Davis, Mahomes Make Playoff History

Buffalo Bills WR Gabriel Davis
Buffalo Bills WR Gabriel Davis
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Divisional - The 2021 divisional round of the NFL playoffs produced more than four all-time classic games. It also produced the best postseason game by a wide receiver in the past 17 years, and the best postseason game by a quarterback in a decade … and another quarterback game that doesn't look nearly as good in our numbers as it did on the field.

We'll begin with the receiver. Buffalo's Gabriel Davis had seven touchdown catches in a rookie in 2020, then failed to score in three games that postseason. He had six touchdowns in the regular season in 2021 and added another against New England in the wild-card round. He had two touchdowns against Carolina in Week 15 of this year, but otherwise had never scored more than once in a game. Then came Sunday night's game against Kansas City, when he found the end zone once in the second quarter, once in the third, and twice more in the fourth. He had four other catches too, all of them resulting in first downs, for a total of 201 receiving yards.

Let's put those numbers into perspective.

  • Davis is the first player in NFL history to catch four touchdown passes in a postseason game, and the first to do it in any game since Detroit's Marvin Jones in 2019.
     
  • Davis is the ninth player ever to go over 200 yards in a postseason game, and the first since Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton in the 2013 season (in a game played in January of 2014). The last to do it in the regular season was Ja'Marr Chase in Week 17; the last before that was also Ja'Marr Chase, in Week 7.
     
  • Davis is the seventh player ever to hit 200 yards and four touchdowns through the air in the same game and the first since San Francisco's Jerry Rice in 1990, nearly a decade before Davis was born. Before that, you have to go back to Buffalo's Jerry Butler in 1979, two years after Tom Brady was born.

On top of all that, Davis only had two incomplete targets. That all works out to 121 DYAR. That's the second-best receiving DYAR we have ever measured for a wide receiver in a playoff game, the third-best if you include rushing DYAR, and the best in either category since 2004.

Best WR Playoff Games, Combined DYAR, 1983-2021
Year Player Team Total
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Tgt Rec Yds TD Wk Def
2004 Reggie Wayne IND 137 137 0 11 10 221 2 WC DEN
1987 Anthony Carter MIN 131 113 18 12 10 227 0 DIV SF
2021 Gabriel Davis BUF 121 121 0 10 8 201 4 DIV KC
2005 Steve Smith CAR 116 104 13 13 12 218 2 DIV CHI
2011 Calvin Johnson DET 109 109 0 15 12 211 2 WC NO
2012 Julio Jones ATL 105 105 0 13 11 182 2 CCG SF
2008 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 103 103 0 10 9 152 3 CCG PHI
2013 T.Y. Hilton IND 102 102 0 18 13 224 2 WC KC
2004 Deion Branch NE 98 61 37 4 4 116 1 CCG PIT
1989 Jerry Rice SF 96 96 0 9 7 148 3 SB DEN

Davis would actually pass Anthony Carter here for second place if you remove opponent adjustments, where he gets a tiny bonus but Carter gets a big one. Reggie Wayne's 2004 game against Denver would still be on top, mostly because he had just the one incompletion.

(Jerry Rice finishes in 10th place for his performance in a Super Bowl win over Denver. He also finished in 11th place for his performance in a Super Bowl win over San Diego, and in 15th place for his performance in a Super Bowl win over Cincinnati. Rice has five playoff games with at least 80 DYAR. Larry Fitzgerald has two, in back-to-back weeks in 2008 against Philadelphia in the conference championship game and then against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. Nobody else has more than one.)

And yet Davis and the Bills lost, in part because Patrick Mahomes was so great for Kansas City. Mahomes completed 33 of 44 passes against Buffalo for 378 yards and three touchdowns, with two sacks and no interceptions or fumbles. He also ran seven times for 69 yards and a touchdown. That's a 75% completion rate and 8.6 yards per pass, which seem like very good numbers but nothing historic … until you remember that this was against the Buffalo Bills, who only allowed opponents to complete 56% of their passes for 5.7 yards per throw, both the lowest rates in the league. Also, the Bills only gave up 12 touchdown passes in the regular season, five fewer than any other defense.

