If there were any questions about the potency of the Kansas City Chiefs offense heading into the playoffs, the performance it had on Sunday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos may have helped answer some of those concerns.
The Chiefs put up 484 yards of offense against the league's No. 2-ranked defense, which was allowing just 310 yards per game coming into the game. To take it one step further, the Chiefs' 33 points scored are the most against the Broncos this season.
"I felt like we did a pretty good job," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game. "I think that's a great defense. Again, they're banged up just a little bit, but they're still very good. Those two outside backers are as good as there is. So, I thought our guys did well."
The Broncos came into the game allowing just 18.6 points per game, which ranked sixth in the league, although, as Reid noted, their leading tackler, veteran safety T.J. Ward, didn't play in the game, and neither did starting linebacker Brandon Marshall.
The offense was potent both through the air and on the ground, and it all started with tight end Travis Kelce, who expressed his affinity for being a more integral part of the offense after last week's loss to the Tennessee Titans, when Kelce finished with just three catches for 41 yards.
To simply say Kelce was a big part of the offense on Sunday wouldn't be doing his performance justice.
Kelce finished with 11 catches for a franchise-record 160 yards receiving—a record that was previously held by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who had 147 yards against the New England Patriots in 2000.
"He was singled up quite a little bit," Reid explained of Kelce. "It gave us an opportunity to get him going – where he's been doubled quite a little bit in weeks past."
With a lot of man coverage being played by the Broncos defense, Kelce found a lot of room on shallow crossers in the middle of the field and used his athleticism to run away from defenders. He already led the league by more than 100 yards when it comes to yards after the catch by a tight end, and his lead in that category was greatly expanded after Sunday.
Kelce's performance was highlighted by his 80-yard touchdown reception on a little bubble screen to the outside late in the first quarter, which extended the Chiefs' lead at the time to 21-7.
It's now the longest touchdown reception by a tight end in franchise history.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Kelce said of his performance after the game. "On Christmas Day, to have my family in the stands and to play as well as we did, but you can't have individual success in this league without the guys around you playing their tails off. That 80-yard deal that I had was 100 percent the entire team doing their job and me almost screwing it up there at the end but figuring out a way to get in the end zone.
"I just love playing with these guys."
While Kelce led the way through the air with quarterback Alex Smith, who finished the game 25 of 36 for 244 yards with a touchdown and interception, the Chiefs also found a nice balance offensively with more than 200 yards rushing.
The ground game was highlighted by rookie fifth-round pick Tyreek Hill's six carries for 95 yards, which included an electric 70-yard touchdown run early in the game.
It was the 11th touchdown this season for Hill, who now trails former Chiefs great Abner Haynes for the most total touchdowns by a rookie in franchise history by one. Haynes had 12 in 1960.
Before Sunday's game, Hill, who played running back in college, had never carried the ball more than twice in a game since converting to wide receiver, where he currently ranks second on the team with 56 receptions for 547 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns.
"There's not many guys that have that skillset and then mentally as rookies can handle all the stuff he does," Smith said of Hill. "It's really a credit to him."
Hill's role in the offense showed expansion on Sunday, when he carried the ball six times out of the backfield.
"We're trying to expand every week a little bit more and more," Reid explained of Hill's role in the offense. "He had some great carries back there. He's an explosive player. He's had experience at the running back position. We've tried to convert him here to wide receiver, and he's done pretty well there. We wanted to put most of the emphasis on that first until he got a grasp of that. Then, you can add some things in here and there.
"I thought he did a good job back there. I think he had 90-some yards or so. He had the one long one, and then they started zero blitzing. They respected him and started bringing everybody."
Running back Spencer Ware, who left the game early and will have an MRI on Monday because of sore ribs, finished the game with 13 carries for 62 yards (4.8 ypc).
Smith, who became the franchise's all-time leading rusher at quarterback with a first-quarter touchdown run of 10 yards, also got back in the running mix with four rushes for 46 yards on the day.
Before Sunday, Smith had run the ball just 38 times for 67 yards this season after rushing for 498 yards last season.
"It felt like it'd been awhile," Smith said of running the ball. "We've been joking in the quarterback room. I don't know why or what reason, and there's not one thing to point to why it hasn't been there this year, but it was nice to get a few (on Sunday) – designed runs as well as scrambles."
With almost 500 yards put up by a balanced offense against one of the league's most formidable defenses, the arrow is pointing up for a Chiefs offense that had to answer a lot of questions over the past couple of weeks.
"I think that says a lot about where we want to be as far as balance, spreading the ball around, keeping them on their heels, different types of runs, different types of passes," Smith added.