The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 17-14, at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday as the Chiefs held on to secure a 10th consecutive victory.
After taking the lead with just under two minutes remaining as Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes found wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown, Atlanta drove deep into Kansas City territory to set up a potentially game-tying field goal with only seconds remaining on the clock.
It set the stage for Falcons’ Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo, who hadn’t missed since Week 3 and whose 35 successful field goal attempts lead the NFL, but his 39-yard kick sailed wide right and the Chiefs escaped with the victory.
The win moved Kansas City to a franchise-record 14-1 on the season while officially locking up the top seed in the AFC playoffs, guaranteeing a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the postseason.
Mahomes completed 24-of-44 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the game, finding tight end Travis Kelce a team-leading seven times while making some history in the process. With 98 yards on the day, Kelce surpassed the NFL record for receiving yards in a single season by a tight end (1,434) to punctuate his stellar campaign and etch his name in the league record books forever.
It was a defensive struggle through nearly the entirety of the first half though, as neither team scored until Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan found tight end Hayden Hurst for a 5-yard touchdown with just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Chiefs then managed to break through immediately following the Falcons’ score, marching 74 yards in the closing minutes of the first half before Mahomes hit Kelce for a 4-yard touchdown.
It marked Kelce’s 11th touchdown of the season, which set a career-high. The 31-year-old Kelce also notched his 100th grab of the year on that drive, becoming the only tight end in NFL history to tally multiple 100-catch seasons.
Kelce’s score tied things up at 14 points apiece, and that’s where the margin remained for quite a while. The Chiefs’ offense couldn’t get much going throughout the third quarter, but while the offense struggled, Kansas City’s defense picked them up in a big way.
In fact, as the fourth quarter got underway, the Chiefs already had four sacks and eight quarterback hits on Ryan with 15 minutes still left to play. It was a stifling defensive effort that prevented the Falcons from getting anything going offensively as defensive tackle Chris Jones (4), defensive end Frank Clark (3), defensive back L’Jarius Sneed (2) and defensive end Alex Okafor (2) each tallied multiple quarterback hits in the contest.
The Chiefs’ offense, meanwhile, finally broke the tie when kicker Harrison Butker connected on a 53-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Falcons appeared poised to at least tie the game on their next series, driving just outside the red zone, but linebacker Willie Gay forced the ball loose from Falcons’ wide receiver Brandon Powell and linebacker Darius Harris scooped it up for the takeaway.
Kansas City couldn’t turn the turnover into points, however, and the Falcons managed to take the lead on their next series when Ryan hit wide receiver Laquon Treadwell for a 5-yard score with just over four minutes remaining.
The Chiefs then drove to the Falcons’ 25-yard line on their ensuing series courtesy in large part to a pair of big catches by Kelce – including one on third down – before Mahomes found Robinson in the end zone to put Kansas City in front.
That set the stage for the Falcons’ final drive, and as Koo’s kick sailed wide right, the Chiefs officially secured the winningest season in franchise history.
The Chiefs will wrap up the regular season next Sunday as they host the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.