On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in the AFC title game thanks to Harrison Butker’s 45-yard field goal with just a few seconds remaining after Patrick Mahomes was shoved out of bounds by Joseph Ossai after scrambling for a first down with a badly sprained right ankle.
The Bosses at last beat the Bengals after three straight misfortunes, including a three-point extra time rout in last year’s title game, and will play the Philadelphia Hawks – mentor Andy Reid’s old group – in their third Super Bowl in four years.
Mahomes praised the Eagles, saying, “I’ve watched them all year, great quarterback, great team.” We will face a formidable obstacle, but I will first celebrate this one. We won’t need any cigars, but we’ll be prepared for the Super Bowl.
Despite missing three of his wide receivers due to injuries by the end, Mahomes threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns despite injuring his ankle against Jacksonville in the divisional round. Travis Kelce, despite having a bad back, had seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Marquez Valdes-Scantling finished with 116 yards and a touchdown.
However, rather than using his powerful right arm to save the Chiefs, Mahomes rescued them on his injured right ankle.
“At some points in games, you’ve gotta just put it all on the line,” Mahomes said. “The defense gave us a couple chances to get in field goal range, we didn’t get there. The defense got another stop for us and I knew I was going to get there somehow. So I just put it all on the line and we got in field goal range, and we’re at Arrowhead now and we’re in.”
With 39 seconds left, the Chiefs forced a punt with a crucial sack from Chris Jones, and Skyy Moore broke free on the return for 29 yards. Mahomes evaded pressure on third-and-4 at the Bengals’ 47 and scrambled toward the Bengals’ sideline, barely gaining the first down before Ossai shoved him behind.
The flags for a penalty were raised, the ball moved 15 yards closer, and Butker kicked well.
“We’re not going to make it about one play. There was plenty of plays we left on the field today that could have put us in a better position,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “The character of this football team, that’s never going to change. We’ve got the right people in the locker room, the right men leading this team and this organization.”
The Bengals got 270 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions from Joe Burrow, who was sacked five times and wobbly by the end. Six receptions by Tee Higgins led to 83 yards and a touchdown.
In the divisional round last week, the Chiefs were able to do early what the Buffalo Bills could not: They did not give a damn about the ailing Bengals offensive line, which lost two starters to injuries and had another one with a sore knee.
The Bengals’ offense did not gain a single yard after Burrow was sacked three times in the first quarter alone.
On Kansas City’s first possession, Mahomes, whose ankle had been the subject of speculation all week, kicked a field goal. And when the Chiefs got the ball back, Mahomes did it again, but this time he did it after Kadarius Toney failed to catch a clever throw for a touchdown, and the review found that the incompletion was correct.
In the second quarter, Cincinnati finally got the ball moving, but they also had to settle for Evan McPherson’s chip-shot field goal.
After a few good grabs by Valdes-Scantling, the Chiefs moved quickly downfield until they reached the end zone late in the second quarter. On third-and-1 from their own 14-yard line, the Bengals held, but the Chiefs went for it and Mahomes hit Kelce, who was loosely covered by Jessie Bates III, for the touchdown.
In the closing minutes, the Bengals drove 90 yards, but they only scored a field goal to pull within 13-6 at halftime.
But their offense was just getting started, and they were about to play another classic.
Burrow led the Bengals downfield after the Chiefs went three-and-out to start the second half and burst through a huge hole in the defense for a third-down conversion before hitting Higgins from 27 yards out to tie the game at 13-13.
Mahomes gamely carried on despite losing three wide receivers to injuries and beginning to limp. He responded to Burrow with his own touchdown drive, which culminated in a third-down pass to Valdes-Scantling to retake the lead.
After Mahomes somehow lost control of the ball before he could throw a pass, the Chiefs had a chance to get some breathing room in the third quarter, but the Bengals took advantage of the fumble. Six plays later, Samaje Perine ran into the end zone to tie the score at 20 with an audacious fourth-down throw from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase.
When Burrow’s deep throw to Higgins on third down was batted into the air and picked up by rookie cornerback Josh Williams, the Chiefs had a chance. The Chiefs were able to get past midfield thanks to two runs by Mahomes, but his third-down throw to Jerick McKinnon was too short, and they had to punt in Bengals territory.
However, the Chiefs’ defense prevailed, allowing Mahomes and their offense one more chance. They would seize the opportunity.
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