The Kansas City Chiefs had lost Patrick Mahomes to a concussion and were in danger of losing the game.
Then their defense and Chad Henne kept their Super Bowl hopes alive with a 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns that advanced them to the AFC championship game.
With their star quarterback reduced to a spectator, the oft-forgotten Chiefs defense opposite Mahomes’ high-powered offense forced the Browns to punt in the waning minutes. Then, his 35-year-old backup showed some moxie with a long third-down scramble and fourth-down completion to Tyreek Hill when Andy Reid decided to go for it with just over a minute left, giving the Chiefs a first down and allowing them to run out the clock.
“That’s why we love Big Red. He’s always on time,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said of the decision to go for the fourth down. “We always knew he has one play on the table.”
Mahomes hadn’t played in 21 days, since the Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed in Week 16, but he hardly missed a beat before leaving midway through the third quarter. He finished 21 of 30 for 255 yards and touchdowns passing and running.
Harrison Butker added three field goals for the Chiefs, who nearly blew a 19-3 lead but held on to become the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference championship games. They’ll face the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.
Baker Mayfield threw for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Browns, who were coming off their first playoff win since the 1994 season. But their inability to drive for the winning touchdown – they punted with 4:23 left in the game – kept them from winning two playoff games in a season for the first time since 1950.