The Chiefs started the season 2-0 with a second-straight shootout victory, this time knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers 42-37 and overcoming a team that seemingly had their number in recent seasons.
The game looked like it could become runaway earlier with the Chiefs up 21-0 in the first quarter. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers rallied to tie the game twice before Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offensive finally salted the game away late.
Only the run game prompts any concerns on a day when the Chiefs pile up 42 points and only one three and out. The Chiefs also had six touchdown drives, non longer than seven plays. This offense played with brutal efficiency.
You can't give a quarterback with six touchdown passes and no turnovers any other grade. There are a dozen superlatives and statistics to illustrate the dominance of Patrick Mahomes against the Steelers. Throwing more touchdowns (six) than incompletions (five) doesn't happen very often. Mahomes is off to one of the fastest starts in NFL history, and right now head coach Andy Reid has the offense two steps ahead of every other defense in the league.
Running back: C-plus
The Chiefs netted 127 yards on the ground, 31 came on a jet sweep to wide receiver Sammy Watkins and another 18 came on scrambles from Mahomes. Kareem Hunt averaged 4.2 yards per carry, thanks in large part to a 16-yard run and a 9-yard gain in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs didn't display much explosiveness in the run game even on a day when the passing game should have opened up some holes. Hunt did add a 5-yard touchdown catch to the scoring total.
Wide receiver: A
Watkins hauled in six catches for 100 yards and Tyreek Hill added five catches for 90 yards with a touchdown. Role player Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson each contributing a touchdown as well. Chiefs wide receivers caught 14 passes on 16 targets for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
Tight end: A-minus
Travis Kelce deserves an A grade all his own for his seven catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns, finally delivering a dominant performances in his fifth try against the Steelers. He hauled in seven catches on 10 targets for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Demetrius Harris picked up a hold penalty on a punt return early and later missed a block against T.J. Watt that contributed to the Hunt getting stopped in the end zone for a safety.
Offensive line: C-minus
The pass blocking proved serviceable enough, even if on occasion Mahomes heat and took a heat on nearly one in four of his pass dropbacks. But run blocking and discipline left much to be desired. The offensive line opened up few holes for Hunt out of the backfield, and the line broke down at several points on the safety. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Eric Fisher both picked up false start penalties on third downs in the second quarter.
One can look at this game as a glass half empty or half full. The optimists see Antonio Brown gaining just 67 yards on nine catches on a day when Roethlisberger targeted him 17 times and that the defense allowed just 33 net yards rushing. But the pessimists sees Roethlisberger throwing for 452 yards and the Steelers piling up 37 points to keep this game close all the way to the end. Ultimately, however, the defense made just enough plays to win.
Defensive line: B-minus
The run defense starts up front and that's a credit to Chris Jones, Allen Bailey and Xavier Williams up the middle. Jones and Bailey also had some of the team's most effective pass rush of the day, with Bailey picking up the team's only sack and adding a quarterback hit to his resume. But no one generate a consistent rush up the middle, leaving Roethlisberger way too much time most of the day.
Outside linebacker: D-plus
Roethlisberger threw 60 passes in the game and the Chiefs generated zero sacks and only two quarterback hits from their edge rushers. Justin Houston had a turnover by forcing a fumble against Roethlisberger wiped away by a penalty in the secondary, but that was the only impact moment the outside linebacker group generated. Houston had a couple of nice stops in the run game, but this group didn't deliver for much of the game.
Inside linebacker: B
Anthony Hitchens again led the defense in tackles with 12 total stops, and that acquisition continues paying dividends for the Chefs. It's hard to calculate where the Chiefs would be without Hitchens through the first two games. He had another tackle for loss and played a key role in the Chiefs cracking down on the Steelers' run game. Reggie Ragland and Terrance Smith also chipped in with five combined tackles each.
It was an up-and-down day, with the Chiefs having a few bright spots upon which they can hope to build. Steven Nelson and Kendall Fuller had a good day against Brown, and Fuller broke up two passes. Nelson made a couple of great reads but just missed making the plays. JuJu Smith-Schuster going for 121 yards and a touchdown on 13 catches is way too much. Too much of Roethlisberger's production came at the expense of the corner.
Eric Murray played well at times and picked up six tackles, keeping some big plays from getting worse and making nice stops. But tight end Jesse James racked up 138 yards and a touchdown in five catches, often beating Murray and Ron Parker. The duo kept the Steelers playmakers in front of them for the most part, but the production wasn't always there when needed.
Kicking game: A
Harrison Butker was a perfect six-for-six on extra points, all the more critical when you consider the struggles Chris Boswell had on the other side with a missed field goal and a missed extra point. Punter Dustin Colquitt delivered two big punts for a 50-yard average and took the rough-the-kicker call at the end of the game to ice the win. Butker yielded a mere 16.8 on four kick returns allowed.
Return game: B-plus
De'Anthony Thomas set the tone with a 48-yard punt return to setup the first score, and that got the Chiefs going early. Ryan Switzer and Antonio Brown caused zero damage in the return game for the Steelers.