The Bills went punch for punch with the back-to-back AFC Champs, with Allen moving the ball at will late in the contest. The QB finished his postseason with nine TD passes and zero turnovers.
The only nick on Allen’s postseason resume was calling tails on the overtime coinflip, which came up heads and gave the Chiefs the ball. K.C. marched down the field for the OT score to end the game. All Allen could do was watch from the sideline.
Despite not touching the ball in overtime, Allen wasn’t blaming the rules.
“The rules are what they are, and I can’t complain about that ‘cause if it was the other way around, we’d be celebrating, too,” he said. “So, it is what it is at this point. We didn’t make enough plays tonight.”
Allen’s experience was similar to what Mahomes went through four seasons ago in Arrowhead Stadium when the Chiefs watched Tom Brady march for the game-winning score in overtime without Mahomes touching the pigskin.
Give us this rivalry for a decade. What a freaking game. On the greatest Divisional Round weekend in NFL history, it’s apropos that the best was saved for last. Fireworks were expected. Fireworks were provided. Mahomes and Allen delivered on every expectation, and then some. The QBs offered haymaker after haymaker, neither blinking. The defenses each had their moments early until the weight of the offensive firepower broke free. There isn’t much question that these were the two best teams in the AFC entering the weekend. Sunday’s bout solidified that belief. It’s a shame one team had to lose. But it’s on to another AFC Championship Game for Mahomes and the Chiefs, where they’ll face another young gunslinger in Joe Burrow and the high-powered Bengals offense.
NFL Research: Sunday night marked the first playoff game in NFL history with three go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
Defense loses Mahomes in crunch time
The number-one defense in the NFL couldn’t control Patrick Mahomes. On the first drive, Patrick Mahomes ran all over the Bills for three rushes, 49 yards, and a touchdown. His 34-yard jaunt got the Chiefs in business and he was just getting started. He finished with seven rushes for 69 yards, but that wasn’t all of it. He had 378 yards through the air and three touchdown passes, and the inevitability of the final two drives was just deflating. I mean, 13 seconds and you couldn’t stop them from gaining 44 yards!? Are you serious? Mahomes is good, but that’s beyond the pale. That’s what this Bills’ defense is going to have to head into the offseason remembering; for the second straight year they couldn’t do enough when it counted.
The game lived up to the hype
At the two-minute warning, it was 26-21, Chiefs. Then the Bills scored a touchdown to make it 29-26 with 1:54 left. Then the Chiefs took a 33-29 lead with 1:02 remaining. Davis’s final touchdown with 13 seconds left wasn’t enough, as the Chiefs scored with no time on the clock to send it to overtime. Both QBs balled out. It was exactly what the NFL wanted and what fans of the other 31 teams tuned in for. We were on the short end of the stick. It happens. It ended 42-36, with 31 points scored in the last two minutes plus overtime.
1. THE CHIEFS HAVE THAT GUY
So how much time is too much time to leave Patrick Mahomes? Apparently 13 seconds. Mahomes led the game-winning drive in overtime, but only after he led the game-tying drive in regulation after the Bills offered him just 13 seconds to do it.
No problem. He marched them into field-goal territory, giving kicker Harrison Butker a chance to tie it. And you just knew it was done at the coin toss.
The Chiefs got the ball first and Mahomes led them 75 yards for a touchdown, preventing the Bills from touching the football. He finished 33 of 44 for 378 yards and three touchdowns.
There ain’t another one like him this league.
The Bengals’ defense will face its biggest challenge Sunday against a Chiefs offense that includes Mahomes, Kelce, receivers Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Both teams were near the bottom in the NFL in passing yards allowed during the regular season, so a possible shootout is certainly in the works.
Prediction: This game will likely come down to how many turnovers the Bengals can force and how well Cincinnati can protect Burrow. I think the Bengals can do both well enough to pull off the upset, while punching the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season. Cincinnati also has an advantage in running back Joe Mixon, who had an impressive touchdown run in Saturday’s win in Nashville.
Score: Bengals 27-24
Among reactions from the Bengals’ official Twitter account Sunday night to finding out that the two teams will meet again in the AFC title game in Kansas City was video of the interaction between the two, in which Mahomes said “see y’all in the playoffs.”
Mahomes threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in Cincinnati’s 34-31 Week 17 win. Burrow had 446 passing yards and four touchdowns in the game.
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Stafford and the Rams — fresh off a dramatic 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium — are now one victory away from the biggest game of all.
And they nearly blew their chance to get to the NFC Championship Game, losing four fumbles and a 27-3 third-quarter lead to Tom Brady and the defending champions before Stafford led a 63-yard drive in the closing seconds to set up the winning field goal.
“In my mind, I live for those kind of moments,” said Stafford, who pulled off the 43rd game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime of his career, the most of anyone since he entered the league in 2009. “I would have loved to have been taking a knee up three scores, but it’s a whole lot more fun when you’ve got to make a play like that to win the game and just steal somebody’s soul. That’s what it feels like sometimes where they’re sitting there going, ‘Man, we just had this great comeback.’ And you get to reach in there and take it from them.
“That’s a whole lot of fun.”
If Pittsburgh weren’t historically averse to these kinds of blockbuster swings, it’d easily rank higher. Everything fits: Rodgers and Mike Tomlin have a deep respect for each other, the Steelers are an iconic franchise and proven winner, and Ben Roethlisberger is headed to retirement. Pittsburgh has the defense to contend now, and if it were to finagle enough money to bring Davante Adams with Rodgers, that combo with Najee Harris (and a restored O-line) would be scary. Tomlin has the track record to push ownership for a quick fix at QB, and at least Green Bay would be shipping Rodgers to the AFC.
“Always tough to lose at the end of the year,” Brady said after Sunday’s loss. “One team, one year, it’s never the same after that. It doesn’t feel good to lose any one of those games. I’ve lost at every one of those stages. It all sucks to lose in the end.”
Was that it, with Brady able to engineer another spellbinding comeback but not a victory, a half measure that leaves him not with a black and white coda, but just a lot of gray. A few minutes after the game ended, he was noncommittal about his future.
“Haven’t given a lot of thought to it,” he said. “Take it day by day and see where we’re at. Truthfully, guys, I’m thinking about this game and not thinking about anything past five minutes from now.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
When Allen found Gabriel Davis wide open for his fourth touchdown of the night, many felt that the game was over. After all... there were only 13 seconds left on the clock. But in back-to-back plays during those few seconds, Mahomes found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for 19 yards and tight end Travis Kelce for another 25 yards, setting up Harrison Butker for the 49-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime.
The odds that the Chiefs could get into field goal range, under those circumstances, were slim to none — but head coach Andy Reid had complete confidence in his quarterback.
“When it’s grim, be the Grim Reaper,” Reid told reporters following the game. “Go get it — and he did that. He made everyone around him better, which he’s great at. He just does it effortlessly. When it gets tough, he’s going to be there battling — and the players appreciate that.”
There was plenty of chatter in the media throughout the week — and among fans — about how Allen is now better than Mahomes. After Sunday’s game, we understand Allen is a very talented quarterback — but to be the man, you have to beat the man.