Winners and Losers From KC Chiefs’ Divisional Round Game vs. Buffalo Bills

In the Chiefs’ second postseason game of the 2023-24 campaign, multiple players stood out for good and bad reasons alike.

The Kansas City Chiefs took down the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round, booking their trips to the AFC Championship Game in the process.

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens await, which will undoubtedly serve as a serious challenge for Andy Reid’s squad. With that said, Patrick Mahomes and company delivered a terrific performance on Sunday and look like a different team than the one displayed throughout the regular season. In a hostile environment in Orchard Park, Kansas City answered the call with a resounding success in a three-point victory. 

Playoff Patrick Mahomes is a very real thing. Even though he missed a few throws on Sunday, the two-time NFL MVP was nothing short of fantastic in the Divisional Round. Completing 17 of 23 pass attempts for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the raw box score doesn’t quite do Mahomes’s performance enough justice. For the second week in a row, he was extremely decisive with his throws and played a squeaky-clean brand of football. He’s a clear winner from the weekend. 

When you touch the ball only two times and both of them end in fumbles, it’s hard to be anywhere but in the “loser” category. Mecole Hardman’s first fumble in the red zone was recovered by Justin Watson, but his second went through the end zone for a touchback. In an on-brand sequence, the Chiefs left points on the board due to a mistake made by a wide receiver. Hardman’s 2024 playoff experience hasn’t been a positive one. 

Travis Kelce turned back the clock against the Bills, leading the Chiefs in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. With his second score, he and Mahomes set a new NFL postseason record for the most touchdowns between two players. It was a game to remember for Kelce, as he continues to add to his playoff legend. Perhaps some end-of-season rest indeed did do him some good; he’s looked more athletic as of late.

As has been the case plenty of times before, Nick Bolton’s production and tape told two different stories on Sunday. While the former second-round pick led the Chiefs’ defense in tackles with 13, he was repeatedly targeted both against the run and pass. The middle of the field was a hotspot for Buffalo’s offensive attack, as well as lateral designs in the flat. Bolton’s lack of range and his general hesitance cost the defense in the first few quarters of play. 

After a very quiet stretch of play following an 84-yard outing in Week 7, Marquez Valdes-Scantling had his best game since then on Sunday. Hauling in two passes for 62 yards, the veteran wideout had both of his receptions go for at least 30 yards. It was a welcome sight for Kansas City, with Mahomes and Reid tipping their cap to Valdes-Scantling in the aftermath. Any big plays he can provide for the rest of the year would be huge for the Chiefs. 

It’s never a good thing when your biggest play as a wide receiver is recovering a fumble by one of your teammates. Watson was targeted just once on Sunday — a third-and-five pass from Mahomes that was dropped. The Chiefs had to settle for three points on their opening possession because of it. Watson’s teammates picked up some of his slack, so it didn’t cost Kansas City a ton, but he’ll need to be better moving forward. 

Isiah Pacheco’s run through the playoffs — both literally and figuratively — continues. The second-year halfback toted the ball 15 times on Sunday, amassing 97 yards in the process. That 6.5 yard-per-carry average was a huge reason why the Chiefs’ offense sustained success throughout the game. Having an effective rushing attack in the postseason is paramount and as long as Kansas City commits to feeding Pacheco, that’s likely going to be an advantage for them. 

The struggles of the Chiefs’ run defense for most of Sunday’s game are well-documented here on Arrowhead Report already. In the first half, Buffalo averaged 5.6 yards per carry and recorded 124 total yards on the ground. Things shaped up a bit in the third quarter, although the Bills’ lone drive still saw them notch 4.9 yards per run and punch in a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, though, James Cook had negative rushing yards on four tries. That redeemed the run defense a fair amount, but it’s still worth noting that it was porous for the majority of the Divisional Round.

Gideon Canice

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