The Kansas City Chiefs are heading to their third Super Bowl in the past four years after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship on Sunday night. Harrison Butker hit a game-winning field goal from 45 yards to seal Arrowhead Stadium’s 23-20 victory.
Mahomes shakes off ankle injury
All the talk heading into the championship round has been about the status of Patrick Mahomes’ sprained ankle he suffered last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. From the first series, the Kansas City quarterback looked mobile, but maybe not as nimble as we’re used to seeing him every week. There were a few awkward moments throughout the game for the KC QB, but when it mattered most, Mahomes took care of business with his legs.
It was supposed to be a game between two top flight teams who have known each other quite well over the past few years. The Bengals have had the Chiefs’ numbers in recent history, but that wasn’t the case in Arrowhead’s AFC title game.
The high-octane shootout we’ve all been waiting for got off to a slow start as the KC defense pressured Cincy QB Joe Burrow on first possession. They had four first half sacks, and made it difficult for the Bengals gunslinger to feel comfortable in the pocket.
Slow start for high power offenses
Despite the defensive dominance, Mahomes and the offense struggled to get the ball into the end zone, settling for two field goals in their first two possessions. Cincinnati added a field goal to the scoreboard, and it wasn’t until late in the first half that the Chiefs found the end zone for the first time. 4th-and-1, the Chiefs decided to let Mahomes play on a rollout and he hit Travis Kelce for a 14-yard TD to take a 13-3 lead with less than four minutes left in the second quarter.
A late field goal from Evan McPherson to close the half cut the lead to a touchdown, and the Bengals offense finally activated as the half came out. Burrow drove the Bengals downfield and hit Tee Higgins for a 27-yard TD to tie the game at 13-13.
Kansas City will not be slow to react. They fought back on the next possession as Mahomes led an 11-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard dart to midfielder Marquez Valdes-Scantling for the touchdown. After forcing Cincy to three and out, the Chiefs were rolling down the field again, but Mahomes made a rare mistake when the ball slipped out of his hands on a flat pass and the fumble was picked up by Sam Hubbard.
Six plays later, the Bengals would tie the game with a Samaje Perine TD run from two yards early in the fourth quarter.
Butker with game winner
The Chiefs’ punts and Burrow’s second interception of the nights allowed Mahomes to steal the show late in the fourth quarter. With 30 seconds left on the clock, KC took over from their 47-yard line after a fantastic punt return from Skyy Moore. Joseph Ossai helped Kansas City’s cause when Mahomes rushed a 3-and-4 from midfield, clinched the first down, then was hit late by the Bengals defender. The penalty moved the Chiefs into goal-scoring position on the pitch and Butker drilled the game-winner from 45 yards with three seconds on the clock.
Mahomes didn’t look perfect, but on a night when he couldn’t rely on his mobility in the pocket, he still went for 326 yards and three touchdowns in 29/43, while Burrow went 26/41 with 270 yards, one touchdown. and threw two interceptions.
The Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years and are ready for a showdown in the desert against the Philadelphia Eagles of Glendale, Arizona in two weeks.