That takes Mahomes from 223 DYAR without opponent adjustments to 307 with them. That's not just the best quarterback game of the playoffs, not just the best of the year, but the best in any year since 2014, when Ben Roethlisberger threw a half-dozen touchdowns against the Colts.

We're not going to run the table of all-time great quarterback playoff games here because we just did it last week, but we will tell you that Mahomes finishes in fourth place behind Kurt Warner vs. Green Bay in 2009, Drew Brees vs. Detroit in 2011, and Peyton Manning vs. Denver in 2004. Each of those games, however, was in the wild-card round, which means Mahomes just had the best quarterback game in the divisional, conference championship, or Super Bowl rounds in history. Nearly four decades of football, and no signal-caller has ever had this much value in such an important game.

And then there's Josh Allen, who finishes third this week among quarterbacks behind not only Mahomes but also Matthew Stafford, and this surprised us as much as it's probably surprising you right now. Allen's raw numbers were similar to Mahomes: 27-of-37 for 329 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions and two sacks, plus 11 carries for 68 yards. That's a 73% completion rate and 8.9 yards per throw. But Allen wasn't nearly as consistent as Mahomes, with seven failed completions and a 49% success rate on passing plays. Mahomes only had six failed completions (and remember, he completed a half-dozen more passes) and a 59% success rate. Further, Allen fumbled on one of his sacks, though the Bills recovered.

Allen's rushing success was also fairly hit-and-miss, with five first downs on the ground, but also four plays that counted as failures. Allen actually had negative DYAR on third-down passing plays, going 5-of-5 for only 15 yards with three conversions, two sacks, and a fumble. He was better on third-down runs (five carries for 29 yards and three conversions) and perfect on fourth downs (one pass for a 27-yard touchdown, two runs for 16 yards and two first downs), but in the end it was a really good day, not a dominant one.

If it's any condolence to Allen and the Bills, he'll probably get a lot more chances to get a dominant game. We'll probably be seeing a lot more Bills-Chiefs playoff games in the next few years, and that's good news for football fans everywhere.

 

