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Chiefs-Bills rapid reaction: the Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl

What... a... game.

NFL: AFC Championship Game-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl, pitting the present and future of the NFL in Patrick Mahomes against the present and past of the NFL in Tom Brady.

But that conversation is for another day.

The way the Chiefs got there on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills felt awfully familiar — as the game’s beginning reminded me a lot of last year’s Divisional round win over the Houston Texans.

That forgettable sequence involved a first-down drop, both a blocked and muffed punt and several easy Texans touchdowns en route to a 24-0 lead. Then the Texans blinked — and it was 28-24. Eventually, it was 51-31.

Against the Bills, the Chiefs began the game by dropping several passes, including a tight-window deep ball from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill. The Bills scored three points on their first drive and six more after a Mecole Hardman muffed punt en route to a 9-0 lead. Then the Bills blinked — and it was 21-9. Eventually, it was 38-24.

The Chiefs defense allowed its share of yardage — but turned it on the red zone, holding the Bills three times in five trips.

I thought the Bills’ fourth-down play-calling throughout the game was that of a team that did not understand the style of play it takes to beat the Chiefs. With no score and the Bills facing fourth-and-3 at the Kansas City 33-yard line, they kicked a field goal to make it 3-0. Late in the second quarter, with the Bills trailing 21-9 facing fourth-and-goal at the Kansas City 2, they kicked a field goal to make it 21-12.

Yet again, in the third quarter, down 24-12 facing fourth-and-3 at the Kansas City 8, the Bills kicked a field goal to make it 24-15. Both of the latter two decisions cut the game from 12 to 9 — still two possessions.

The Kansas City offense exploded for two more touchdowns — leading to the Bills finally becoming aggressive — but by then, it was too late. The game was too far gone — and that’s on Bills head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

Hardman overcame a rough start to help spark an offense led by the better quarterback in the game (despite this graphic making the rounds) — and the best quarterback in the league: Patrick Mahomes. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid called a marvelous game, scoring on six straight drives, including five touchdowns — which included an underhand pass from Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce had 118 yards and two touchdowns; Hill had 172 yards.

There is bad news for the Chiefs: injuries to key players. L’Jarius Sneed appeared to suffer a concussion and left tackle Eric Fisher left with what the team quickly called an Achilles injury (never a good sign). Kudos to Rashad Fenton for entering the game cold and registering its only interception in a key spot.

The game became awfully chippy in the end, and with Josh Allen and Mahomes the ages of 24 and 25, respectively, it might be the beginning of one of the great out-of-division AFC rivalries.

For now, the Chiefs move onto Tampa, where they can become the first team to repeat as champions in 18 years — by defeating the quarterback to do it last.