The Kansas City Chiefs have used up seven of their nine lives.
The Chiefs on Sunday continued to play with fire, but somehow, some way avoided getting burned.
Their 17-14 victory over Atlanta was the seventh straight win by a touchdown or less, as they continue to play with their fans’ emotions and send their pulses racing.
Of all the wins in this seven-game tightrope, this one was probably the luckiest. The Chiefs appeared to be sunk late in the game when Patrick Mahomes had a pass that Falcon defensive back A.J Terrell picked off, but couldn’t complete the progression to the end. On the very next play, Mahomes rifled a TD strike to DeMarcus Robinson for the lead.
The Chiefs still weren’t out of the woods. Their defense, which lately plays well for three quarters before apparently running out of gas in the final period, allowed Matty Ice to take the Falcons right down the field, but a sliced 39-yard field goal by recently named Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo allowed the Chiefs to win the game in regulation and not have to go into overtime.
KC will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC throughout the postseason, but more importantly it is the only team in the conference to receive the precious bye in the first week. Given the physical state of the Chiefs right now, they can rest their regulars next week if they want, then get another week to heal.
Red flags, however, continue to pop up everywhere. Most noticeable is the offensive line, which didn’t allow a sack but also gave Mahomes little time to throw as only his pocket presence and sense of wherewithal allowed him to escape. I focused a lot on the line Sunday and left tackle Eric Fisher appeared to have another tough day as he’s simply not 100 percent. No question the Chiefs miss Mitchell Schwartz on the right side, but amazingly they have not lost a game in his absence, which is approaching 3 months. It’s safe to say if he plays in the postseason, it would be considered a bonus.
Mahomes’ dancing act, however, is leading him to being off on his throws. He was just 24 of 45 for 278 yards, but give the Atlanta defense a lot of credit as it disguised coverages that confused him. Travis Kelce was the security blanket, while Tyreek Hill made only one big catch as that went for 31 yards, while his others totaled only 34. And the Chiefs’ gadget plays, which were fewer than most games, mostly blew up in their face, like the 4th-and-1 when Sammy Watkins wound up throwing an end-around pass to Mahomes that failed miserably.
When looking at the AFC, the Chiefs had better brace themselves for Baltimore, which has played its way back into the mainstream with four straight wins and has looked like a powerhouse in doing it. My big thing always has been it’s not the team with the best record that makes the Super Bowl, but the team playing the best heading into the playoffs. Right now, that may be Baltimore as it’s not been having to pull off Houdini acts like the Chiefs.
The other team considered dangerous for the Chiefs -- the Raiders -- bungled their way out of the playoffs on Saturday with a collapse of epic proportions against Miami. For whatever reason, the Raiders seemed to have the formula to hang with KC in both games this season as the teams wound up splitting.