It’s tough to articulate the absolute craziness that took place at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills, 42-36, in a game that will surely go down as an all-time classic.
The game featured 974 yards of total offense, just four penalties, zero turnovers and numerous lead changes in a matchup between two quarterbacks playing at a historic level. Four of those lead changes took place in the final two minutes of regulation, setting the stage for an overtime period that ended with an 8-yard strike from Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce that sent Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game for a fourth-straight season.
“We all were just part of one of the better games in the National Football League, and we were lucky to come out on that end of it,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “The guys battled their hearts out – both teams. I was proud of our guys for getting in there for four quarters and gutting it out. There were some huge plays made by the offense, defense and special teams. Listen, it was a great game. I’m just kind of sorting it all out right now.”
The overtime period was the culmination of a wild final two minutes of regulation that featured 25 points between the two teams, which are the most combined points in the final two minutes of a game in postseason history. Kansas City was clinging to a five-point lead with just under two minutes left when Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen – facing a 4th-and-13 – found wide receiver Gabriel Davis for a 27-yard touchdown that put Buffalo in front for the first time since its opening series of the game.
Mahomes had the Chiefs back in the end zone less than a minute later, however, when he found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 64-yard touchdown that re-claimed the lead for Kansas City. It was part of a huge night for Hill, who hauled in 11 receptions for 150 yards.
That left Allen with just over one minute of clock remaining and in need of a touchdown, but he delivered. Buffalo quickly marched down the field and found the end zone yet again – a 19-yard connection between Allen and Davis – that put the Bills ahead with only 13 seconds left in the game.
It was obviously a dire situation for Kansas City at this point, but as we’ve seen time and time again, the Chiefs didn’t give up. Mahomes had just two offensive snaps to work with and made the most of each – finding Hill for 19 yards and then Kelce for a gain of 25 yards – before kicker Harrison Butker converted a 49-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime.
“The one thing that I love about this team is that they didn’t flinch. They kept focus. Nobody threw in the hat and quit. They just kept battling. We were there with 13 seconds left and everybody’s going, ‘We’ve got to go down and score and get a field goal.’ Points were big right there at that point, so the guys just believed that it was going to get done.”
When asked what his message was to Mahomes prior to the final drive in regulation, Reid’s direction was clear.
“When it’s grim, be the Grim Reaper. Go get it. So, he did that,” Reid said. “He made everybody around him better, which he’s great at, and he just does it effortlessly. When it gets tough, he’s going to be there battling, and players appreciate that.”
Mahomes’ efforts set up what turned out to be the ultimate act of redemption for Butker, who missed a field goal and an extra point earlier in the game. His game-tying boot erased both of those mistakes as the ball flew through the uprights, and just a few minutes later, Kelce was in the end zone to secure the victory.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Kelce said. “[We put so] much work in together and [we have so] much fun together, and then to go out there and put our goals, dreams and aspirations out there and to bleed for every single person on this team and for every single person in that stadium wearing red. That was a fun experience. I remember the catch and seeing Tyreek standing there, me calling game and seeing Pat run over to me. I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
Kelce’s touchdown grab marked Mahomes’ 10th completion between the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, putting an exclamation point on a tremendous effort that saw Mahomes complete 10-of-13 passes for 188 yards and two scores during that span of time alone. The performance only further cemented a legacy that continues to grow by the game, as Mahomes’ 25 career postseason touchdown passes are now the most through 10 playoff starts for any player in NFL history.
It all helped the Chiefs punch their ticket to a fourth-straight conference title game in dramatic fashion, making Kansas City the first team in NFL history to host a conference championship game in four-straight seasons.
“To be in this moment, in this game against that team and to make a play to walk off a game at Arrowhead [is special],” Mahomes said. “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”