A lot went right for the Kansas City Chiefs during their Divisional Round victory against the Buffalo Bills. They rushed for 146 yards on 6.1 yards per carry. As a unit, their pass catchers averaged 12.6 yards per reception. Per Next Gen Stats, Patrick Mahomes completed three deep passes in a game for the first time this season. Sunday evening was not a 2018 Chiefs performance, however, it was one of their best showings in weeks. KC’s pass catchers were solid all game long, including the much-maligned Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
He did his job against the Bills. Valdes-Scantling was brought in to be a big-play threat for the Chiefs. He caught only two passes on Sunday, but they were both for at least 30 yards. His team was down by four points at the start of the third quarter. The Bills hustled their way down the field at the end of the first half to take a 17-13 lead. Valdes-Scantling opened the second half with a 30-yard, back-shoulder reception. The Chiefs took the lead five plays later.
The Bills responded with a long touchdown drive. They ran more than eight minutes off the clock on a 75-yard drive that resulted in another lead change. When the Chiefs got the ball back, Valdes-Scantling had one more big play left in him. Mahomes side-stepped a blitz near midfield and tossed him another rainbow that put the Chiefs in the red zone. A touchdown three plays later gave them a 27-24 lead, which ended up being the final score of the game.
When the Chiefs signed Valdes-Scantling to a three-year, $30 million deal in 2022, the goal was to replace Tyreek Hill by committee. No one player can provide all of that speed and ball tracking ability, so Valdes-Scantling was brought in for his jets. In four seasons with the Green Bay Packers he only averaged less than 16 yards per receptions as a rookie. Even that year he totaled nearly 600 receiving yards.
A glaring flaw in Valdes-Scantling’s game is that he can only be relied upon to haul in about half of his targets. Whether he is targeted 40 or 20 times, the percentage of passes catches is going to be roughly the same. The problem for the 2023 Chiefs is that he was only targeted 42 times. At the conclusion of the regular season, he totaled 21 receptions for 315 yards, one touchdown, and also one of the most infamous drops in franchise history.
That drop was a potential game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. A loss that after which public confidence in the Chiefs took a significant slide. Had Valdes-Scantling caught that game-winning touchdown, those back-to-back losses to the Bills and Packers would not have looked so bad.
It is not as if he was the main culprit in the Chiefs dropped passes problem during the regular season. Of the team’s league-leading 44 drops on the season, only three were on Valdes-Scantling. However, he is the highest-paid player in that young wide receiver room. Forget the drops, what most certainly should not be is an afterthought in the passing game with less than 50 targets during the regular season.
Valdes-Scantling did not play like a No. 1 wide receiver on Sunday, but he did prove to be a threat. He made two of the biggest plays of the game. Mahomes did a lot of the leg and arm work on both, but the team’s top receiver — by salary — put himself in position to not only warrant the target, but also convert in a way that put his team in the position to win.
On one hand, the Chiefs’ Divisional Round victory against the Bills was a typical day for Valdes-Scantling. He caught 50 percent of the balls that were thrown his way. However, the receptions that he did make, saved the Chiefs’ season.