It marked the 13th win of the 2022 NFL season for Kansas City and their 15th straight win against Denver. The streak of 15 consecutive wins against the Broncos ties for the third-longest streak of wins against a single opponent in NFL history. It’s also the longest active streak by any team in the league.
So what exactly did we learn about the Chiefs in their Week 17 win? Here are four of our biggest takeaways after the game:
Skyy Moore & Kadarius Toney's roles are expanding
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
It was a good week for young receivers in Kansas City.
Kadarius Toney, now in his third week back with the team following a hamstring injury, earned his second career start with the Chiefs. He finished the day with a perfect stat sheet, catching all 4-of-4 passes for a team-leading 71 receiving yards. He was the only offensive player outside of Isiah Pacheco (2-of-2) to catch all of the targets that came his way. They made a concerted effort to get him involved in the deep passing game, with receptions of 27 and 38 yards on the day.
Skyy Moore, who hasn’t seen much action in the offense this season, also saw an increased number of opportunities. The team got him involved in the screen game, with Patrick Mahomes targeting him four times. He caught three passes for 33 yards on the day.
Overall, it feels like both players are seeing more opportunities, which is a good sign as the postseason approaches. Justin Watson, who has struggled with drops, was only targeted twice on the day.
George Karlaftis, Trent McDuffie getting hot at the right time
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The pair of first-round draft picks in 2022 for the Chiefs seem to both be getting hot at the right time. George Karlaftis recorded a sack on Russell Wilson, marking his fifth sack in the last six games. He also managed his first career fumble recovery and a tackle for loss during the game. It’s clear that he’s really understanding his role and finding ways to affect the quarterback and his hustle plays are still unmatched.
McDuffie also had a really good game. He had a strip sack on a blitz from the slot — a role that he’s not too familiar with and still learning. It was his first career sack and forced fumble. He also allowed just four catches for 28 yards on the day per Pro Football Focus. A lot of those snaps came against Jerry Jeudy, who torched the Chiefs in Week 14.
With both of these first-round rookies emerging as playmakers, it’s really taking the pressure off of some of the veterans down the stretch.
Chris Jones earning reputation as 'the closer'
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Chiefs DT Chris Jones is earning a reputation this season. He’s closed out a number of games this season — now including three against AFC West opponents (1x Chargers, 2x Broncos). The latest was a sack of Russell Wilson on fourth down to force a turnover on downs. The best part about it was that Jones was getting mugged by the Broncos’ defense all game long, with a pass-rush win rate of just 6.7% on 30 pass-rushing snaps.
“Shoot, it’s part of who he is now,” Chiefs LB Willie Gay Jr. told reporters of Jones following the game. “We know he’s going to do his part and make big plays like that. It’s natural – it’s second nature.”
Jones was patient all night. He essentially left his best pass-rush for his last after using a whole game’s worth of snaps to set the defense up for it. If it truly is becoming second nature, it’s good news. The team already had one defender who was great at closing in Frank Clark. If Jones can add this to his repertoire and keep it up in the playoffs, it’ll make this defense quite deadly.
Special teams could be this team's downfall
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A week after a perfect performance in the kicking game, the Chiefs’ special teams problems showed up again for Kansas City. Kadarius Toney didn’t put away a punt and fumbled, leading to a Broncos touchdown, but that seems like an easily correctable issue.
The big problem is that the kicking game had two missed kicks in Week 17 — one on an extra point and one on a long field goal. On the point after try, Townsend was unable to get the snap down. On the field goal, the kick was partially blocked and there’s some debate as to whether the hold was good or not.
At this point, it really doesn’t matter whether Tommy Townsend or Harrison Butker is to blame for kicking inconsistencies. They’re entrusted to execute kicks and need to do so when they’re called upon. Whether it’s a matter of more practice or making a change, they need to get things figured out before special teams cost this team in the postseason.