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Patrick Mahomes KC
33/44
378
3
0
2
307
270
38
BUF
Mahomes ended the game on a tear, completing each of his last nine passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. On third and fourth downs, he went 8-of-9 for 62 yards and six conversions, including a touchdown. Though he only threw two deep balls, he had nine passes that traveled at least 10 yards downfield, completing seven of them for 153 yards and a touchdown. Three of his runs also produced first downs, including a 34-yard gain on third-and-6.
2.
Matthew Stafford LAR
28/37
366
2
0
2
209
204
5
TB
Stafford was nearly perfect on throws to his left, going 13-of-15 for 93 yards and a touchdown, plus a 16-yard DPI. He was also nearly perfect on deep balls, going 4-of-5 for 163 yards and a touchdown, plus that 16-yard DPI. His third-down results were quite a mixed bag: he went 5-of-9 for 92 yards with only three conversions, but one of those conversions was a 70-yard touchdown on third-and-20.
3.
Josh Allen BUF
27/37
329
4
0
2
116
106
10
KC
Further down these tables, you'll find Gabriel Davis listed as our top receiver and Stefon Diggs as our worst. We'll get to those guys later, but if you take out throws to those two players, Allen went 16-of-21 for 121 yards and only five first downs. He also had struggles on throws to his right, going 8-of-13 for 46 yards and only one first down.
4.
Tom Brady TB
30/54
329
1
1
3
-13
-13
0
LAR
Brady had tons of opportunities in scoring range but only threw for one touchdown. Inside the L.A. 40, he went 12-of-26 for 66 yards with more sacks (one) than touchdown passes (zero). On third/fourth downs, he went 5-of-15 for 43 yards with one sack and only three conversions.
5.
Aaron Rodgers GB
20/28
225
0
0
5
-25
-25
0
SF
With about 14 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Rodgers hit Allen Lazard for a 6-yard gain on third-and-4. That was the last time he threw for a first down this season; after that, he went 2-of-5 for 6 yards with two sacks. In the red zone, he went 4-for-4 for 14 yards with more sacks (two) and fumbles (one) than touchdowns (zero). On throws to his left, he went 6-of-8 for 23 yards and only one first down. Finally, on throws to players besides Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, he went 2-of-7 for 6 yards.
6.
Joe Burrow CIN
28/36
348
0
1
9
-26
-31
5
TEN
Burrow had a very rough day in scoring range. Inside the Tennessee 40, he failed to throw for a single first down, let alone touchdown, going 4-of-5 for 27 yards with five, count 'em, five sacks.
7.
Jimmy Garoppolo SF
11/19
131
0
1
4
-42
-42
0
GB
Garoppolo did not throw for a first down until midway through the second quarter. Up to that point, he had gone 0-for-5 with three sacks. He threw one pass in the red zone; it was intercepted. He only had one third-down conversion all night, going 3-of-4 for 42 yards with four sacks.
8.
Ryan Tannehill TEN
15/24
220
1
3
1
-84
-75
-9
CIN
Tannehill is the only quarterback this week to lose DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He only threw two passes in the red zone: an 8-yard gain on first-and-10 and an interception on first-and-goal. On third downs, he went 2-of-4 for 8 yards with one conversion, one interception, and one sack.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Aaron Jones GB
12
41
0
9/10
129
0
56
18
39
SF
Jones ran for three first downs against San Francisco, the longest a gain of 14, while being stuffed twice. Only two of his receptions moved the sticks, but those two were a 19-yard gain on second-and-11 and a 75-yard gain on third-and-3.
2.
Leonard Fournette TB
13
51
2
9/9
56
0
32
31
1
LAR
Though Fournette's longest run against L.A. gained only 11 yards, he picked up five first downs while being stuffed just twice. He had three carries with 1 yard to go and got the first down every time. Two of his catches picked up first downs, including a 19-yard gain on second-and-17.
3.
Joe Mixon CIN
14
54
1
6/7
51
0
28
11
17
TEN
Mixon ran for three first downs against Tennessee, the longest his 16-yard touchdown, while being stuffed three times. Two of his catches also picked up first downs, including a 21-yard gain on third-and-13.
4.
AJ Dillon GB
7
25
1
0/0
0
0
21
21
0
SF
Dillon's longest carry gained only 6 yards, but all of them gained at least 2 and two went for first downs.
5.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC
7
60
0
1/2
9
0
18
25
-7
BUF
Each of Edwards-Helaire's seven carries gained at least two yards, including 20- and 22-yard gains. His one catch was a 9-yard gain on second-and-12; his DYAR is dinged for an incomplete pass on second-and-2.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Leonard Fournette TB
13
51
2
9/9
56
0
32
31
1
LAR
2.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC
7
60
0
1/2
9
0
18
25
-7
BUF
3.
AJ Dillon GB
7
25
1
0/0
0
0
21
21
0
SF
4.
Derrick Henry TEN
20
62
1
0/0
0
0
18
18
0
CIN
Henry ran for five first downs against Cincinnati—or, one for every time he was stuffed.
5.
Aaron Jones GB
12
41
0
9/10
129
0
56
18
39
SF

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Cam Akers LAR
24
48
0
3/3
20
0
-54
-66
12
TB
This was among the bottom five running back playoff games on record for both total DYAR and rushing DYAR. The record-holder in both departments is Willie Green, who had -69 DYAR for his 25-carry, 30-yard performance against Pittsburgh in 2002. Akers had two fumbles and two first downs. His longest carry gained only 9 yards. He was stuffed eight times, five of them on first-and-10. But hey, two of his catches picked up first downs. So there's that.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Cam Akers LAR
24
48
0
3/3
20
0
-54
-66
12
TB

