Just because the Kansas City Chiefs don't live in South Florida, it didn't mean the conditions Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium were easy for them. Playing in a freezer isn't good for anyone.
But the Chiefs handled the sub-zero temperatures a lot better than the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs aren't a pretty team this season, but they have some toughness. Kansas City's defense is the best it has been in the Patrick Mahomes era, and that was huge on Saturday. Isiah Pacheco is a tough runner and that helped too. And mentally, the Chiefs were up for the challenge against the Dolphins.
The Chiefs are moving on after a 26-7 win over the Dolphins in horrible weather conditions. They settled for a lot of field goals but that was enough because, other than one big play to Tyreek Hill, Miami's offense generated almost nothing. The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since the 2000 season.
This hasn't been an easy season for the Chiefs, but they're in the NFL's final eight. And perhaps the tough lessons will help next weekend when Kansas City potentially faces a first: A road playoff game with Mahomes at quarterback.
Frigid conditions in Kansas City
The temperature at kickoff was -4 degrees, making it the fourth-coldest game in NFL history. The wind chill was -27 at kickoff. That was the third-coldest wind chill at kickoff in NFL history.
In other words, it was miserable.
There were moments in which both offenses struggled with simple tasks they make look easy in regular weather. But the Chiefs handled the cold better than the Dolphins.
Miami had one big play in the first half. Hill beat the defense deep for a 53-yard touchdown catch. That accounted for more than half of Tua Tagovailoa's 94 passing yards in the first half. He completed just 6 of 11 passes before halftime. When the Chiefs took a 26-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa had just 100 yards.
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The Chiefs were much more effective moving the ball. Mahomes had 167 passing yards at the half. The Chiefs' offense stalled a few times but KC led 16-7 at the end of the first half.
The Chiefs had some rhythm on offense, unlike the Dolphins. But they had mistakes, the most notable of which was a blocking-in-the-back penalty on offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor that nullified a touchdown.
While the Chiefs should have held a bigger lead at the half, it didn't matter. The Dolphins were incapable of generating any consistent offense.
Chiefs advance to divisional round
It was clear early in the second half that the Dolphins were not coming back. Their offense has struggled against good competition all season, and it disappeared in the cold on Saturday night. The Chiefs' defense had a lot to do with that.
The Dolphins gave away their last chance on a horrible roughing the passer penalty against defensive tackle Christian Wilkins after Mahomes had thrown incomplete on third-and-20. Pacheco scored shortly after and the game was all but over. Miami took on many injuries late in the season, and its late-season slide continued right out of the postseason with a lackluster performance at Kansas City.
The Chiefs could find themselves back at Arrowhead Stadium next week if they get a Pittsburgh Steelers upset over the Buffalo Bills on Monday. If the Bills win, the Chiefs will be at Buffalo in the divisional round. Mahomes, who is in his seventh NFL season, has yet to play a true road game in the playoffs.
This version of the Chiefs doesn't seem like it can go on the road and win a playoff game against a team like Buffalo. Everything has been a little tougher this season for the offense. The receivers, other than rookie Rashee Rice (who had 130 yards and a touchdown Saturday night), never made much of an impact. Tight end Travis Kelce hasn't produced his usual numbers this season. The reason the Chiefs might have to go on the road next week is they're not a dominant team and they took six losses in the regular season.
But the Chiefs are alive. They still have Mahomes and Andy Reid. Their defense is one of the best in the NFL. There's still hope for another Super Bowl run, even if the path would be much different this season.