Kansas City's potential Super Bowl preview matchup with the New Orleans Saints lived up to its billing Sunday in the Superdome. But the Chiefs showed they remain the best in the NFL, winning 32-29.
Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdown passes to lead his team once again. And Drew Brees, making his return from fractured ribs, threw three touchdown passes as well. But the Chiefs proved too much for New Orleans and improved to 13-1 while dropping their hosts to 10-4.
With two weeks remaining in the season and the quest for playoff seeding hitting critical mass, the Chiefs took another step toward home-field advantage while the Saints missed a chance to wrap up the NFC South.
Here are three more things we learned:
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates a touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints Sunday. (Photo: Brett Duke, AP)
Chiefs remain in a class of their own
It was another masterful performance by the defending Super Bowl champs. The Saints had their moments, but you never felt as if the Chiefs weren’t in control. The Saints challenged them off the jump, but Mahomes and his mates eventually figured things out and started to roll. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead, didn’t flinch when the Saints came to life and took a 15-14 lead to open the second half and instead ripped off another 14-0 run. They then shrugged off another Saints touchdown sparked by a sack-fumble and tacked on a field goal. And they maintained poise after another fourth-quarter New Orleans touchdown. The versatility of the Kansas City offense was on full display. The Saints took away the deep ball, and Mahomes worked the field with shorter passes. Kansas City’s run game thrived while taking advantage of what the Saints gave them. Mahomes again proved himself the ultimate closer as Andy Reid put the ball in his hands when he needed to put the Saints away. The reigning Super Bowl MVP calmly completed a 10-yard pass to Travis Kelce for a crucial first-down pickup with 1:52 left that enabled the Chiefs to run out the clock. The Chiefs now improve to 13-1 and continue their march toward Tampa.
Even weakened, Saints formidable
New Orleans wasn’t at full force. Brees was rusty having missed the last four games with cracked ribs. Michael Thomas is on injured reserve. But they still managed to deliver a compelling performance. Their defense came with a great game plan, forcing the Chiefs to work the mid-range passing game. New Orleans played two high safeties for much of the time because they were determined to avoid giving up the big plays. But the Chiefs were just too creative. Offensively, Thomas’ presence could have helped. The Saints receivers struggled to beat coverage and create separation. New Orleans went 1-for-11 on third downs. Even so, this squad had plenty of fight. The defense forced a key turnover late, which set up a touchdown with 10 minutes left, and then Brees directed another scoring drive with just more than two minutes to go. If this team can get healthy by the postseason (they’re hopeful Thomas, their best wide receiver can return by then), then they still should rank among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Chiefs depth will be tested
Kansas City couldn’t fully celebrate the victory. They lost rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to what looked like a serious knee injury late in the game. If he is lost for an extended period of time as it would seem, this versatile offense loses a game-changing talent. Kansas City has Le'Veon Bell, and he seems to be rounding back into his Pittsburgh Steelers form. But he suffered an injury late as well, although it didn’t seem as serious as Edwards-Helaire. The ability to run the football just as well as they pass the ball is what makes this Chiefs' offense so dangerous. Bell remains a threat, although not as speedy as the rookie, and they gave the team a great two-headed attack. This potential loss could require even more creativity from Andy Reid & Co.
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