Mahomes leads Chiefs to playoff win over Dolphins in near-record low temps
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It was so cold that Patrick Mahomes' helmet shattered on a hit. Andy Reid's mustache froze on the sideline. Fans and players alike huddled for warmth, trying their best to grit their way through the fourth-coldest game in NFL history.
The Kansas City Chiefs managed to handle the adversity well Saturday night.
Handled the Miami Dolphins quite well, too.
Mahomes threw for 262 yards, found Rashee Rice eight times for 130 yards and a touchdown, and made several daring runs for key first downs. Isiah Pacheco pounded over the frozen turf for 89 yards and another score. And the Chiefs shut down a prolific Miami offense in a 26-7 victory in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Harrison Butker added four field goals for the reigning Super Bowl champs, who appear to be warming up for another run.
“Guys came with that attitude, that mentality — we knew it was going to be cold,” Mahomes said. “All week we were preaching, ‘Let’s come in there with that fire and just get after it and see what happens.’”
Meanwhile, the injury-depleted Dolphins (11-7) looked nothing like the same dynamic offense that led the league in yards. Tua Tagovailoa was pressured relentlessly by the NFL's second-ranked defense, wide receiver Tyreek Hill had a 53-yard TD catch but was otherwise shut down in his return to Kansas City and the Dolphins finished with 264 yards in all.
They have not won at Arrowhead Stadium since Nov. 6, 2011, nor won a playoff game since Dec. 30, 2000.
“Losing is never fun, and when the stakes are higher — when it's playoff time — you feel that maybe 10 times more,” said Tagovailoa, who was just 20 of 39 for 199 yards passing with an interception. “We've got to live with that loss.”
The Chiefs get to live with another win in their 15th consecutive home playoff game, not counting a trio of Super Bowls that netted them two Lombardi Trophies. But they will head to Buffalo next week if the Bills beat the Steelers on Monday in a game pushed back a day by a blizzard. Otherwise, the Chiefs will host Houston, which beat the Browns earlier Saturday.
“Everybody was out there playing for each other,” Rice said. “We just put the weather to the side and knew that our opponent didn't want to be out there just as much as we didn't, and we showed our love for the game.”
It was minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-20 Celsius) at kickoff, easily setting a record for the coldest game at Arrowhead Stadium. But it was wind gusts, whipping through at more than 25 mph (40 kph) and driving the wind chill to a bone-rattling minus-27 degrees, that made the weather truly miserable for just about everyone.
That included pop star Taylor Swift, who once again turned up to see her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
She at least got to watch from an enclosed suite. Most fans bundled up outside in parkas, ski goggles and snowpants, and players huddled around heaters on the sidelines as if they were oases in the cold. The National Weather Service even issued a warning for what it called “dangerously cold” weather that had blanketed the Midwest.
In fact, the cold may have made Mahomes’ helmet brittle enough that a hit in the third quarter knocked a chunk of the plastic shell from it. Once officials saw the fist-sized hole, they made Mahomes get a backup helmet from the bench.
“We have to talk about where we store the backup,” Mahomes said with a smile. “It was like frozen.”
The weather didn’t seem to bother Hill, who was playing in Kansas City for the first time since his old team traded him to Miami two years ago. The league’s leading receiver warmed up in a short-sleeve shirt, then proceeded to scorch the stout Chiefs defense and All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie for a long touchdown reception midway through the first half.
“It's where it all started for me,” Hill said afterward. “Just being back on the field brought back so many memories.”
The Dolphins otherwise struggled on offense, though, just as they did in a 21-14 loss to the Chiefs in November in Germany. They were just 1 for 12 on third down, and they never put together a truly sustained drive until the fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to put a lot of attention toward our receivers,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “We thought we had the right plan and obviously it wasn't, and hats off to them for executing their plan in the most important time.”
On offense, the Chiefs scored on four of their six first-half drives. Mahomes capped the first with his TD toss to Rice, and while ensuing drives continually fizzled in the red zone, Butker added a trio of field goals to help Kansas City forge a 16-3 lead.
“Butker was phenomenal," Reid said. “That was like kicking a block of ice.”
The Chiefs added another field goal in the third quarter, but it was still a two-possession game in the fourth when the Dolphins appeared to force another field goal. But a late flag on Christian Wilkins for roughing the passer on third down gave Kansas City a fresh set of downs, and Pacheco plowed into the end zone moments later to give the Chiefs a 26-7 lead.
The Dolphins never threatened down the stretch in their 11th straight loss when game-time temps are 40 degrees or less.
Far less, in this case.
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