KANSAS CITY, Missouri – It took the Kansas City Chiefs five frustrating decades to make their second Super Bowl appearance.
Now the reigning champions are heading there for the second year in a row.
Showing no lingering effects from his concussion, Patrick Mahomes cut through the Buffalo high school with ruthless efficiency Sunday night, helping the Chiefs to a 38-24 victory over Josh Allen and the Bills in the Championship game of the AFC.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP finished with 325 passing yards and three touchdowns, most against favorite targets Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who rounded out their star quarterback with a record-breaking night.
The Chiefs will face a familiar foe – Tom Brady – and champion NFC Buccaneers two weeks from now in Tampa, Fla.
“It was just trusting each other. The best thing about this team is that we believe in each other, ”said Mahomes, who also suffered from a toe injury. “But the job is not done. We are going to Tampa; we are trying to revive it. “
Kelce finished with 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and Hill added nine catches for 172 yards, becoming the first duo in NFL history with back-to-back games of at least 100 yards each receiving in a single series. playoffs.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams have added short spells of TD for the Chiefs, who will look to become the eighth franchise and first team since the New England Patriots led by Brady in 2003 and 2004 to defend the Lombardi Trophy.
“I’m thrilled to be able to start over,” said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, whose father Lamar founded the franchise. “I thought a lot about my dad tonight, thought about my family and how excited my dad would have been that we could start over at Arrowhead Stadium. That’s what he would have liked most about it.
Allen, who had his worst game of the season in a loss to the Chiefs in Week 6, once again battled Kansas City’s blitz defense. He finished with 287 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception, but a big chunk of his numbers came as the Bills tried to bounce back from a 38-15 deficit in the dying minutes.
Their frustration boiled over with 3:19 to go, when Allen was sacked by Tanoh Kpassagnon. Alex Okafor finished the tackle and Allen resentedly threw the ball in his face. Offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Dion Dawkins rushed in and leveled Okafor, resulting in a flood of compensatory personal fouls penalties.
“Obviously, a lot of emotion,” Allen said. “Anytime you don’t end the season with a win, that’s the kind of emotion you’re going to have. The way it ended doesn’t suit me with how choppy and ticky-tack it is. I am disappointed with myself. I let my emotions get to me there. This is not how you are supposed to play football.
It capped a bitter night for the Bills, who had reached their first AFC title game since defeating Kansas City at home on January 1, 1994. They had won 11 of 12 since losing to the Chiefs. earlier this season – in fact, they hadn’t lagged in the second half since Week 8 – and were riding a wave of confidence that this could finally be their championship year.
Instead, after finally winning over the Patriots in the AFC East, the Bills have a new roadblock to the Super Bowl.
“It stings to go that far,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott, who previously worked with Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid in Philadelphia. “Sometimes the further you go, the harder it is to lose. It is a learning experience for us as an organization. “
The Chiefs actually spotted the Bills a 9-0 lead, in large part thanks to Mecole Hardman’s muffled punt inside their 5 that gave Buffalo a touchdown. But the reigning champions were hardly shaken; the Chiefs, after all, rallied in double digits with every one of their playoff wins last season, including their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.
Mahomes and Kelce quickly found their rhythm. And the rest of the Chiefs offense followed suit.
They surgically took down the Buffalo defense on a 14-game, 80-yard practice that ended in a short TD pitch to Hardman – no hard feelings over the fumble. Then the Chiefs ran 82 yards in just five plays, Hardman’s big 50-yard U-turn that set up Williams’ touchdown drop. Finally, they had three touchdowns in three possessions when Edwards-Helaire – in his first game after an ankle injury – capped a 77-yard drive with a short dive.
Buffalo’s only response was Tyler Bass’s shotgun who went 21-12 at the break.
However, you don’t beat Kansas City by shooting field goals from the 3-yard line. Or from the 9th, where the bills settled for one more to close within 24-15 at the end of the third quarter.
This became painfully clear in the campaign that followed. Mahomes hit Hill in stride and the All-Pro wide receiver quickly made the side tickets completely silly. Weaving in and out of hapless defensemen, Hill was eventually caught inside the 5-yard line after gaining 71 yards, finally setting up Kelce’s short TD grab a few plays later.
“You watch him on film, you see what he does. It’s like he’s running at a different speed than everyone else, ”said Micah Hyde. “And tonight we saw it firsthand for the second time. He is fast.
Any hopes the Bills had of a comeback were dashed when Rashad Fenton landed a deep pass into Kansas City territory. The Chiefs walked the other way, and Mahomes and Kelce kicked off the celebration of yet another Super Bowl trip when they logged in for their second score of the game.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Reid, who ended up tied with Joe Gibbs for career fourth place on the list with his 17th playoff win. “They did a phenomenal job, and hats off to the Buffalo Bills and the great job they’ve done all year, and most importantly, listen, we have the Lamar Hunt Trophy back in Kansas City.
“Now we have to get the bigger one.”
Chiefs: RG Andrew Wylie injured his knee early in the second period and LT Eric Fisher limped in the fourth quarter with an Achilles tendon injury. … CB L’Jarius Sneed and SS Armani Watts were assessed for concussions.
The Chiefs and Buccaneers only played 13 times, and Kansas City lost five in a row before a 27-24 win at Tampa on Nov. 29 – a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Brady is 5-5 in his career against the Chiefs, including an overtime victory for the Patriots in the AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium two years ago.
Dave Skretta of The Associated Press wrote this story.