Incredible! KC Chiefs outlast Bills in OT victory to reach 4th straight AFC title game

Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

Thirteen seconds.

That’s all it took for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to calmly lead his team 44 yards into field-goal range against the Buffalo Bills in the waning moments of regulation; Harrison Butker sent the game to overtime with a bulls-eye 49-yard field goal.

“We were there with 13 seconds left, everybody’s going, ‘We’ve got to go down and score and get a field goal,’” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The guys just believed it was going to get done.”

“Nobody panicked,” Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill said. “Nobody was like really, ‘Oh, the game is over with 13 second left.’

“We just went out and made plays, and the rest is history.”

The Chiefs won the overtime coin-toss and Mahomes took care of the rest, connecting with tight end Travis Kelce for an 8-yard touchdown to secure a 42-36 win that sends the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game.

This will be their fourth straight AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, the first time a team will play host to four consecutive conference title games.

“I was proud of our guys for getting in there for four quarters and gutting it out,” Reid said. “There were some huge plays made by the offense, defense and special teams. Listen, it was a great game. I’m just kind of sorting it all out right now.”

It was a game for the ages. The Bills drew first blood, the Chiefs responded in kind, and then the two AFC powerhouses traded blows in the wildest two-minute span of NFL action anyone could’ve imagined.

They exchanged leads three times in the final two minutes. Buffalo appeared to overcome the odds when quarterback Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis for a 19-yard touchdown catch, his fourth of the game, with 13 seconds remaining. That made it 36-33 Bills and set the stage for Mahomes’ heroics.

Earlier, Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill made sure the home team would keep hopes of advancing in the playoffs alive. Facing a three-point deficit with less than two minutes left, Mahomes threw a short pass to Hill over the middle and the speedster did the rest, blowing through the Bills’ secondary for a 64-yard touchdown and short-lived 33-29 lead.

“That’s just Pat knowing exactly when I’m going to break,” Hill said. “Perfect timing, perfect execution, perfect play-call.”

A slip and fall almost doomed the Chiefs, and it seemed to occur in the worst possible moment: in the fourth quarter with the Bills driving toward a potential game-winning score.

Facing a fourth-and-13 from the Chiefs’ 27 at the two-minute warning, Allen took advantage when cornerback Mike Hughes fell near the left sideline. Hughes appeared to slip coming out of a break and Davis was left all alone in the end zone.

Allen found him for a 27-yard touchdown to give Buffalo a 29-26 lead.

“It was ups and downs,” Reid said. “The one thing I love about this team is they didn’t flinch. They kept focus — nobody threw in the hat and quit. They just kept battling.”

The Chiefs and Bills were virtually even in multiple categories through the first half, including first downs (Chiefs 14, Bills 12), total yards (Chiefs 199, Bills 176) and total plays (Buffalo 32, Chiefs 31).

Buffalo converted two fourth downs on its opening drive, which running back Devin Singletary capped with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal. Earlier, Allen kept the drive alive with a 10-yard run after the Bills faced a fourth-and-2.

Mahomes had an answer on the Chiefs’ subsequent possession, rushing for 49 of the team’s 74 yards as KC marched down the field. The drive culminated with Mahomes’ 8-yard touchdown run.

The Chiefs then grabbed the lead when Mahomes found wide receiver Byron Pringle for a 2-yard touchdown pass, finishing a 12-play, 81-yard drive.

Buffalo countered when Allen found Davis for an 18-yard strike. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed appeared to get tied up with Hughes, who was knocked down, and Davis went into the end zone untouched.

The Chiefs opened a nine-point lead in the third quarter, but it took Buffalo one play to make it a two-point affair: Allen connected with Davis for 75 yards when Davis got past safety Juan Thornhill.

For the game, Mahomes completed 34 of 44 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was Hill, who had 11 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.

Mahomes also rushed for 69 yards on seven carries, a record total for a Chiefs quarterback.

Add it all together and this was a game that will be talked about often for years to come.

“To be in this moment, this game against that team, and to make a play to walk off a game at Arrowhead, I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” Mahomes said.

HONEY BADGER LEAVES

Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was ruled out in the first quarter after leaving the game to be evaluated for a concussion. Mathieu was hurt when defensive tackle Jarran Reed inadvertently kneed Mathieu in the head while pursuing Allen.

The Chiefs adjusted without Mathieu by inserting safeties Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts in personnel packages alongside Juan Thornhill.

Mathieu’s presence was missed on the back end of coverage, in terms of leadership and making sure teammates were where they were supposed to be. That was evident on Allen’s 75-yard strike to Davis in the third quarter, which made it 23-21.

Mathieu’s status throughout the coming week will be monitored closely.

NECESSARY SPARK

The Chiefs periodically use wide receiver Tyreek Hill as a returner if needed, and Sunday night provided an opportunity.

With the Chiefs holding a 23-21 lead and the Bills punting, Hill fielded the kick instead of Hardman.

The first attempt resulted in off-setting penalties, so the Bills were forced to punt again.

Buffalo’s Matt Haack got off a 46-yard punt the second time, but Hill fielded it, broke a few tackles, then sprinted up the field for a 45-yard gain to set up the Chiefs at the Buffalo 15-yard line. Kansas City settled for a field goal and a 26-21 lead.

The Chiefs won’t hesitate to call on Hill, who made his first Pro Bowl as a returner, if they need a spark next weekend.

SCORING MACHINE

Wide receiver Byron Pringle has been a two-game scoring binge, hauling in three touchdowns in that span.

He caught a 2-yard pass in the end zone Sunday night, finishing the game with five catches for 29 yards.

The production comes a week after Pringle opened the playoffs with five catches for 37 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets.

Through the past two games, Pringle is averaging a touchdown every 3.3 catches.

INJURIES

Mathieu suffered a concussion and did not return.

INACTIVES

Running back Darrel Williams (toe), cornerback Rashad Fenton (back), wide receiver Josh Gordon, tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, rookie defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and quarterback Shane Buechele were not dressed for the game.

UP NEXT

The Chiefs play host to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Jan. 30 in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.

“We’ve got a great team coming in here,” Reid said. “So we’re going to enjoy this for about a minute, and then we’ve got to get ourselves ready for Cincinnati.”

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