Kansas City, Mo. – The ankle was a problem. So was Cincinnati’s quick, hard-hitting, opportunistic defense and a Bengals team that just wouldn’t leave.
But in the end, Patrick Mahomes was Patrick Mahomes, and that was enough to get Kansas City into the Super Bowl.
Mahomes, hampered by a high ankle sprain but still capable of some magic, led the Chiefs on a four-play, 26-yard, 27-second last-minute game-winning field goal drive to send Kansas City past the Bengals, 23-20, here for a frenzied, red-clad Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City will meet Philadelphia on February 12 in Glendale, Arizona for a shot at their second Super Bowl title in their third appearance in four years. It will be a reunion of sorts for Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who coached Philadelphia for 14 seasons, including a trip to the Super Bowl, before coming to Kansas City.
It set up a three-game losing streak against the Bengals, including a loss in the same AFC championship game a year ago. Cincinnati had become vocal in its confidence, including naming Arrowhead Stadium “Burrowhead” in honor of their star quarterback Joe Burrow.
“We showed this place it’s ‘Arrowhead’.” said Mahomes after Sunday’s win, “not ‘Burrowhead.'”
Tight End Travis Kelce had his own thoughts for Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, who this week posted a video requesting Burrow take a paternity test to confirm if he is Mahomes’ father.
“Hey, I have some words of wisdom for that mayor of Cincinnati,” Kelce said. “Know your role and shut up, you jabroni.”
Mahomes threw for 29 of 43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns. However, his greatest plays came at the end, courtesy of his feet, not his arm.
Starting on his own 47-yard line with just 30 seconds left, Mahomes swung the ball out six yards to Isiah Pacheco. He then scrambled for 9 yards and a first down and took an unnecessary roughness penalty on Joseph Ossai.
That was enough to set up a 45-yard field goal by Harrison Butker that just crossed the crossbar to win it.
Neither the game nor Mahomes was perfect, but that’s often how it goes on a cold night in January, so deep into the playoffs. After losing to the same Bengals in the same game at the same stadium a year ago, the win was all that mattered.
Mahomes finished 29 of 43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Both he and Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow had multiple chances to lead drives to win it, but were full of excellent and inspired defensive play.
At least until the last drive, as he geared up for the season, Mahomes was able to forget about the high ankle sprain he suffered against Jacksonville a week ago and make a play and draw a heartbreaking foul from Cincinnati.
Burrow finished 26 of 41 for 270 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He was harassed all night by a ferocious Chiefs pass rush, particularly Frank Clark and Chris Jones.
Midway through the third quarter, the Chiefs appeared to take control of the game. After the Bengals tied the game at 13, Mahomes led an 11-play, 77-yard drive highlighted by a 19-yard ball from a touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The Kansas City defense then flexed its own muscles, holding Burrow and the Bengals to three and out, then stopped them at fourth and sixth to begin the fourth quarter. However, a Mahomes fumble gave life to Cincy and Joe Burrow led a tying touchdown drive.
However, neither team could break through until the dying seconds, when Mahomes pulled the penalty that sent Kansas City past its nemesis and back into the big game.