As great as the Chiefs have been this season, playing down to their opponent has been an issue.
Just look at last week against the 3-10 Broncos. Kansas City was up 27-0 on its AFC West rival, seemingly en route to a blowout victory, only for back-to-back interceptions by Patrick Mahomes to spur a Denver comeback. The Chiefs would edge the Broncos by just six, winning 34-28.
Chiefs fans saw their blood pressure raise again Sunday. Kansas City needed overtime to beat Houston 30-24 on the road at NRG Stadium.
The 11-3 Chiefs secured their seventh straight AFC West title and eighth consecutive playoff appearance with the victory. But the biggest concern for Kansas City, a Super Bowl contender, is how it managed to just squeak by the Texans, who dropped to 1-12-1 with the loss.
The Chiefs punted on the first drive of overtime, only to get the ball back when Texans quarterback Davis Mills fumbled on the first play of Houston’s ensuing possession. Kansas City recovered at the 26-yard line, and running back Jerick McKinnon had the 26-yard touchdown run to win the game.
The Chiefs were expected to blow out the Texans, and not just because the latter is the worst team in the NFL. It’s because Houston was also playing without its best offensive player (rookie running back Dameon Pierce), top two wide receivers (Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins) and top two cornerbacks (Derek Stingley Jr. and Steven Nelson).
Missed opportunities and miscues kept Houston alive until the end. The Chiefs committed 10 penalties for a loss of 102 yards (the Texans had just four penalties for 33 yards), and had two fumbles — in the second and third quarter — that led to 14 Texans points. Kansas City also had a third-quarter drive reach the Houston 8, only to get a field goal.
Special teams aren’t blameless either. Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker missed the potential game-winning 51-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in regulation. He also missed a PAT after a 97-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. That gave the Texans a 14-13 lead at halftime.
That takes nothing away from the greatness of Mahomes, who completed an astounding 87.8% of his passes (36-of-41) for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He completed all 19 of his passes in the second half and overtime.
He completed 100% of his throws to six different pass-catchers: tight end Travis Kelce (10 receptions, 105 yards); wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (10 receptions, 88 yards), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3 receptions, 26 yards, TD) and Kadarius Toney (1 reception, 5 yards); running backs Isiah Pacheco (1 reception, 11 yards) and McKinnon (8 receptions, 70 yards, TD); and tight end Noah Gray (3 receptions, 31 yards).
Mahomes also scrambled for a score in the fourth quarter, which gave the Chiefs a 24-21 lead with 11:57 left in regulation. The Texans would never regain the lead.
Mahomes has time and time again put the Chiefs on his back, just like he did Sunday. The 2018 NFL MVP gives Kansas City a chance to win a Super Bowl regardless of the circumstances around him.
But the Chiefs have now lost to the 4-9-1 Colts, beat the 5-8 Raiders by one point, hung on to beat the 3-10 Broncos after blowing a 27-point lead and beat the 1-12-1 Texans in overtime.
Wins are wins in the NFL, but that’s not a résumé that elicits optimism down the stretch with the postseason fast approaching.
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Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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