KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice is from Dallas and played in college at SMU, so he’s never played a game in weather remotely approaching that from Saturday night’s Kansas City Chiefs wild-card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Rice looked like a natural with the temperature at minus 4 degrees at kickoff, the fourth-coldest playoff game in NFL history. Rice had 130 receiving yards, sixth most by a rookie in the playoffs, and a touchdown on eight catches as the Chiefs advanced to next week’s divisional round with a 26-7 win over the Miami Dolphins.
“I feel like, to be honest, it was another game,” Rice said. “Everybody out here was playing for each other, so it was just like we just put the weather to the side and knew that our opponents didn’t want to be out here in this cold as much as we didn’t.”
The Chiefs, who led the league during the regular season in dropped passes and were among the leaders in turnovers, played a relatively clean game given the circumstances. They had a couple of drops, but were able to overcome them each time. They didn’t commit a turnover until running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumbled in the final minutes as the Chiefs were merely trying to kill the clock.
Patrick Mahomes was 23-of-41 for 262 yards and had an 11-yard scoring toss to Rice, who ran a shallow crossing route, caught the short pass and ran untouched to the end zone.
“The guys accepted the challenge,” Mahomes said. “We were able to throw the ball, we were able to run the ball. … I thought the [offensive] line did a great job and we had that mentality all week that we’re going to go out there and play football. We know it’s cold, but we’re going to go out there and play football and see what happens.”
The Dolphins tried complicating those efforts by blitzing Mahomes at a rate he’s rarely seen. He faced six or more pass-rushers 14 times, the most of his career. He saw five or more rushers on 51.2% of his dropbacks, which was tied for the highest rate of his career.
But Mahomes wasn’t sacked and he didn’t commit a turnover.
“I don’t think they were anticipating us throwing the ball quite as much as we did, but we were able to come out and sling it,” coach Andy Reid said. “A lot of quarterbacks can’t do that, what he did in that kind of weather.”
Rice was the Chiefs’ leading wide receiver during the regular season by a wide margin. He improved as the season progressed and twice went for more than 100 yards in his final six games.
“Some of those guys hit that rookie wall and it seems like he just kind of pushed right through it and he’s just continued to get better and better and he’s a great player,” Mahomes said. “He has that right mentality. He comes to work every single day and he made a lot of great plays for us today that helped us win the football game.”
The rest of the Chiefs’ wide receivers struggled much of the season. They were counting on significant production from Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore but got it from none of them so Rice’s emergence was essential.
Tight end Travis Kelce caught seven passes against the Dolphins. Otherwise, none of their receivers had more than two catches.
“It’s hard to believe that he’s a rookie,” Reid said of Rice. “The best part about him is he just keeps working. He’s relentless with that and he’s got a good relationship [with Mahomes]. He’s got Pat’s respect and he wants to do it the right way.
“He’s getting better every week and so I think we’ve seen that the last four games, five games.”
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