Chiefs beat Bengals in AFC title game after another Burrow-Mahomes thriller | NFL

Patrick Mahomes scrambled down on his badly sprained right ankle for the first time, only to be pushed out of bounds by Joseph Ossai late, giving Harrison Butker the opportunity to kick a 45-yard field goal with just seconds left and the Kansas City Chiefs a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday night’s AFC title game.

The Chiefs eventually defeated the Bengals after three consecutive losses, including a three-point loss in last year’s title game, and will play the Philadelphia Eagles—coach Andy Reid’s longtime team—in their third Super Bowl in four years.

“I’ve been watching them all year, great quarterback, great whole team,” Mahomes said of the Eagles. “It will be a big challenge for us, but I will celebrate it first. I don’t think we have cigars, but we’re ready to go into the Super Bowl.”

Mahomes, who hurt his ankle against Jacksonville in the division round, threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns, even though he missed three of his wide receivers to injury by the end. Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with 116 yards and a touchdown, while Travis Kelce—with a bad back and all—had seven catches for 78 yards and a score.

Still, it was Mahomes on his injured right ankle, rather than his strong right arm, that saved the Chiefs.

“Sometimes in games you have to put everything on the line,” said Mahomes. “The defense gave us a few chances to get into field goal range, but we didn’t get there. The defense got another stop for us and I knew I was going to get there one way or another. So I risked it all and we got within range of the field goal, and we’re at Arrowhead now and we’re in.

The Chiefs got a crucial sack from Chris Jones to force a punt with 39 seconds left, and return man Skyy Moore cleared 29 yards on the return. On 3rd and 4th at the Bengals 47, Mahomes escaped the pressure and scrambled to the Bengals’ sideline, barely picking up the first down before Ossai shoved him from behind.

The penalty flags flew, the ball came 15 yards closer and Butker’s kick was good.

“We are not going to stick to one game. There were plenty of actions we left on the field today that could have put us in a better position,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor. “The character of this football team, that’s never going to change. We have the right people in the locker room , the right men leading this team and this organization.”

Joe Burrow, who was sacked five times by the end and was wobbly, finished with a 270-yard pass to go with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bengals. Tee Higgins had six catches for 83 yards and the score.

The Chiefs were able to do early what the Buffalo Bills couldn’t in last week’s division round: they ran rough across an ailing Bengals offensive line, missing two starters to injury and another suffering from a sore knee.

Burrow was sacked three times in the first quarter alone and the Bengals offense didn’t gain a yard.

Mahomes, whose ankle was speculated all week, led Kansas City to a field goal on their first possession. And when the Chiefs got the ball back, Mahomes did it again, but only after Kadarius Toney failed to make a handy throw for a possible touchdown – the incompletion was confirmed by review.

Cincinnati finally moved the ball in the second quarter, but they also had to settle for Evan McPherson’s field goal.

The Chiefs finally made it to the end zone late in the second quarter and quickly pulled down behind some nice grabs from Valdes-Scantling. The Bengals held on to 3rd-1 on their 14-yard line, but the Chiefs went for it and Mahomes hit Kelce loosely covered by Jessie Bates III for the touchdown.

The Bengals drove 90 yards in the final minutes, only adding a field goal to come within 13–6 at the break.

But their onslaught was just getting underway – and another classic was brewing.

After the Chiefs went three-and-out to start the second half, Burrow led the Bengals downfield and shot through a gaping hole in the defense for a third-down conversion before hitting Higgins from 27 yards out to make the game 13 -13 to knot.

Mahomes, suddenly three wide receivers to injuries and starting to limp, bravely continued. He answered Burrow with a touchdown drive of his own, capped by a third down throw to Valdes-Scantling to regain the lead.

The Chiefs had a chance to get some breathing room later in the third quarter, but Mahomes somehow lost control of the ball before he could throw a pass and the Bengals pounced on the fumble. Six plays later — including a daring fourth throw from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase — Samaje Perine ran into the end zone to tie the score at 20.

Burrow gave the Chiefs a chance when his deep throw to Higgins on third was hit in the air and picked up by rookie cornerback Josh Williams. Mahomes managed to get the Chiefs past midfield, but two runs went nowhere and his third delivery to Jerick McKinnon was much short, forcing them to punt in Bengal territory.

However, the Chiefs’ defense held firm and gave Mahomes and their offense another chance. It was an opportunity they would seize.

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