NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 15 PFF ReFocused: Kansas City Chiefs 32, New Orleans Saints 29

Dec 20, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs edged out the New Orleans Saints 32-29 to retain their No. 1 seed in the AFC and keep the Saints away from the Green Bay Packers in first place in the NFC.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

STORY OF THE GAME

It's a significant loss for the Saints, who now have a major hill to climb if they want to catch Green Bay at the top of the NFC.

The Chiefs continued to win in any way possible. The Saints defense tried to present another blueprint for slowing down the Chiefs' offense, playing a significant number of snaps with a two-high safety look — often in a Cover 2 Man defense — which kept the Chiefs' passing attack in check to a certain degree.

Kansas City posted its fourth-worst EPA per play mark of the season on pass plays, at 0.14. But while that's a relatively low output for the Chiefs, it will still end up in the middle class of the NFL this week.

The Saints were able to play heavy pass coverage and force Patrick Mahomes to get through his progressions and then ultimately scramble. It wasn't a bad strategy, but Mahomes proved his worth yet again on plays outside the pocket.

On scrambles or rollout plays, Mahomes went 7-for-12 for 63 yards and two touchdowns while adding 39 yards on three scrambles that all went for first downs. However, it was one of Mahomes' worst games from the pocket, as he only completed 54% of his standard dropback passes for 191 yards and a touchdown while taking three sacks.

The Saints created pressure on 39.5% of Mahomes' dropbacks, the highest pressure rate the Chiefs have allowed this season, but they still could not hold Mahomes & Co. to under 30 points.

Drew Brees returned for the Saints, but he was stifled all day long by the Chiefs' defense. The veteran passer completed just 42% of his passes, completing only 14 passes total for 232 yards. He was lucky to come out of the game with only one interception.

It was a rough day for the Michael Thomas-less Saints receiving corps, as well. No receiver could find much in the way of separation — Jared Cook only caught two of his six targets, while Juwan Johnson didn’t catch any of his four.

Rookie Watch

Cesar Ruiz played all 51 snaps for the Saints and impressed as a pass-blocker. He kept a clean sheet in terms of pressures allowed, the third time he’s done that this season.

Juwan Johnson played 42 snaps, and Adam Trautman was on the field for nine pass snaps but was not targeted. Malcolm Roach played 37 snaps, notching a sack and two tackles.

For the Chiefs, L’Jarius Sneed continued to improve on a great rookie season, allowing only one catch on nine targets while hauling in an interception. Willie Gay Jr. got on the field for 12 snaps and made a tackle, while Tershawn Wharton and Michael Danna saw 29 and 13 snaps, respectively.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran 14 times for 79 yards, with 53 yards coming after contact. He also caught a 4-yard pass on two targets before leaving the game with an ankle injury.

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
Sponsor

NFL Featured Tools

  • Power Rankings are PFF’s NFL power ratings based on weekly player grades in each facet of play. These power rankings are adjusted based on coach, quarterback and the market each season.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF predictions and real time spread, moneyline and over/under lines for each NFL game.

    Available with

    Elite
  • PFF's Player Props Tool reveals betting opportunities within player prop markets.

    Available with

    Elite
  • PFF's exclusive metrics provide matchup previews, position rankings, grades, and snap counts.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NFL player performance data.

    Available with

    Elite
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr