Chiefs vs. Steelers score: Kansas City buries Pittsburgh behind Patrick Mahomes' five touchdown passes
The Chiefs flexed their muscles while sending Ben Roethlisberger into retirement
In a game that evoked memories of their 2018 Super Bowl run, the Chiefs endured a slow start before scoring an avalanche of points during Sunday night's 42-21 win over the Steelers in the AFC wild card round.
Kansas City punted three times and committed two turnovers on its first five possessions. The Chiefs fell behind 7-0 when T.J. Watt returned Darrel Williams' fumble 26 yards for a score. The score awakened the previously slumbering Chiefs, who proceeded to score touchdowns on six consecutive possessions. Five touchdowns came from the right arm of Patrick Mahomes, who threw for over 400 yards to send the Chiefs to the divisional round. It was a tough final game for Pittsburgh and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who once again showcased his resiliency by leading the Steelers on two late scoring drives.
The Chiefs took a 21-7 halftime lead on Mahomes' 48-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce, who capped off the night by throwing a two-yard touchdown pass Byron Pringle. The Steelers' offense finally woke up after falling behind 35-7, but it was too little too late.
Here's a closer look at what transpired in Arrowhead.
Why the Chiefs won
Kansas City flexed its muscles on both sides of the ball. Its defense dominated the Steelers while giving their offense some time to warm up. Once they did, there was nothing the Steelers could do to stop the Chiefs' offense, as Mahomes cut it loose while looking more like the player who won league and Super Bowl MVPs during his first two seasons. Kansas City received a virtuoso effort from Jerick McKinnon, who ran for 61 yards and caught six passes for 81 yards and a score.
Pittsburgh's defense forced more turnovers, but Kansas City's defense did everything else. They held the Steelers to just 44 first half yards and just two first downs. After stretching their lead to 28-7, Frank Clark's recovery of Najee Harris' first fumble of the season set up Mahomes' touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill that essentially ended the game.
Why the Steelers lost
Pittsburgh's offense couldn't get out of its own way in the first half. They were unable to parlay their defense's strong start, as the Steelers' offense started the game with eight punts and Harris' fumble five minutes into the second half. While it was a team effort, it was an especially rough start for Diontae Johnson, who had two drops in the first half while also committing a false start penalty. Johnson was able to bounce back when he caught the Steelers' first offensive touchdown, a 13-yard pass from Roethlisberger with 4:15 left in the third quarter. James Washington caught what was likely Roethlisberger's final touchdown pass with 7:36 left.
Defensively, the Steelers could not do anything to stop the Chiefs' momentum once Mahomes got rolling. Many of their season-long issues, specifically open field tackling, reared its ugly head during the Chiefs' scoring spree.
The Steelers' defense quickly allowed two touchdowns following Watt's score off of Cam Heyward's thunderous hit of Williams. Down 14-7 and with the Chiefs getting the ball to start the second half (the Steelers won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff), Pittsburgh needed to at least control the clock during the final 1 minute, 51 seconds of the first half. But Johnson's third-down drop gave the ball back to Kansas City, who made Pittsburgh pay with Mahomes' touchdown pass to Kelce. The Chiefs then stretched their lead to 28-7 when Mahomes hit lineman Nick Allegretti in the end zone to cap off Kansas City's first drive of the first half.
Play of the game
Mahomes' touchdown pass to Kelce came on a 3rd-and-20 play with under 30 seconds left in the first half. As he did numerous times during the night, Mahomes evaded traffic before stepping up and finding an open receiver downfield. While the Chiefs' offense has been mostly methodical this season, Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense went back to their wild, wide-open ways that won them a Super Bowl two years ago.
Watt's scoop and score also deserves some love, as the likely Defensive Player of the Year put an exclamation point on his record-setting season.
"I have so much respect for him. I watched him growing up. The way he plays the game, he competes to the very end. He did that this while entire season. Who knows what the future is, but it was great to be here and witness him." -- Mahomes to NBC Sports on Roethlisberger, as the two quarterbacks embraced on the field after the game
"We weren't able to get off the field. I think that was the thing that we were doing really well, we had planned and we were executing. They've got a lot of weapons. They have a lot of great things they do schematically as well. Just couldn't hold on there as the game wore on. Happy with the way that we started, just wish we would have been able to continue to get off the field on third downs and give the ball back to the offense." -- Watt on the Chiefs' scoring spree after the defense's fast start
The Chiefs will host the Bills in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game. Buffalo will come to Kansas City following a 47-17 beatdown of the Patriots in Saturday night's wild card game. Sunday night's loss marks the end of an era for the Steelers, who will soon begin preparations for life without Roethlisberger, their quarterback for the last 18 years.
Ben checks down well short of the end zone and Zach Gentry is tackled just inside the 5-yard line. Kansas City wins 42-21 and advances to the divisional round. This one was not particularly close after the T.J. Watt fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Steelers take a timeout to try to get Ben one (or two) last shot at the end zone.
By the way, our two AFC playoff games next week will be:
- Bengals at Titans (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Eastern)
- Bills at Chiefs (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. Eastern)
Perhaps (probably) the final 4:24 of Ben Roethlisberger's career coming up. Let's see if the Steelers can get another score.
That's just terrific patience by McKinnon on that run. Waited for the blockers to get out in front and then hit the jets to turn the corner.
Touchdown! This time it's James Washington winning on the outside, beating Mike Hughes with a double move. His second big play of the night, both on jump-balls down the left sideline,
Diontae stacked Ward on the route and had him beat, but Ben once again does not get enough on the throw. Story of Pittsburgh's season in the passing game.
JuJu is leading the team in catches but has only 26 receiving yards on his five grabs. Everything the Steelers do is right in front of the line of scrimmage, for the most part.
That's L'Jarius Sneed on the pick, but it doesn't count because Alex Okafor hit Ben in the lower leg while trying to take him to the ground.
Terrific answer drive from the Chiefs, and Pringle finds the end zone for the second time tonight. Oh, and it's Travis Kelce with the pass. The Chiefs are having fun.
And then Diontae Johnson overcomes the dropsies to find the end zone!
Fantastic catch by James Washington down the left sideline. That's really the only way the Steelers get anything down the field: their receivers have to win one-on-ones in jump-ball situatons.