The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-20, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon to advance to the AFC Championship Game for a fifth-straight season.
Here are some quick notes and facts about the game.
1. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed some serious grit on Saturday.
Mahomes is widely considered the best quarterback in the game for a myriad of reasons, from his unprecedented statistics to his other-worldly highlights, but the 27-year-old quarterback added to his legend in another way on Saturday. Mahomes sustained an injury to his right ankle late in the first quarter, but despite obvious discomfort, he not only remained in the game, but led the Chiefs to victory.
The likely 2022 NFL MVP completed 12-of-18 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown following the injury, which included two stints on the field with a trip to the locker room in-between. He finished the drive in which he was injured – completing 2-of-3 passes for 7 yards – before exiting the game for the remainder of the first half. Mahomes then returned following halftime and finished the game, connecting on 10-of-15 attempts for 111 yards and a score.
Following the game, Mahomes made it clear that he wasn't going to exit on his own under any circumstances.
"I'm not coming out of a playoff game unless they take me out," Mahomes said. "I'm just going to play. I love this sport too much. I love playing with my teammates and being able to go out there and enjoy it together. We prepare all year to be in the playoffs…I'm glad that I was able to get back in the game, and I just love competing in this sport. Pain is pain, and you're going to have to deal with it either way."
Mahomes is now 5-0 in the Divisional Round of the postseason, tying him with Ken Stabler for the most such victories without a loss in the history of the round. Additionally, Mahomes' 30 career postseason touchdowns are already tied for the 10th-most in NFL history.
2. Tight end Travis Kelce continued to move up in the all-time record books.
Kelce was brilliant on Saturday, hauling in 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. His 14 receptions were the third-most by any player in a postseason game in NFL history, and the most ever by a non-running back.
The veteran tight end now has 120 career catches in the playoffs, marking the second-most for any player in league history behind only Jerry Rice (151). His 1,389 career receiving yards in the playoffs are tied with Rob Gronkowski for the third-most in league history, trailing only Rice (2,245) and Julian Edelman (1,442).
Furthermore, the duo of Mahomes and Kelce has now connected for 12 postseason touchdowns during their illustrious careers. That total is tied with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for the second-most in NFL postseason history. Only Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski (15 touchdowns) recorded more in the playoffs.
It's impossible to summarize Kelce's performance through just the statistics, however, as he seemed to come up clutch in the biggest of moments. Specifically, Kelce was instrumental on backup quarterback Chad Henne's first series. He caught Henne's first pass (a 6-yard grab) and a 4-yard completion on third down that moved the chains a bit later before hauling in a 1-yard touchdown to end the drive.
A player of Kelce's stature is expected to step up in moments such as that, and he certainly did so.
3. Backup quarterback Chad Henne led a 98-yard touchdown drive in Mahomes' stead.
The aforementioned Henne didn't blink when called upon during Saturday's game, as he engineered a 98-yard touchdown drive immediately after Mahomes' departure. Henne – whose last meaningful action ironically took place in the Divisional Round of the 2020-21 playoffs – completed 5-of-7 passes for 23 yards and a touchdown during his lone series of work, finding Travis Kelce for a 1-yard score.
Henne's efforts resulted in the longest drive in Chiefs' postseason history.
The life of a backup quarterback is a strange one, to say the least. The hope is that they're never needed, but when they are, it's often without a second's notice. Henne has now been called upon twice with the season on the line during his Chiefs' career, and in both instances, he came through in a huge way.
4. Tailback Isiah Pacheco turned in a strong performance.
Pacheco was tremendous on Saturday, rushing for 95 yards on 12 carries. That works out to an average of 7.9 yards-per-attempt. Additionally, just like Kelce, Pacheco stepped up when the Chiefs needed him most. The rookie tailback broke free for a 39-yard run on Henne's scoring drive, setting up Kelce's score just a few snaps later.
His 95 rushing yards marked the most by a rookie in a playoff game in franchise history. The former seventh-round pick has now rushed for at least 60 yards in eight of his last 10 games.
5. Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in a critical touchdown catch late in the game.
Mahomes led a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter that ended with a 6-yard strike to Valdes-Scantling, who hauled in his second-career postseason score. The touchdown wound up being the difference in the game.
It was the culmination of a clutch drive by Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense, which moved the ball without facing a single third down on the series. Travis Kelce (2 catches for 26 yards), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (1 catch for 16 yards) and wide receiver Kadarius Toney (1 rush for 14 yards) all made major contributions on the drive.
6. Two rookie cornerbacks – Trent McDuffie and Jaylen Watson – impressed in their playoff debuts.
The duo of McDuffie and Watson was impressive on Saturday, as they combined to allow just four catches on 81 total coverage snaps. McDuffie surrendered just two catches (on 3 targets) for 21 yards while Watson yielded two grabs (on 4 targets) for 55 yards.
Watson was also responsible for what essentially marked the game-sealing play, hauling in a one-handed interception with 3:55 left in the contest.
7. The Chiefs came up with a pair of timely takeaways late.
Watson's interception was one of two critical takeaways for the Chiefs' defense that helped secure the victory. The first took place at an enormously important juncture, as Jacksonville seemed poised to pull within a field goal with 5:36 remaining in the game.
The Jaguars – who were trailing by 10 points – had a first down at the Chiefs' 9-yard line, but wide receiver Jamal Agnew lost control of the ball and linebacker Nick Bolton fell on it. The takeaway allowed Kansas City to run precious time off the clock and severely limited the Jaguars' chances of pulling off a comeback.
8. Defensive end Frank Clark now owns the fourth-most postseason sacks in NFL history.
The story of Saturday's victory was undoubtedly centered around how others stepped up in Mahomes' absence, and Frank Clark was included in that. Clark sacked Jaguars' quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Jacksonville's first possession following Mahomes' injury, essentially squashing any momentum building on the Jaguars' sideline. It marked Clark's 12th career postseason sack, matching Reggie White for the fourth-most in league history. Only Willie McGinest (16 sacks), Bruce Smith (14.5 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (12.5 sacks) tallied more.
9. Kicker Harrison Butker and punter Tommy Townsend both came up clutch.
Butker was nails on Saturday, converting both of his field goal attempts (each of which was exactly 50 yards in length) and all three of his extra-point tries. The veteran kicker is the eighth player in NFL postseason history to connect on multiple attempts of 50 yards or more in a single game.
Townsend was impressive as well, averaging 50.8 yards on his four punts. He dropped two of those punts inside the Jaguars' 20-yard line, including a 60-yard boot midway through the third quarter that completely flipped the field.
The success (or failure) on special teams is magnified in the postseason, and fortunately, the duo of Butker and Townsend was exceptional on Saturday.
10. Head Coach Andy Reid recorded his 20th career playoff victory.
Reid secured his 20th-career postseason victory (and 10th with Kansas City) on Saturday, matching Tom Landry for the second-most in NFL history. Only Bill Belichick (31 wins) owns more.
Nine of those victories have taken place over the last five seasons, culminating in an unprecedented run of five-consecutive AFC Championship Games hosted at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
That streak of runs to the championship game is tied for the second-longest in NFL history, matching the 1973-77 Oakland Raiders. Only the 2011-18 New England Patriots, who went to eight-straight, own a longer streak. The Chiefs are the only team in league history, however, to host five-straight conference title games.
It sets up a tremendous opportunity for the Chiefs on Sunday, as they'll take on the Cincinnati Bengals with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.