The Kansas City Chiefs won a thriller of a game over the Buffalo Bills, 27-24, to advance to the AFC Championship Game for a sixth-straight season on Sunday night.
Trailing by four points late in the third quarter, tailback Isiah Pacheco powered ahead for a 4-yard, go-ahead touchdown that put the Chiefs in front amidst a back-and-forth contest that featured five lead changes over the course of the night.
The Bills appeared poised to knot the score at 27 points apiece in the closing minutes of the game, too, but Buffalo's 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, and Pacheco's touchdown proved to be the difference in the end.
"It was an all-time classic once again. Every time we play one of [Bills' Head Coach Sean McDermott's] teams, it comes right down to the end," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "I'm so proud of our guys and the job that they did…The sideline was so positive. You knew it was going to be a tight game because of the caliber of a team that [Buffalo] has, but the guys just kept their composure through the highs and the lows."
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 17-of-23 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns in the game, leading Kansas City to points on each of its first five true possessions (excluding a one-play drive at the end of the first half). Every one of those scores mattered, too, as Kansas City managed to at least match serve with a Buffalo offense that tallied points on four of its first five drives.
"We just came in with the mindset that we were going to come together, put our best foot forward and see if we could come out with a win," Mahomes said. "That takes a mentality throughout the week and execution on every single play. We did a great job of that today."
The Chiefs' scoring featured field goals on their first two possessions, but on each of their next two – which occurred on either side of halftime – Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a touchdown, the latter of which marked the 16th postseason connection between Mahomes and Kelce that ended with a score. The duo now has now linked up for more touchdowns than any other pair in NFL playoff history, passing Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
"Passing any milestone that includes Brady and Gronk is special, because those are two of the greatest players – and Tom is the greatest player – of all-time," Mahomes said. "To be mentioned [among those guys] and to pass them [is something that] you appreciate. It speaks to Travis, his work ethic and his ability to make plays in big games."
Kelce's second score re-claimed the lead for Kansas City on the first series of the second half, but Bills' quarterback Josh Allen wrestled the advantage back when he found wide receiver Khalil Shakir for a 10-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. The two teams then traded exactly one giveaway and one punt each over the remainder of the game, with Pacheco's touchdown – which completed an eight-play, 75-yard drive – marking the only score of the fourth quarter.
The Bills' potential game-tying field goal sailed wide right a bit later, and with a single first down needed to end the game following the miss, Pacheco churned together runs of eight and three yards to move the chains and seal the victory. It was a fitting conclusion to the game for Pacheco, who rushed for 97 yards on 15 carries while averaging 6.5 yards-per-rush on the night.
"Pacheco is a beast," said Coach Reid. "He runs so hard…To put the hammer down at the end with those runs was big."
The defense also deserves significant credit for Sunday's result, as Kansas City held Buffalo – which racked up 124 rushing yards in the first half – to just 58 rushing yards and, most importantly, seven points over the final two quarters.
"I went over to the defense [in the fourth quarter], and I told them, 'If you guys shut it down, we'll win this game and go to the AFC Championship,'" Mahomes said. "That's what they did."
The victory marked the 13th postseason win of Mahomes' brilliant career, moving him into a tie with Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger for the sixth-most wins among all quarterbacks in games in which they started in NFL history. Additionally, Mahomes – who had never started a true road playoff game in his career prior to Sunday's game – is now a perfect 1-0 in road postseason starts.
"When you're on the road, it's you vs. them," Mahomes said. "It's you vs. everybody in the stadium. You have to come together as a team, and the guys did that."
The Chiefs are now headed to the AFC Championship Game for a sixth-straight year, passing the Oakland Raiders for the second-longest streak of consecutive conference title game appearances in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots, who went to eight-straight title games from 2011-18, compiled a longer streak.
In terms of injuries, Coach Reid mentioned safety Mike Edwards (concussion), linebacker Willie Gay (neck) and offensive guard Joe Thuney (right pectoral) following the game.
The Chiefs will now turn the page to a matchup with the Baltimore Ravens this upcoming Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.