Patrick Mahomes scrambled for a first down on his badly sprained right ankle, then was shoved late out of bounds by Joseph Ossai, giving Harrison Butker a chance to kick a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining and give the Kansas City Chiefs a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC title game Sunday night.
The Chiefs finally beat the Bengals after three straight losses, including a three-point overtime defeat in last year’s title game, and will play the Philadelphia Eagles — coach Andy Reid’s old team — in their third Super Bowl in four years.
Mahomes, who hurt his ankle against Jacksonville in the divisional round, threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns, even though he was missing three of his wide receivers to injuries by the end. Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with 116 yards and a touchdown, while Travis Kelce — bad back and all — had seven catches for 78 yards and a score.
Yet it was Mahomes on his balky right ankle, rather than with his strong right arm, that rescued the Chiefs.
The Chiefs got a crucial sack from Chris Jones to force a punt with 39 seconds left, and shaky return man Skyy Moore broke free for 29 yards on the return. On third-and-4 at the Bengals 47, Mahomes eluded pressure and scrambled toward the Bengals sideline, barely picking up the first down before Ossai gave him a shove from behind.
The penalty flags flew, the ball moved 15 yards closer and Butker’s kick barely had enough to get over the crossbar.
Joe Burrow, who was sacked five times and wobbly by the end, finished with 270 yards passing 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 could not in last week’s divisional round: They ran roughshod over an ailing Bengals offensive line missing two starters to injury with another bothered by a sore knee.
Burrow was sacked three times in the first quarter alone and the Bengals offense did not gain a single yard.
Mahomes, whose ankle had been the subject of speculation all week, looked just fine leading Kansas City to a field goal on its opening possession. And when the Chiefs got the ball back, Mahomes did it again, but only after Kadarius Toney failed to pull in a nifty throw for a would-be touchdown — the incompletion was upheld upon review.
Cincinnati finally moved the ball in the second quarter, but it also had to settle for Evan McPherson’s chip-shot field goal.
So much for two of the league’s highest-scoring offenses.
The Chiefs are headed to their third Super Bowl in four seasons. They ended a 50-year championship drought when they rallied to beat the San Francisco 49ers in 2020, then lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year.
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