The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to their third Super Bowl in the last four years after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship on Sunday night. Harrison Butker hits a game winning 45 yard field goal to seal the 23-20 win from Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes shakes off ankle injury
All of the talk coming into the Championship Round surrounded the status of Patrick Mahomes’ high ankle sprain he suffered last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. From the first series, the Kansas City quarterback looked mobile, but maybe not as agile as we are used to seeing him on a weekly basis. There were a few moments of discomfort throughout the game for the KC QB, but when it counted the most Mahomes took care of buisness with his legs.
It was supposed to be a matchup between two high flying teams that have grown quite familiar with each other over the last few years. The Bengals have had the Chiefs numbers in recent history, but that wasn’t the case in the AFC Title game from Arrowhead.
The high octane shootout we all expected got off to a slow start as the KC defense pressured Cincy QB Joe Burrow from the first possession onwards. They had four first half sacks, and made it difficult for the Bengals gunslinger to feel comfortable in the pocket.
Slow start for high powered offenses
Despite the defensive dominance, Mahomes and the offense struggled to punch the ball in the end zone, settling for two field goals in their opening two possessions. Cincinnati added a field goal to the score board, and it wasn’t until late in the first half that the Chiefs found the end zone for the first time. On 4th and 1, the Chiefs decided to let Mahomes make a play on a roll out and he hit Travis Kelce for a 14 yard TD to take a 13-3 lead with under four minutes to go in the second quarter.
A late Evan McPherson field goal to close the half cut the lead to a touchdown, and Bengals offense finally turned on coming out of halftime. Burrow drove the Bengals down the field and hit Tee Higgins for a 27 yard TD to tie the game up at 13-13.
Kansas City would not take too long to respond. They punched back on the next possession as Mahomes led an 11 play, 77 yard drive that ended with a 19 yard dart over the middle to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for the go ahead touchdown. After forcing Cincy into a three and out, the Chiefs were driving down field again, but Mahomes made a rare mistake when the ball slipped out of his hands on a pass to the flat and the fumble was recovered by Sam Hubbard.
Six plays later the Bengals would tie up the game with a Samaje Perine TD run from two yards out in the early stages of the fourth quarter.
Butker with the game winner
Punts from the Chiefs and the second interception of Burrow’s nights the stage for 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 the Kansas City cause when Mahomes went scrambling on a 3rd and 4 from around midfield, picked up the first down, and then was hit late by the Bengals defender. The penalty moved the Chiefs into field goal position and Butker drilled the game winner from 45 yards out with three seconds on the clock.
Mahomes didn’t look perfect, but on a night where he couldn’t rely on his mobility in the pocket he still went for 326 yards and three TDs on 29/43 passing, while Burrow went 26/41 with 270 yards, a TD and threw two interceptions.
The Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years and are set for a showdown in the desert against the Philadelphia Eagles from Glendale, Arizona in two weeks time.