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Gabriel Davis BUF
8
10
201
25.1
4
121
KC
2.
Tyreek Hill KC
11
13
150
13.6
1
49
BUF
Hill's totals include -6 rushing DYAR for his one carry, a 2-yard loss. Only six of his catches produced first downs, but one of those was a 64-yard touchdown.
3.
A.J. Brown TEN
5
9
142
28.4
1
48
CIN
Four of Brown's catches gained at least 20 yards and a first down, including 40- and 41-yard gains.
4.
Travis Kelce KC
8
9
96
12.0
1
46
BUF
Seven of Kelce's catches produced first downs, the longest a gain of 25.
5.
Cooper Kupp LAR
9
11
183
20.3
1
43
TB
Kupp lost a fumble and only had four first downs, but those four plays gained 17, 20, 44, and 70 yards.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Stefon Diggs BUF
3
6
7
2.3
0
-32
KC
Diggs' three catches: 1-yard gain on second-and-10; 5-yard gain on third-and-4; 1-yard gain on first-and-10.

Comments

50 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2022, 12:32pm

1 Allen and Mahomes

They're the two best quarterbacks in the league right now. Play that game in Buffalo instead, and I would bet that Allen comes out with one of the top games of all time and Mahomes ends up with "a really good game, not a dominant one." Home-field advantage is disappearing in the league, but it's huge in a game between these two teams, especially in the playoffs.

26 not really.  the chiefs went…

not really.  the chiefs went 8-0 in November and December when the bills lost the 4 games that cost them a bye.  when the chiefs finally lost again, to the bengals, it was in week 17 in January and the bills were already screwed out of getting a top 2 seed and kc's loss only served to allow the titans to regain the #1 seed

15 Early-season Baltimore, the…

Early-season Baltimore, the Chargers, and Cincy are all teams with top offenses/QBs who beat KC in a shootout by extremely slim margins. It happens.

JAX was a 3-14 tire fire who was a few weeks away from firing their coach, who absolutely whipped our offensive line all game.

50 The Baltimore game was fumble (bad) luck

The Chiefs were setting up to kick a GWFG when the ball was fumbled. The Bills losing to JAX was the worst loss of any of the playoff teams. Really only Indy's loss to JAX was worse considering all they had to do was beat them to make the playoffs.

Buffalo fans may think it is a step back considering they were in the AFC title game last year but this team is better and even though their cap isn't great, it is mostly a young team..

9 Titans loss

That game for sure was just maddening.

But there's also the missed 4th and Goal QB sneak against the Titans.

I know you can't do it this way, but if you were to turn that around and keep everything else the same, the Bills are the #1 seed w/ h2h wins over Tennessee and KC.

Main point by OP is right - they need to get them in Buffalo. Not that they can't win in KC, or that KC can't win in Buffalo, but if this is going to mirror Brady/Manning, well it's no surprise the home QB was 5-0 in that rivalry, and Manning didn't get a win until he got them in Indy.

12 Brady-Manning

In reply to by dmstorm22

I dared go there yesterday as an AFC fan that has seen the miracle championship of Flacco at Manning followed by Flacco at Brady victories and now I feel it may be a decade of at BUF at KC for championship.  Huge break for CIN only needing to play one of them.

21 But if Joe Flacco can go off like that

In reply to by jheidelberg

then maybe Jackson or Herbert or Burrow can do it too

Certainly the Ravens in the post-season have a good history on the road (even if you take out that year)

30 Mahomes and Allen

I am not concerned so much as to going on the road.  Allen torched an excellent NE defense and a much improved KC defense.  Mahomes torched an excellent Buffalo defense.

No matter how much anyone believes in Burrow, Jackson, Herbert, or others, Allen and Mahomes make defense irrelevant, they torch the best.  Mahomes has a track record now.

Scoring 30 against either sounds like a losing proposition.

