The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the AFC championship game for the sixth consecutive year. On Sunday night, Patrick Mahomes and company defeated the Buffalo Bills 27–24 at Highmark Stadium. It was the third occasion on which K.C. was able to defeat the Bills under Josh Allen's leadership in the postseason, which was devastating for Buffalo once again.
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Bills drove to the Chiefs' 26-yard line and were down just a field goal, and for a minute, it looked like they were going to punch in the game-winning score or force overtime. Buffalo had to settle for a field goal try after failing to get into the red zone. At that point, Tyler Bass's 44-yard attempt went wide right, thereby ending the Bills' hopes of a comeback.
These two heavyweights in the AFC put on a back-and-forth battle throughout the fight, especially around the halfway point. But Kansas City's defence held strong in the end, forcing a three-and-out and a fumble on downs before limiting the Bills to a field goal that was missed on their final three drives.
The victory came from Patrick Mahomes completing 17 of his 23 throws for 215 yards and two scores. Travis Kelce caught five of his six targets for 75 yards and was the beneficiary of both of his touchdowns. After all was said and done, Allen went 26 of 39 for 186 yards and a touchdown. He also scored twice and gained 72 yards in rushes.
Why did the Chiefs win?
For the majority of this game, the Patrick Mahomes-led offence ran smoothly. The team punted just once, in the middle of the fourth quarter. Five of the first six drives for Kansas City resulted in touchdowns, including back-to-back touchdown drives to start the second half. The Chiefs were mostly successful while running chunk plays; they finished with eight plays that went for 20 yards or more, which was a season-high. Mahomes gave them their first lead of the game with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce in the first half. He then opened the second half with a 30-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a 24-yard rush to set up another touchdown to Kelce. Kansas City's defence wasn't playing its best that evening, but in the end, the team came through when it mattered most, forcing a crucial three-and-out after Mecole Hardman fumbled into the end zone, leading to a touchback.
The Chiefs' season-saving play was largely attributed to Tyler Bass's missed field goal, but the defence put up a strong fight to force Buffalo into a field goal in the final minutes when the team was hovering just outside the red zone.
Why did the Bills lose?
Buffalo was up at the half, but as the game progressed, its offensive output slowed and it was unable to fully capitalise on many crucial opportunities that the Chiefs presented to it. Following a botched fake punt, it appeared as though Kansas City would blow the Bills out of the water, but Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman fumbled into the end zone for a touchback, giving the team a huge gift. That not only cost the Chiefs a chance to score at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but it also returned the ball to Buffalo unharmed, with the team still trailing by only a field goal. With the new life, what did they do? A three-and-out that covered two yards in less than ninety seconds.
On their last play of the game later in the fourth quarter, Spencer Brown was able to recover the lost ball and keep control after Dalton Kincaid pushed it away from a Kansas City defender. Allen mishandled the ball later in the quarter and almost gave it to the Chiefs. Buffalo managed to avoid that scenario, but it was not enough because Bass missed the game-winning field goal (more on that later).
In addition to the wasted opportunities, Buffalo's defence gave up an average of 7.7 yards per play throughout the game, allowing the Chiefs offence to run many chunk plays. Stefon Diggs had a very quiet night as well, managing just 21 yards on three receptions.
For Buffalo, it is heartbreaking. It appeared to be in control, holding the ball at the Kansas City 26-yard line and having the ability to either kill time on a field goal to force OT or advance towards the end zone to win the game outright. But after consecutive incomplete passes by Allen, there was a fourth-and-9 from the 26-yard line, and Bass was forced to go out on the field to try a 44-yard field goal that would have tied the score at 27. Rather, his kick missed wide to the right, returning the ball to Kansas City and ending any possibility of a rally.
From here, the Chiefs will prepare for the AFC championship game against the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens, which is scheduled to begin next Sunday at 3 p.m. ET from M&T Bank Stadium.