The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills 27-24 in the Divisional Round, advancing to their sixth consecutive AFC championship game. The Chiefs will play the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday at 2 p.m. Arrowhead Time.
For now, let’s talk about that win:
Even a postseason identity reversal could not stop Kansas City from heading to its sixth straight AFC title game.
Everything we saw all year told us that this year’s Chiefs would have to win the game behind their defense; the offense had taken a significant step back from what fans were accustomed to seeing since Patrick Mahomes took over back in 2018.
On Sunday, the roles reversed.
Mahomes led the offense to points on its first five drives, including two touchdowns to tight end Travis Kelce. But as the Chiefs scored touchdowns, their vaunted defense allowed scores on four of its first five possessions, not being able to do anything against Buffalo’s ground game, which collected 182 yards on the night.
When the fourth quarter began, the Bills led by four points with the game very much in the balance, but an early-frame touchdown to Isiah Pacheco would mark the game’s final points — as the ghost of “wide right” found new life here in 2024.
Once again, Kelce, Rice, Pacheco (and OK... MVS, too).
Much was made about Kelce’s decision to skip Week 18, saying goodbye to his streak of 1,000-yard seasons in exchange for an opportunity to be completely rested for the playoffs. Kelce mentioned this week that the off time allowed him to recharge, and the difference we have seen on the field has been palpable. Kelce led the Chiefs with 75 receiving yards — and as of Sunday evening, no duo in NFL history — not Brady and Gronk, not Montana and Rice — have ever recorded more postseason touchdowns than Mahomes and Kelce (16).
We are witnessing greatness.
Alongside Kelce, 24-year-old Isiah Pacheco and 23-year-old Rashee Rice continue to be reliable pieces for the Chiefs — who almost learned the hard lesson: namely, that in the most important moments, these three players need to be the ones who are touching the football. That was never more apparent when a late-game Mecole Hardman touch that resulted in a fumble-touchback nearly ended the season.
After a tough season from a production standpoint, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling made two big catches for 62 yards. I’m sure Valdes-Scantling wishes he would have been a bigger part of the offense in 2023, but performing well in the postseason matters to Kansas City fans. Just as with players like Frank Clark and Sammy Watkins, these playoff efforts are remembered more than anything that happens in the regular season.
The Chiefs prove to be road warriors — and undeniable.
After a slow start to the game, the defense found a way in the fourth quarter. On three straight possessions, the Chiefs turned the Bills over on downs, forced a punt and then stopped Buffalo with less than two minutes left, making them try a field goal to tie the game.
Any question about whether Mahomes could lead Kansas City to a win on the road in the postseason was answered on Sunday night. And to the extreme aggravation of the other 31 NFL fan bases, he always seems to find a way.
In six seasons as a starter, he only knows what it’s like to play in the conference championship. On the back of an undeniable quarterback, this is the golden age of Kansas City football.