As if the Kansas City Chiefs really needed another offensive star. Former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon had his breakout game for Kansas City in their wild-card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. In McKinnon’s first start for the Chiefs, he put together a performance that should ensure he’ll be an important part of their postseason run. McKinnon has been a part of the Chiefs’ roster all season, but his history of past injuries kept him behind both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams on the depth chart. As a result, he was relegated to special teams action primarily. Going into Week 18, the sixth-year back had just seven rushes and 10 receptions. But with Edwards-Helaire going down with a shoulder injury in Week 16 and Williams suffering a toe injury two weeks later, McKinnon finally got more backfield snaps. He made the most of them too. On the field for just 23 offensive snaps in the season finale against Denver, McKinnon got five carries for 24 yards—an average of 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught all three of his targets for 26 yards and evaded several defenders to return to the end zone after a 28-game touchdown hiatus. https://twitter.com/betonline_ag/status/1479955284621770753?s=20 That was only a preview of what McKinnon could do given the opportunity. The Chiefs’ playoff matchup with the Steelers brought McKinnon’s first start since Week 10 of 2020 as well as the first playoff start of his career. He lit up the stat sheet with 142 all-purpose yards across 12 carries and six catches, and he tacked on his second career postseason touchdown. It was the second-best all-purpose performance by a Kansas City running back all season, only behind Williams’ 144-yard game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 10. It’s only been one game, but McKinnon’s performance and the skill set he showed off make it look like the Chiefs have added a dimension to their offense they’ve been missing. It’s not exactly a secret that Kansas City was—and likely still will be—a pass-first offense. They passed on more than 62% of plays and were sixth in the NFL in pass-play percentage this season. Obviously, a lot of that is because they have one of the best quarterbacks in the sport, but they also lacked a strong run game. Edwards-Helaire was hurt for a long span of the season and Williams wasn’t putting up big numbers when he got carries. McKinnon won’t turn them into a run-heavy offense, but he might be the missing part of the Chiefs’ offensive puzzle. He consistently turned small gains into longer ones with his ability to make defenders miss with lateral quickness and field vision. He’s a guy that can extend plays even when the blocking in front of him isn’t perfect. https://twitter.com/BryanStewart_/status/1483557357108051969 McKinnon thinks quickly, is decisive, and has the agility to make quick, lateral cuts and juke defenders out of their shoes. https://twitter.com/BryanStewart_/status/1483799087115902979 Those aren’t skills that only apply to his running game. McKinnon can do the same thing in the passing game on short passes like screens, following blockers before making quick cuts and turning on his jets in the open field. To that end, he averaged nearly 20 yards per screen pass against the Steelers. Having guys like Creed Humphrey help in the blocking up front certainly doesn’t hurt that cause, but McKinnon showed what can happen when the Chiefs have a weapon who can take full advantage. The Chiefs have been wanting a dynamic weapon at running back all season, and that need was especially obvious after Damien Williams’ departure. McKinnon has essentially come out of nowhere to show off just how much having a weapon like him can bolster the Kansas City offense. Going into a matchup with one of the NFL’s strongest overall defenses in the Buffalo Bills, McKinnon could be the difference-maker. It’s only been one game, but the veteran running back earned his spot in the Chiefs’ backfield as an important piece for the rest of their playoff run.
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