28 The Ravens aren't a terrible…

In reply to by jheidelberg

The Ravens aren't a terrible comp for the Bills. The Ravens consistently were a playoff -- or deep playoff -- team for years before finally breaking through.

39 Also lost a crushing game

They also lost a soul-crushing type loss the year before winning the title.

In a way, there's a few of those out there. The 2006 Colts is another example, winning the year after the Bettis Fumble game. Or hell, it was only year 2 in the playoffs, but the 2010 Packers winning it all after losing the 45-51 game to Arizona.

Teams routinely can survive terrible, heart-wrenching losses if the talent base is there, which it very much still is in Buffalo.

41 LOL How did I forget

Yeah..... how did I possibly forget that one.

Even going back, the Raiders made the Super Bowl the year after the Tuck Rule loss. The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl the year after they lost in OT at home to the Giants with Kyle Williams muffing the punt.

Being good enough to be in that type of position generally means you are good in isolation and can easily maintain being good.

 

4 Well, it also helped a…

Well, it also helped a bucket-ton that Kansas City lost one of their best defensive backs.

It's really telling that Mathieu self-reported his head injury. In a playoff game. That's an amazing change from a decade ago, and if it hadn't been for epic-level play from Mahomes, it would've cost Kansas City the game.

11 Oh, no, totally fair…

In reply to by Jackson87

Oh, no, totally fair. Absolutely fair. But there's a huge difference between losing a DB in November and losing him during the game.

36 Is an issue of communication

Seems self-evident that the Chiefs would have a harder time in Orchard Park and the Bills would have an easier one. Unfortunately, the Bills will have to travel to Arrowhead for the next two years because of how the NFL schedule works, so getting them here for the playoffs is going to be very, very tough. 

43 Oh I know that pain. The…

Oh I know that pain. The Packers had to play at Dallas in 93, 94, 95, and 96 in the regular season and lost to them at Dallas in the playoffs in 93, 94, and 95. The hatred of the Cowboys (and to a much lesser extent the NFL schedule) runs very very deep. This was the Packers team coming off decades of futility and mediocrity in the 70's and 80's. So it parallels the Bills even even more. I hope it works out better for the Bills even as a someone who has lived in KC for 9 years now and quite enjoys watching the Chiefs. That 97 stomping of Dallas at GB was so good it almost took the sting out of losing the Super Bowl to Denver that year. This is why I've never gotten worked up over San Fran being a playoff nemesis in recent years either. It wasn't 3 years in a row of having your new found success snuffed out over and over and over by a team you had to face on the road all the damn time. Counting playoffs 7 damn road games in a row against them.

The hatred of the Cowboys from that is still so strong that as much as I didn't want to play SF in the playoffs this year because I felt they were the worst match-up for the Packers of any team in either conference I still enjoyed seeing SF beat them.

So yes I really hope the Bills do not get the same thing with KC because it leaves deep scars and I don't want anyone else to have them.

27 Allen is very good, but…

Allen is very good, but still inconsistent. The thing he truly excels at is handling passrushers. He's so tough to bring down it's unbelievable. He's the Deebo Samuel of QBs in that he could be a RB, except defenders never seem to get good hits on him like the Packers did Samuel on Saturday.

3 Feast or famine

It must be super rare for more than half of qualifying QBs to be below replacement level in any week, let alone in the postseason, where defensive adjustments usually push the numbers upward.

I'm surprised that Henry finished above Foreman in rushing DYAR, even accounting for volume.

6 No QBs were mediocre this…

In reply to by ammek

No QBs were mediocre this week. Three were excellent, three were bad, and two were putrid.

Fortunately, two great ones were matched against each other and bad mostly played bad. Tom Brady made up for his terrible passing by forcing 4 fumbles on defense.

14 Stolen property

Where did the Brady forced fumbles line come from?  Instead of serving you a cease and desist order, I welcome you to the rag on Brady narrative club, and keep spreading the word.

