing the advantage gained by a long Mecole Hardman return, and Watt was in the perfect place to recover a fumble and take it back for a defensive touchdown. Watt finished his 2021 season incredibly strong and will be difficult to overtake in the race for Defensive Player of the Year. We'll learn if he's secured the throne in February, even if his season ended Sunday night.


5. Should we take a lot from this game, or was it a matter of a superior team handling its business? Kansas City largely dominated Pittsburgh after a slow start, showing the explosive tendencies that have helped the Chiefs reach the Super Bowl in each of the past two seasons. It was essentially what we expected from this matchup between a team that sneaked into the playoffs on more than its own merit versus a squad that regained its composure and finished the regular season strong enough to secure the No. 2 seed. This was how it was supposed to go, so does it mean the Chiefs are suddenly again a favorite to win the AFC? Not quite, at least not yet. They'll need to replicate this performance against the Buffalo Bills next week before we start giving them that credit. It sure was exciting for Chiefs fans Sunday night, though.


NFL Research: Travis Kelce became the first player in NFL history to throw a touchdown, catch a touchdown and break 100 receiving yards in a single playoff game.


Next Gen Stat of the game: Patrick Mahomes completed 23 of 26 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns on attempts of fewer than 10 air yards.


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