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NFL playoffs: What We Learned from Chiefs' win over Dolphins on Super Wild Card Weekend

Kansas City Chiefs
2023 · 12-6-0
Miami Dolphins
2023 · 11-7-0

  1. Chiefs defense bullies Dolphins to send K.C. to Divisional Round. With Andy Reid's mustache sprouting icicles in the brutal cold at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City's defense smothered the big-play Dolphins offense with physical brutality. Through three quarters, Steve Spagnuolo's defense held Miami to 151 yards, six first downs, and 0 of 7 on third downs. K.C. stifled the Dolphins' speedy run game, was never fooled by motions and consistently fit holes. Seemingly every big hit in the freeze came from the Kansas City defense punishing a Dolphins player. The Chiefs' defensive front controlled the contest, generating 16 pressures, sacking Tua Tagovailoa twice, and making the QB double-clutch consistently. The back end gave up a singular big play until the game was out of hand, with L'Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, and the rest slowing Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. With wind chills hovering around -30 degrees all night, it was a game built for the Chiefs D to dominate. Destroy, they did.
  2. Patrick Mahomes beats blitz, dices up Dolphins defense. With a depleted defense (Miami entered the game without multiple starters), Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio dared to bring heavy pressure on Mahomes. The magician made him pay time and time again. Mahomes went 10 of 21 for 123 yards against the blitz (13 of 20 for 139 yards, 1 TD sans blitz). Mahomes is historically good against extra rushes in his career and showed why on Saturday night, finding outlets and dropping perfect passes on time with a defender in his face. After a season of struggles on offense, the Chiefs found some life, racking up 409 yards and 25 first downs while moving the ball at will. K.C. generated five scoring drives of nine-plus plays, keeping the Dolphins offense on the sideline. Isiah Pacheco was sensational, bulldozing his way for 89 yards on 24 carries with a game-sealing TD. Mahomes found Rashee Rice (8/130/1) and Travis Kelce (7/71) for chunk gains. The red zone struggles continued, where K.C. went 2-of-6 leading to four FGs from Harrison Butker, but it was a good day for an offense that hadn't clicked for weeks.
  3. Dolphins offense comes up small in postseason. Tagovailoa looked uncomfortable from the start, holding the ball longer than normal, double pumping and tossing errant balls. After going three-and-out on the opening drive, Tagovailoa airmailed a ball over the middle for an interception. With the run game unable to gain traction or produce big plays (3.0 YPC from Raheem Mostert and De'Von Achane with a long run of eight yards), Tua was under pressure and never got comfortable or threatened downfield. Miami finished with 264 total yards, a large chunk coming in garbage time and 13 first downs. One big shot to Hill (53-yard TD) was the only notable big play from Miami on a forgettable night. After an explosive start to the season, Mike McDaniel's offense collapsed down the stretch, scoring fewer than 20 points in Miami's final three contests. They picked a bad time to put up their fewest points of the season. Entering the offseason, McDaniel, Tua and others face big questions ahead after struggling against the NFL powers.
  4. Chiefs rookie WR Rashee Rice shines in first playoff game. We knew Mahomes needed someone other than Kelce to step up in the crucible of the postseason. Enter Rice. The rookie was sensational, racking up eight catches for 130 yards with a TD (the 130 yards a Chiefs rookie WR record). The rook also had another TD wiped out by a penalty. Offered loads of cushion off the line, Rice ate up Dolphins DBs. After the catch, the rookie was electric, generating 80 YAC yards, including 29 on a team-high 39-yard grab. The Chiefs offense is much more potent when Rice is heavily involved. In his last seven games played, the rookie earned four contests of 90-plus yards. K.C. needs more Rice marching forward.  
  5. Miami D stands tall in red zone early but can't overcome injuries. Missing starters at every level, including a host of edge rushers, the Miami D battled early. The defense kept the game close into the second half by repelling the Chiefs repeatedly in the red zone (1 of 5 through three quarters). Attrition caught up, however. The inability to generate consistent pressure with four forced Fangio to bring extra players. The move worked for spells but ultimately allowed Mahomes to pick apart the back end in critical spots. Missed tackles piled up, and Miami couldn't get off the field, forcing two three-and-outs before the fourth quarter. The Dolphins also didn't generate a turnover until the final possession of the blowout. Playing without a handful of starters (Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips for example) it's somewhat surprising the Dolphins didn't give up more than 26 points, frankly. They struggled to get off the field, but the defense wasn't the biggest issue for Miami on Saturday night.

Next Gen stat of the game: L'Jarius Sneed allowed just two receptions for 20 yards on eight targets in the Chiefs' Super Wild Card Weekend victory over Miami (four tight windows). Across two matchups this season, Sneed allowed a single reception on eight combined targets to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

NFL Research: Rashee Rice is the first rookie in NFL history to have 8+ rec and 130+ rec yards in a playoff game.

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