The Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl after defeating the Baltimore Ravens, 17-10, on Sunday night to clinch their fourth AFC title in five seasons.
Leading by seven points and facing a third down with just over two minutes remaining in the game, quarterback Patrick Mahomes found wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 32-yard completion that moved the chains and sealed the victory.
The play concluded a tense game that began as a shootout before both defenses – which ranked as the league's top two units in numerous categories – dominated throughout the second half of the contest. The Chiefs' defense, specifically, held Baltimore scoreless on eight of its 10 total possessions, yielding just three points on the Ravens' five drives during the third and fourth quarters. Additionally, Baltimore – which led the NFL in rushing this season – was held to its lowest rushing total (81 yards) since Week 1 of the 2022 season.
"Our defense was outstanding," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "We were able to get a lead, and we were able to maintain that lead with great personality, as they've done throughout the season."
The Chiefs never trailed on Sunday, and they wasted no time finding the end zone as Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a 19-yard touchdown on Kansas City's opening possession. It represented the 17th all-time scoring connection between Mahomes and Kelce in the postseason, extending their NFL record.
Baltimore then answered with a touchdown of its own on the Ravens' ensuing possession when quarterback Lamar Jackson found wide receiver Zay Flowers for a 30-yard score, but the Chiefs quickly wrestled back the lead when tailback Isiah Pacheco completed a 16-play, 75-yard series with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
Kansas City then added a field goal prior to halftime – extending its lead to 10 points – before the Chiefs' defense, which allowed the fewest second-half points of any team in the NFL this year, proceeded to continue that trend.
In fact, Kansas City held Baltimore – the league's No. 4 scoring offense during the regular season – to just three total points in the second half while forcing two takeaways, each of which occurred in the red zone. The first took place when cornerback L'Jarius Sneed punched the ball loose from wide receiver Zay Flowers at the goal line, turning what was nearly a Ravens' touchdown into a turnover early in the fourth quarter. Then, on the Ravens' next possession, safety Deon Bush picked off Jackson in the end zone to thwart yet another Baltimore scoring threat.
The performance marked the eighth-straight game that Kansas City held the opposition to fewer than 10 points in the second half, and while the Ravens managed to pull within a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Valdes-Scantling's catch on the Chiefs' ensuing drive meant that Baltimore never saw the ball again.
"Coach Reid had the confidence to give us a chance to throw the ball in that situation," Mahomes said. "They brought some pressure, and they were obviously very concerned with what Travis was doing. I looked at [wide receiver] Rashee [Rice] first, but the safety cut him, so it gave MVS the free lane. I just put it up and let him make a play…He did that, and sealed the deal."
The victory secured a second-straight conference championship for Kansas City, which has now hoisted the Lamar Hunt Trophy in four of the last five seasons.
Mahomes completed 30-of-39 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown in the contest, finding Kelce a team-leading 11 times for 116 yards. His performance made some history, too, as Kelce now owns the most career postseason receptions for any player in NFL history with 156, passing Jerry Rice.
"Travis is always fired up, but in the playoffs, he's even more so," Reid said. "I never worry about him being ready to go. He's always right there, and he brings that emotion to the guys. It's a secure feeling that we're going to go get this thing, no matter what…I appreciate his attitude, always."
As for Mahomes, he now owns the third-most postseason victories (14) for any quarterback in league history. Only Tom Brady (35) and Joe Montana (16) tallied more in their careers.
The Chiefs will now aim to finish the job on Feb. 11 as Kansas City clashes with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.