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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns, Travis Kelce caught a TD pass and threw another one, and the Kansas City Chiefs sent Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into his anticipated retirement with a 42-21 blowout of the Steelers in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday night.
Byron Pringle caught touchdown passes from both Mahomes and Kelce, and Jerick McKinnon and Tyreek Hill also reeled in scoring catches as the Chiefs (13-5) began their pursuit of a third straight AFC championship in fine style.
They scored on six straight possessions during the middle part of the game, shut down Roethlisberger and the rest of the Pittsburgh offense, and turned next Sunday night’s divisional-round game against Buffalo into appointment viewing.
The Bills had a similarly easy time with their 47-17 victory over New England on Saturday. Buffalo and Kansas City met for the AFC title last season that Kansas City won before falling to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl.
“When you’ve been to the Super Bowl the last two years and you walk off that field with a loss last year, you want to go back and get that revenge, get that win,” Mahomes said. “So for us, we understand it’s a hard division — the AFC (East), we have the Bills coming here this next week and we’re going to have to play our best football. We’re just excited for the journey, we’ll stay with the process and I’m glad we’re playing at Arrowhead next week.”
Roethlisberger, who admitted the Steelers (9-8-1) were “not a very good football team” this week, wasn’t very good in his own right. The 39-year-old quarterback was 29 of 44 for 215 yards with two meaningless TD passes late in the game, providing the coda to a career that includes six Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl wins.
“As opposed to coming in here and talking about the things we didn’t do, I’d just expressed it to the football team,” Roethlisberger said, “I think the classy thing to do is compliment the Kansas City Chiefs. They have a really good football team, they have an explosive football team, and they did a really good job tonight.”
Judging by the final score, you’d never guess the first quarter was all about defense: The Steelers ran 14 plays and went 12 yards, while the Chiefs had more punt return yards (70) than they had from scrimmage (62).
Made sense that the first points would be scored on defense, too.
After the Steelers punted for a fifth straight time, the Chiefs inexplicably had wide receiver Mecole Hardman take a snap rather than their four-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Darrel Williams bobbled the exchange, the ball bounced to T.J. Watt, and the Steelers’ All-Pro pass rusher returned the fumble 24 yards for a touchdown.
The play must have awakened Mahomes, who earlier had thrown his first pick in six career home playoff games.
Or maybe it just made Mahomes angry.
He responded by completing his next six passes, capping a 76-yard drive with a nifty underhand flick to McKinnon that tied the game. Then the brilliant young quarterback found Pringle in the corner of the end zone for a score, and he put an exclamation mark on the half by hitting Kelce with a 48-yard touchdown strike.
In the span of less than six minutes, Mahomes and the Chiefs had turned a seven-point deficit into a 21-7 lead.
“I think we just came back with energy,” Mahomes said. “That first quarter, we were playing tentative, starting with me. And I think when we got into that second quarter, we kind of got back to who we are. Hopefully we keep this momentum going into next week.”
It wasn’t quite the 23-0 halftime advantage the Chiefs had in their December blowout of the Steelers, but it sure felt that way. Roethlisberger was 5 of 14 for 24 yards in the first half and Pittsburgh had 55 yards total offense.
Not much of a retirement party if Roethlisberger indeed calls it quits.
As for the Chiefs, their celebration started in earnest after Mahomes led them on a fourth straight TD drive to start the second half. The game was such a laugher by that point that when Tyreek Hill was ruled down just shy of the goal line, Mahomes simply threw his next pass on third-and-goal to offensive tackle Nick Allegretti for the score.
Hill got his TD catch eventually; it came after Steelers rookie Najee Harris lost a fumble for the first time all season.
The Chiefs kept scoring, too — Kelce’s mom, who began the day watching her other son, center Jason, and his Eagles lose in Tampa Bay — got to see the younger son throw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. By that point, the Chiefs had scored so often they had to post a message on the Arrowhead Stadium video boards that they had run out of fireworks.
Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs had provided enough of their own.