KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ankle was an issue. So was a fast, hard-hitting, opportunistic Cincinnati defense and a Bengals team that simply wouldn’t go away.
Mahomes, hobbled by a high ankle sprain but still capable of magic, led the Chiefs on a four-play, 26-yard, 27-second, final minute game-winning field goal drive to send Kansas City past the Bengals, 23-20, in front of a delirious, red-clad Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona for a shot at their second Super Bowl title in their third appearance in four years. It will mark a reunion of sorts for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who coached Philadelphia for 14 seasons, including a trip to the Super Bowl, before coming to Kansas City.
It snapped a three-game losing streak to the Bengals, including a loss in this same AFC championship game a year ago. Cincinnati had become vocal in its confidence, including calling Arrowhead Stadium "Burrowhead" in honor of their star quarterback Joe Burrow.
"We showed this place it's 'Arrowhead,'" Mahomes said after Sunday's victory, "not 'Burrowhead.'"
"Hey, I've got some wise words for that Cincinnati mayor," Kelce said. "Know your role, and shut your mouth, you jabroni."
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 30, 2023
Mahomes threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-43 passing. His biggest plays came at the end though, courtesy of his feet, not his arm.
Starting on his own 47-yard line with just 30 seconds remaining, Mahomes swung the ball outside to Isiah Pacheco for 6 yards. He then scrambled for 9 yards and a first down and picked up an unnecessary roughness penalty when Joseph Ossai shoved him out of bounds.
That was enough to set up a 45-yard field goal by Harrison Butker that just got over the bar to win it.
Neither the game nor Mahomes was perfect, but that’s how it often is on a cold, January night this deep into the playoffs. After losing a year ago to these same Bengals in this same game in this same stadium, victory was all that mattered.
Both Mahomes and Burrow had multiple opportunities to lead drives to win it, but were stuffed by excellent and inspired defensive play.
At least until the final drive when, scrambling for the season, Mahomes was able to forget about the high ankle sprain he suffered a week ago against Jacksonville and make a play and draw a heart-wrenching mistake by Cincinnati.
The Chiefs appeared to seize control of the game in the middle of the third quarter. After the Bengals tied the game at 13, Mahomes led an 11-play, 77-yard drive culminating in a 19-yard bullet of a touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Kansas City’s defense then flexed its own muscle, holding Burrow and the Bengals to a three-and-out and then stuffing them on fourth-and-6 to start the fourth quarter. A Mahomes fumble gave Cincy life and Joe Burrow led a game-tying touchdown drive.
Neither team could break through until the final seconds though, when Mahomes drew the penalty that sent Kansas City past its nemesis and back to the big game.