The Kansas City Chiefs reminded the NFL of just how dangerous they can be in all three phases on Sunday night throughout a dominant victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-31, at Raymond James Stadium. Kansas City found the end zone on four of its first five possessions, leaping out to a double-digit lead that it never relinquished behind a truly relentless effort in all aspects of the game.
"All in all, when you can get three phases working in the right direction, it's normally a good thing for you," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "Tonight was a good thing."
That collective effort didn't waste any time getting started, either, as the Chiefs' coverage unit forced and recovered a fumble on the game's opening kickoff that gifted Kansas City tremendous field position to begin the game. They were quick to make the most of it, too, when quarterback Patrick Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a 16-yard touchdown two snaps later.
The Chiefs then went on to find the end zone on each of their next two drives, assembling a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard run by tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire before engineering an 11-play, 82-yard series that Edwards-Helaire completed with a 2-yard touchdown grab. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, scored just three points through its first three possessions.
Edwards-Helaire's second score, in particular, was also yet another classic example of how Mahomes and the Chiefs offense can make the impossible seem routine. Facing a second down at the Buccaneers' 2-yard line, Mahomes rolled out to his right while evading the pursuit of an incoming defender. He then scrambled upfield and spun completely around to avoid another potential tackler before stopping just shy of the line of scrimmage and tossing the ball into Edwards-Helaire's lap.
It was nothing short of a bonkers play that once again demonstrated both Mahomes' unique talents and the collective wherewithal of the offense to keep working long after the original play broke down.
"That one wasn't in the playbook. I can't even remember what the play was because I was so excited about that one," Reid said. "I always remind the coaches to not take [Mahomes] for granted. That's special. Enjoy every one of those. You just don't see that very often."
Tampa Bay was able to seize some momentum a bit later, however, when the Buccaneers' defense stopped Kansas City on a short fourth down attempt midway into Tampa Bay territory. The play meant that the Buccaneers – who found the end zone a possession earlier – had the football back and only trailed by 11 points, providing an opportunity to largely negate the Chiefs' quick start.
That momentum didn't last long though, as cornerback L'Jarius Sneed strip-sacked Buccaneers' quarterback Tom Brady on the very next play, flipping possession right back to the Chiefs' offense. Kansas City didn't waste its second chance, either, as tight end Noah Gray completed a six-play, 20-yard series with a 1-yard touchdown plunge soon after.
Gray's score marked the Chiefs' fourth touchdown of the night, meaning that Kansas City tallied more first-half points (28) than Tampa Bay had previously allowed all season (27 points). It put the Chiefs ahead by 18 points at the time, and while the Buccaneers consistently managed to stick around, Tampa Bay never pulled within a single score.
Tight end Jody Fortson was responsible for the Chiefs' lone touchdown of the second half, hauling in a 10-yard grab that completed a nine-play, 65-yard series late in the third quarter. His score was sandwiched by a pair of successful field goal attempts by newly-signed kicker Matthew Wright, who was perfect on his seven total kicks (2 field goals, 5 extra points) throughout the evening.
Mahomes completed 23-of-37 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, finding Kelce for a team-most nice receptions for 92 yards. The Chiefs' All-Pro tight end was at his best when he was needed most, too, as four of his nine grabs moved the chains on third down. In fact, the Chiefs efficiency on third down was one of the stories of the game.
Tampa Bay, which entered Sunday night as the top scoring defense and the No. 6 third-down defense in the NFL, yielded conversions on 12 of the Chiefs' 17 third-down attempts in the contest, repeatedly struggling to get off the field as Kansas City marched toward the end zone.
"There was an attention to detail throughout [our week of] practice that we have to maintain throughout the entire season, because it showed how focused we were," Kelce said. "Patrick knew exactly where to go with the ball, the guys that were running routes knew exactly when the ball was coming to them, and on top of that, the offensive line played their tails off. We have the guys to make any play out there on the field, and when we play for each other like that, we know that we're a hard team to beat."
Indeed, the Chiefs' offensive line routinely bullied the Buccaneers' highly-touted defensive front throughout the game. That dominance was perhaps most apparent in the running game, as Kansas City racked up 189 yards on the ground. It was the highest total the Buccaneers had allowed to any opponent since 2018. That ability to run the football went a long way in racking up the most points Tampa Bay had allowed at home since 2016.
"They accepted the challenge, and they made our team roll today," Mahomes said. "That's a great defense and a great defensive line. I think they heard the talking – and not only from [the Buccaneers], but from everybody – about how they didn't play well last week. They accepted the challenge, and when they dominate like that, it makes my job a lot easier."
Aside from the victory, Mahomes also made some individual history on Sunday night by becoming the fastest player in NFL history to 20,000 passing yards. He did so in just 67 games, easily breaking the previous record of 71 games held by Matthew Stafford.
Additionally, Kelce continued to move up the all-time charts by surpassing Rob Gronkowski for the fifth-most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history (9,328).
The defense, meanwhile, also recorded a bit of franchise history on Sunday by holding Tampa Bay to just three total rushing yards. That tally was tied for the fewest ever allowed in team history. The Chiefs' quick start forced the Buccaneers to deploy a completely one-dimensional offensive attack, and while Brady threw for more 385 yards and three scores, the Buccaneers were never able to pull within single digits following the early deficit.
It was simply a big-time victory for the Chiefs, who moved to 3-1 on the season and took over sole possession of first place in the AFC West with the win. It also served as somewhat of a palate cleanser following last week's tough loss to the Indianapolis Colts, not to mention the Chiefs' defeat in Super Bowl LV at the hands of the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
"There was a sour taste in our mouth from last week and from the last time we were here in Tampa. I'm going to put both of those behind me at this point," Kelce said. "We're here now, and we're going to roll with this momentum and how well we played today."
In terms of injuries, Coach Reid mentioned L'Jarius Sneed (ankle) and offensive guard Trey Smith (pectoral) following the game. Reid added that he thought the Chiefs were "OK there" in terms of injuries, suggesting that neither injury was particularly worrisome.
Kansas City will now head back home and begin preparations for a divisional matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football next week.