Patrick Mahomes rushed for a first down on his badly sprained right ankle, then was pushed late out of bounds by Joseph Ossai, giving Harrison Butker a chance to throw a 45-yard field goal with just seconds remaining and give to the Kansas City Chiefs a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday night’s AFC title game.
The Chiefs finally beat the Bengals after three straight losses, including a three-point overtime loss in last year’s title game, and will face the Philadelphia Eagles – coach Andy Reid’s former team – in their third Super Bowl in four years.
“I watched them all year, great quarterback, great whole team,” Mahomes said of the Eagles. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but I’m going to celebrate this one first. I don’t think we have any cigars, but we’ll be ready to go to the Super Bowl.
Mahomes, who hurt his ankle against Jacksonville in the divisional round, threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns, though he was missing three of his wide receivers with injuries late. Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with 116 yards and a touchdown, while Travis Kelce — bad back and all — had seven catches for 78 yards and a score.
Still, it was Mahomes on his injured right ankle, rather than his strong right arm, that saved the Chiefs.
“There are times in games where you have to put it all on the line,” Mahomes said. “The defense gave us a few chances to get into the field, we just couldn’t. The defense had another save for us and I knew I was going to get there somehow. So I put it all on the line and we walked into the shooting range, and we’re in Arrowhead now and we’re in.
The Chiefs got a crucial sack from Chris Jones to force a punt with 39 seconds left, and running back Skyy Moore broke free for 29 return yards. On 3rd and 4th at the Bengals 47, Mahomes escaped the pressure and raced to the Bengals sideline, barely recovering the first down before Ossai gave him a push from behind.
Penalty flags flew, the ball came 15 yards closer and Butker’s kick was good.
“We’re not going to settle for just one play. There were a lot of plays we left on the court today that could have put us in a better position,” Bengals coach Zac said. Taylor. “The character of this football team will never change. We have the right people in the locker room, the right men leading this team and this organisation.
Joe Burrow, who was sacked five times and wobbly at the end, finished with 270 passing yards to go with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bengals. Tee Higgins had six catches for 83 yards and the score.
The Chiefs were able to do early what the Buffalo Bills couldn’t in last week’s Divisional Round: They trampled on a struggling Bengals offensive line, missing two starters through injury and another in embarrassment. by knee pain.
Burrow was sacked three times in the first quarter alone and the Bengals offense didn’t gain a single yard.
Mahomes, whose ankle had been the subject of speculation all week, led Kansas City to a field goal on their opening possession. And when the Chiefs got the ball back, Mahomes did it again, but only after Kadarius Toney failed to make a trick throw for a possible touchdown – the incompletion was confirmed after review.
Cincinnati finally moved the ball in the second quarter, but they also had to settle for Evan McPherson’s field goal.
The Chiefs finally reached the end zone late in the second quarter, moving quickly down the field behind some fine catches from Valdes-Scantling. The Bengals held 3rd-1 on their 14-yard line, but the Chiefs went there and Mahomes hit Kelce loosely covered by Jessie Bates III for the touchdown.
The Bengals went for 90 yards in the final minutes but only added a field goal to go 13-6 at the break.
But their attack was just beginning – and another classic was brewing.
After the Chiefs went to three to start the second half, Burrow led the Bengals down, running through a gaping hole in the defense for a third conversion before hitting Higgins from 27 yards to tie the game 13-13 .
Mahomes, suddenly injured by three wide receivers and starting to limp, continued gallantly. He responded to Burrow with his own touchdown, capped off by a third pitch to Valdes-Scantling to regain the lead.
The Chiefs were lucky to gain some respite later in the third quarter, but Mahomes somehow lost control of the ball before he could throw a pass and the Bengals jumped on the fumble. Six plays later – including a daring fourth pitch from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase – Samaje Perine ran into the end zone to tie it at 20.
Burrow gave the Chiefs a chance when his deep throw to Higgins on third down was thrown in the air and picked out by rookie cornerback Josh Williams. Mahomes was able to move the Chiefs past midfield, but two runs went for naught and his third pitch to Jerick McKinnon fell short, forcing them to punt into Bengals territory.
The Chiefs defense held firm, however, giving Mahomes and their offense one more try. It was a chance they would take.