The Kansas City Chiefs held on to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 27-20, on Sunday afternoon behind a strong effort on both sides of the ball.
Trailing by three points with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Chiefs went on to tally 17 unanswered points – beginning with a field goal as time expired in the second quarter – to amass a two-score advantage. That run took place while the Vikings ran just three offensive plays, as the Chiefs' defense held Minnesota to a three-and-out on its lone series in-between back-to-back touchdown drives by Kansas City that opened the third quarter.
Additionally, the first 10 points of that 17-point stretch took place without the services of All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who injured his ankle late in the second quarter. Regardless, quarterback Patrick Mahomes managed to lead Kansas City into field goal range prior to halftime, which knotted the score at 13 points apiece. Then, on the opening drive of the third quarter, Mahomes engineered an 11-play, 75-yard scoring series that culminated in an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rashee Rice.
The latter scoring drive featured contributions from numerous players in Kelce's absence, including Rice (2 catches for 21 yards), wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (1 catch for 12 yards) and wide receiver Justyn Ross (1 catch for 8 yards). The biggest play of the series, however, occurred when Mahomes found wide receiver Justin Watson for a gain of 33 yards on 3rd-and-18 to move the chains early in the possession.
"They 'zero blitzed,' Patrick put it up, and Watson went up and made a phenomenal play," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "I thought our receivers, as a group, did a nice job. The young guys stepped up and made some big plays. [They] had a couple drops – we'll work on that – but they're growing. They were very respectable today."
The combined efforts of the Chiefs' wide receiver corps helped Kansas City re-gain the lead early in the third quarter, and following a quick three-and-out by Minnesota, the Chiefs were right back on offense – and this time, with Kelce back on the field. In fact, Kelce made numerous big plays on the drive, including two receptions that each moved the chains on third down before the veteran tight end hauled in a 4-yard touchdown grab that ended the series with points.
"I knew he was trying to get back in, and he has the same mindset that I do. If you give him a window to get back in the game, he's going to get back in the game," Mahomes said of Kelce. "He's a competitor, man. That's why he's one of the greatest. He battled through some stuff, and made some great catches for us."
Indeed, Kelce finished the game with a team-most 10 receptions for 67 yards and a score, leading a group of 10 players who each hauled in at least one catch on Sunday. Mahomes, meanwhile, completed 31-of-41 passes for 281 yards and two scores.
Still, Minnesota managed to make it a game following the Chiefs' 17-point burst. Quarterback Kirk Cousins found tailback Alexander Mattison for a 9-yard score early in the fourth quarter, and following a quick punt by the Chiefs' offense, Minnesota was in position to tie the game with a 10-play series that marched into the red zone. Kansas City held firm on a fourth-down attempt, however, flipping possession back to the Chiefs with just under five minutes remaining in regulation.
It was part of a strong game for the Chiefs' defense, which forced a fumble on the first play of the contest when safety Justin Reid jarred the ball free from tight end Josh Oliver. Safety Bryan Cook pounced on the loose football, and just nine plays later, tailback Isiah Pacheco turned the takeaway into points with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
The defense was then instrumental in quelling Minnesota's momentum midway through the game, giving the Chiefs' offense – even without Kelce – an opportunity to re-claim and later build its lead. Kansas City was also particularly effective against Vikings' wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who entered the game with the most receiving yards in the NFL. Jefferson caught just three passes for 28 yards on six targets, one of which was broken up by safety Mike Edwards on a crucial third down in-between Kansas City's third-quarter scoring drives.
"We knew the targets were [Jefferson] and [tight end T.J. Hockenson], and our goal was to make them beat [us] another way," said Justin Reid. "We did our best to contain them. We did our job today, so I'm proud of all the guys for going out there and fighting with the type of mentality, effort and attitude that they played with."
The defense saved its best work for last, too, as Minnesota took the field for one final drive – trailing by seven – with one minute and seven seconds remaining on the clock. The Vikings moved the ball to midfield, but on the final play of the contest, defensive end Mike Danna sacked Cousins to end the game.
Overall, the Chiefs yielded just 20 total points – 13 of which occurred in the first half – as Kansas City secured its fourth-straight victory.
In terms of injuries, Coach Reid mentioned Kelce (ankle), linebacker Drue Tranquill (knee) and Isiah Pacheco (ribs), but pointed out that both Kelce and Tranquill were able to return.
The Chiefs will now turn things around on a short week with a matchup against the Denver Broncos at GEHA Field Stadium at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday Night Football on deck.