On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in both teams' first playoff games of the season. After a remarkably slow start that even saw Kansas City go down 7-0, Patrick Mahomes and company kicked things into high gear and never looked back. After a complete onslaught that ensued, the Chiefs ended up winning by a final score of 42-21. They will host the Buffalo Bills next weekend in the AFC's Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Here are four takeaways from Sunday's game.
1. Slow starts against better competition might not fly
A first quarter filled with silly mistakes, three-and-outs and turnovers may not have doomed the Chiefs against the Steelers, but it very well could do so against a team like the Bills. Ben Roethlisberger was clearly on his last leg as a quarterback and Pittsburgh's poor offensive line wasn't doing him, nor rookie running back Najee Harris, any favors. As the Chiefs advance deeper into the playoffs, they will need to get off on better footing to begin games. It will put less pressure on them as contests progress, and it will be easier on the eyes of those who watch to boot. Kansas City is known for being a team that starts off hot, so this shouldn't be a huge issue moving forward.
2. Jerick McKinnon finally had his breakout game
After a season featuring injuries and him being buried on the Chiefs' depth chart, veteran running back Jerick McKinnon finally showed everyone why the team signed him this past offseason. With regular starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire out and his main backup, Darrel Williams, playing through a nagging toe injury, McKinnon was given a chance to step up — and step up, he did. The 29-year-old showed off his athleticism and ability to elude defenders all night, weaving in and out of traffic and serving as a legitimate threat in the passing game and even on traditional run plays. It remains to be seen what the Chiefs' plan of attack will be with their running backs once the group gets healthy, but it's hard to argue against McKinnon continuing to receive a large share of snaps.
3. Angry Patrick Mahomes is still the best
Mahomes didn't exactly come out of the gates on fire but once he bounced back from a deflected pass that turned into an interception, he was unstoppable. As he has done so often throughout his still young career, the MVP-winning quarterback struck a great balance between being the best improviser in football and the most precise and deliberate passer in football. The offense was humming along beautifully for a long stretch, as McKinnon and others such as Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and even Demarcus Robinson joined the party. On the night, Mahomes finished with over 400 yards and five touchdowns. On the biggest stage of his season thus far, he reminded the football world of just how great he is. The Chiefs will need more elite performances from him in order to keep the ball rolling.
4. The Chiefs' defense cleaned some things up, albeit against Roethlisberger
After an extremely sloppy performance in Denver to close out the regular season, the Chiefs' defense showed that it isn't immune to mistakes such as missed tackles, blown coverages and more. While Steve Spagnuolo's unit didn't have a perfect performance on Sunday and was facing an anemic offense, it still played well nonetheless. From the Steelers' opening drive and until the game was seemingly out of reach, the Chiefs flew to the ball, delivered big hits and got valuable contributions from several players at different levels of the defense. There's still room for improvement but with that said, this is the Chiefs defense that can get the team back to the Super Bowl. With an upcoming matchup against a lethal Bills offense that is rolling, Kansas City will need another quality performance on that end.