“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games.”
Former Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Santana Moss delivered that epic line after a win over Florida State in 2000 — and the current Kansas City Chiefs have continually proven his statement to be true. The era of quarterback Patrick Mahomes has featured the team’s best players stepping up when it has mattered most — whether it’s a big regular-season game, a postseason matchup or the Super Bowl.
The incredible final 20 minutes of game time featured two touchdowns by the Chiefs’ best playmakers: one was a 64-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Tyreek Hill to take a lead with a minute remaining in regulation. Then the game ended on an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.
The magical finish naturally brought out emotions in the game’s stars.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Kelce told reporters after the game. “How much work we put in together — and how much fun we have together — and then to go out there and put our entire goals, dreams, aspirations out there and bleed for every single person on this team and for every single person in that stadium wearing red, man. That was a fun experience. I remember the catch and seeing Tyreek standing, me calling game and seeing Pat run over to me. I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
It’s hard to imagine that anybody watching (or attending) the game will soon forget the back-shoulder throw to Kelce, which he completed with strong hands and awareness of the boundary. And yet... it almost didn’t happen.
The Chiefs found themselves down three points with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. After a few first downs, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill streaking across the middle of the field — and his momentum carried him past defenders and all the way into the end zone.
It was a vintage play by the NFL’s most dangerous wide receiver.
“I always have faith that each and every time I step on the field, I am going to score,” Hill admitted after the game. “Sometimes it may not happen — but that time, it was two-man coverage, the safety was very deep, the corner was inside leveraging. That is just Pat, you know — knowing exactly when I was going to break. Perfect timing, perfect execution, perfect play-call — and the rest is history. I was able to use my speed getting into the end zone. I am just very thankful to be able to say that I am a part of this team — that I am a part of this organization.”
Even after that, the contest looked like it wouldn’t reach overtime: Buffalo answered the Hill score with a touchdown of its own, leaving only 13 seconds for the Chiefs to try and get into field-goal range.
In two plays, they did The first was a quick pass to Hill. The second was a beautiful connection that showed the irreplicable chemistry between Mahomes and Kelce — and set up the game-tying 49-yard field goal.
“It is a pretty common defense in a situation like that,” Kelce reflected. “The defense will try and take away the sideline throws to give you more of the seams and the middle of the field open. That, and they are soft so you can get a head start... I told him I am probably not going to run the route that is called. I am just going to run to the open area. Midway through his cadence, he was screaming at me at the line of scrimmage, ‘Do it! Do it! Do it!’ I was just like, ‘All right, here we go, boys.’ It was just a little backyard football with a couple of seconds left that gave us an opportunity to take the game into overtime.”
In a moment where you couldn’t help but feel more hopeful than confident, the Chiefs never winced.
“Nobody flinched for a moment,” noted Hill. “Coach Reid is always telling Pat to be great because he is great, trying to add more confidence to him — even to us also. Sometimes, with 13 seconds, you are looking at the clock thinking, ‘Ahhh’. Deep down inside, we know we can do this because we have the playmakers to do it. We have the coaches to do it. Everything worked out tonight perfectly — exactly how it was supposed to work out.”
In total, the Chiefs’ two leading receivers ended with 246 yards through the air on 19 receptions — each scoring a touchdown in the game’s most important moments. Mahomes may have put them in great position to score, but the men on the receiving end still have to complete the plays.
These two did — sending their team to the AFC Championship game for the fourth consecutive season.
There will always be debate about whether or not Mahomes would be this spectacular without Hill and Kelce as his receivers — but it’s a moot point. Those three aren’t going to be separated anytime soon.
As improbable as the details were, Sunday night wasn’t the first game of its kind for the All-Pro receiving duo — and it certainly won’t be the last.