Remember that 54-51 Chiefs-Rams shootout back in Week 11? It feels like years ago now, doesn't it? In part because the offensive explosion that was supposed to follow ... hasn't. At least not in an up-and-down-the-field, 60-minute shootout type of way. Instead, we've seen what was thought to be high-powered, unstoppable offenses struggle against more traditional-looking teams.
We saw the latest example of that on Sunday night when the Chiefs came to Seattle and for three quarters, had few answers for the Seahawks' run-centric offense and its tenacious, post-Legion of Boom defense. The fourth quarter was a different story -- 41 percent of the points were scored in the final 15 minutes -- but when it was over, Seattle had a well-deserved 38-31 victory, and secured a wild-card spot. Kansas City, meanwhile, will have to wait another week to wrap up homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
The Seahawks are scary
It's a cliche but it's true: Nobody wants to face this Seahawks team in January. Last week's loss in San Francisco was a one-off, and they came into that game riding a four-game winning streak against the Packers, Panthers, 49ers and Vikings. And the gameplan remained virtually unchanged: lean heavily on the run, and let Russell Wilson do the rest.
A year ago, Wilson was the team's leading rusher with 586 yards. This season he has help; the team used a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny, but it's been Chris Carson who has done the heavy lifting. He surpassed 1,000 yards on Sunday night, and Wilson is now fourth in rushing behind Carson, Davis and Penny. Sharing that burden, along with a much-improved offensive line, has made Wilson a much better quarterback; he came into Sunday's game ranked ninth in total value among all quarterbacks, just behind Ben Roethlisberger and Jared Goff.
And the Seahawks' offense is the league's most balanced too. They ranked ninth overall, sixth in passing and seventh in rushing. And at CenturyLink Field, we saw more balance; the rushing attack controlled the game early and Wilson took over late.
Carson finished with 116 yards on 27 carries, including two touchdowns, and Wilson wore out the Chiefs with his arm and his legs. Let's pick it up late in the third quarter with the score tied, 17-17. This was a huge third-down conversion:
And that was followed by this, which was a preview of what was to come:
Then, early in the third quarter, with Seattle leading, 24-20, Wilson did this:
The Chiefs cut the lead to three on the next series, which apparently didn't bother Wilson at all. He promptly led an eight-play drive that featured another bomb to Lockett:
And two plays later, a 29-yard one-handed grab by Doug Baldwin that set up a Carson game-sealing score:
Wilson has gone through stretches this season where he hasn't needed to throw the ball. But when the Seahawks do need him, he's stepped up in a big way, time and again. Sunday night's performance sends a clear message to the rest of the NFC: Good luck stopping the Seahawks, arguably the NFL's most balanced team.
You ain't keeping Patrick Mahomes down for long
The great thing about Patrick Mahomes is that he can just about overcome anything. We saw it again in Seattle, where he put the team on his back to the very end. If not for Russell Wilson going off, the Chiefs probably would've have won. Instead, Andy Reid is left wondering if his defense is going to cost him a deep playoff run; the unit has been among the league's worst all season. They ranked 27th coming into the game, and they did nothing to improve their standing in Seattle.
Mahomes, meanwhile, continued to make his case for NFL MVP. He started slow, something we've seen in recent weeks, but he quickly found his form, something we've never been able to say about a second-year quarterback in his first year as a starter, 16 weeks into the season. It just doesn't happen. But Mahomes also isn't from this planet.
To the third quarter, with the Chiefs trailing, 17-10. Here's Mahomes casually finding Travis Kelce for a big first down:
That throw has a 10-15 percent completion rate. Unless you're Mahomes, who a short time later defied the laws of physics on this insane touchdown throw:
Look at his arm angle! He's like a shortstop going deep in the hole to make the play at first. Unreal.
Mahomes had just 83 passing yards in the first half (including 25 yards on 2 of 8 passing in the first quarter). He threw for 76 yards on the Chiefs' first drive of the second half and finished with 273 yards and three scores on the evening.
But he wasn't done (of course he wasn't). Down 11 points with just over five minutes to go, Mahomes drove the Chiefs down the field and added one more highlight-reel touchdown to the resume:
In the end it wasn't enough, but through no fault of the Chiefs' young quarterback, who has become the league's most exciting player in less than a season.
Here are the least-convoluted playoff scenarios: The Seahawks locked up a playoff spot with the victory. They'll host the Cardinals in the regular-season finale. The Chiefs remain the top seed in the AFC and can wrap up the AFC West and the No. 1 seed with a win over the Raiders in Week 17. You can stream that game on fuboTV (Try for free).