Ultimately we can charge the Rams with attempted Falcolning, but since they won, I think that the charges will be dropped.  They did really try however.

23 The collapse was worse

In reply to by jheidelberg

Honestly, I found the Rams collapse to be even worse, or at least more audacious.

The Falcons had the fumble and the sack to go out of field goal range, but the Rams had three fumbles (from after 27-3 up, of course the one before it), one of which was the ridiculous snap. They somehow miss a 47-yard field goal short. The final fumble comes one yard away from clinching the win.

I'll give the Rams credit for this, they got hte ball after it was tied with less time than the Falcons did in the Super Bowl and made it work.

29 Where did the Brady forced…

In reply to by jheidelberg

Where did the Brady forced fumbles line come from? 

Brady's long history of absurd runs of luck in his opponents forgetting how to football immediately after he makes a poor play or while he has a bad game.

We discussed it the long Sunday thread and in the audibles today.

35 Foreman had 23 rushing DYAR,…

In reply to by ammek

Foreman had 23 rushing DYAR, but only four carries, so he didn't qualify for the tables. I should have at least mentioned him in Henry's comment though. 

42 I think the weather had a…

In reply to by ammek

I think the weather had a big effect on passing in the GB-SF game, especially in the second half when the snow started coming down. I don't think either team completed a pass with more than 10-12 air yards the entire second half.  

45 The weather was a huge…

The weather was a huge problem in that game. It was amplified by both pass rushes wrecking the opposing offenses. It was a perfect storm for terrible QB play that would have looked significantly worse if Rodgers doesn't hit that beautiful throw to Aaron Jones at the end of the 1st half or one of Jimmy's pick 6 balls got caught by GB. The play of those 2 defensive fronts was absolutely insane. 

13 I'd like to see a few more DYAR analyses for Chiefs-Bills

Namely:

  1. Each quarterback by half, since Brian Daboll kept calling for the short stuff (swing passes to RBs, etc.) too long in the first half
  2. Mahomes without his OT numbers, since Allen didn't get a chance to respond

Prior to the last 13 seconds, the Bills had run 63 plays for 422 yards, and the Chiefs had run 63 for 433 yards. Those last 13 seconds and the overtime drive obviously count, and Mahomes was freaking awesome, but I suspect the two-play drive against soft coverage and the overtime drive against a gassed defense made these numbers look more disparate than they deserved to look.

17 Allen had a couple really…

Allen had a couple really-bad plays that he overcame with really good plays shortly after. I recall him being strip-sacked, but the ball ricocheting right off a Chief and back into his hands. He also throw a terrible dumpoff to Singletary on 3rd and 10 that ended up losing 7 yards and forced his 4th down heroics. I can't recall Mahomes making any equivalent screw-ups, KCs negative plays seemed to be on other guys.

33 Well then

Rodgers had the best QB game of the DAY.

Still not what you want but, man the playoffs always bring out the QB winz folks and they start acting like he (and others) are the worst ever. 

44 I'm not surprised. Midway…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I'm not surprised. Midway though the Rams-Bucs game I thought about it and figured that Rodgers was the 2nd best QB of the weekend so far, trailing only Stafford (and ahead of Brady, who hadn't done anything yet).

Still a pretty bad performance, but not hard to be better than Tannehill with all the picks or Burrow with all the sacks.

46 In the worst conditions by…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

In the worst conditions by far against arguably the toughest opposing defense. I know Rodgers is getting killed today but I can't really think of many players that would have done better in the same position. I felt the same about Dak when he was getting pummeled in the WC round. A great pass rush makes great QBs look bad (Rodgers) and average QBs look unplayable (Jimmy G). Just look how bad Brady was playing for 3 quarters dealing with Donald and Miller abusing their offensive line.

38 Concern with Handsome Jim…

Concern with Handsome Jim going forward is he's good for ~10 DYAR per playoff game (high of 33, low of -42). 

You basically need to be able to win the last two games with Taylor Heinecke or Baker Mayfield back there.