Chiefs once again a Super Bowl contender



December 16, 2019 - 8:57 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — They had come off the field and into the locker room and celebrated the way they always do, by asking themselves rhetorically How ‘bout those CHIEFS??? … Then they proceeded to the next ritual, win or lose, which is checking their cell phones for updates.

One of them must’ve seen something online, a picture of Patrick Mahomes and those brown curls in the snow, and made a joke.

“The tips, man,” Mahomes said. “Frosted tips.”

Frosted tips are, of course, patently absurd. They make no sense. We can all agree on this. We can probably agree on this, too:

If the Chiefs continue to play like they did Sunday in beating the Denver Broncos 23-3 at Arrowhead Stadium, they can frost whatever they want. Frosted tips would look just fine in a parade.

We can pick nits if we want. Mahomes threw a bad interception, the Chiefs still aren’t running the ball well and they’re still struggling in the red zone.

Or, we can look at the broader reality: The Chiefs just played their most complete game of the season, dominating a division rival that had looked rejuvenated with rookie quarterback Drew Lock after blowing out the Houston Texans.

The Chiefs will not have the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They would need to win out and have the Patriots lose (their best chance is Saturday against the Bufallo Bills) to claim the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

But there isn’t a team in the league that would feel confident with its postseason life being determined against this version of the Chiefs.

Kansas City’s defense has scored or directly set up more points than it has given up in the last month, and, finally, we saw sustained flashes Sunday of the offense that ripped through the NFL a year ago.

The Broncos played a lot of zone and consistently shaded toward Hill’s side, which left Travis Kelce with steady one-on-one routes. He ate them up, catching 11 of 13 targets for 142 yards. In the last 10 seasons, a tight end has matched those numbers just six times, according to Pro Football Reference’s Play Index. Kelce’s done it three of those six.

Of course, it may not have mattered what defense the Broncos played Sunday. Mahomes was brilliant. He completed 27 of 34 passes (79.4 percent) through a virtual blizzard for 340 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Most human quarterbacks tweak their arm action or decision-making when the field looks more set for sledding than football.

Mahomes held nothing back, leaning into the degree of difficulty with every throw imaginable — stepping into the pocket on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Hill’s double move, stepping away from pressure and still zipping enough velocity to make it through a tight window on an out-route by Mecole Hardman, and performing some sort of on-field voodoo on a loopity-loop scramble around Von Miller for a two-point conversion.

The Chiefs do need to score more touchdowns in the red zone. Their efficiency there has dropped dramatically since last year and continued to be an issue against the Broncos — they scored just one red-zone touchdown in four tries Sunday. But they also didn’t punt until late in the third quarter, and the way their defense played they had little reason to take chances.

At one point, as Mahomes ran off the field, backup quarterback Chad Henne mentioned something about the throws cutting through the weather.