The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the New England Patriots, 37-31, at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night in a tightly-contested AFC Championship Game that came down to the wire.
In a contest that went back-and-forth for the entirety of the second half, tailback Rex Burkhead plowed ahead for a 2-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ first possession of overtime to defeat Kansas City and send New England to a third-straight Super Bowl.
The fact that overtime occurred at all defied the odds.
With 39 seconds left in regulation, Burkhead rushed ahead for a 10-yard score to push New England in front, but with only one timeout and mere seconds to work with, Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes marched Kansas City deep into New England territory to set up Harrison Butker’s game-tying 39-yard field goal that sent the game to an extra period.
The field goal ended a wild final several minutes of play that saw the lead change hands multiple times.
Trailing by three with just over seven minutes left in the game, Chiefs’ safety Daniel Sorensen picked off Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady at midfield and brought the ball all the way back to the New England 23-yard line.
Two plays later, Mahomes found tailback Damien Williams on a 23-yard scoring strike to put Kansas City in front for the first time all night.
New England responded in kind, however, as Brady led the Patriots on a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive – completed by a 10-yard touchdown run by tailback Sony Michel – to retake the lead with just over three minutes left.
The Chiefs then answered again, as Mahomes marched Kansas City down the field in just one minute and 29 seconds before Williams dashed ahead for a 2-yard score to re-take the lead.
Burkhead was then in the end zone less than a minute later, but Butker's kick knotted things up as the fourth quarter expired.
It all made for an electric final several minutes of play, ultimately forcing an additional period to decide this year’s AFC champion, but Kansas City fell just short in the end.
Mahomes completed 16-of-31 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the game, amassing the bulk of those numbers in a 31-point second half as part of a comeback made necessary by New England’s quick start to the contest.
The Patriots marched down the field on their initial possession to open the game before Michel plowed ahead for a 1-yard score to take the early advantage. They appeared destined for a similar result on their second possession, but Chiefs’ linebacker Reggie Ragland stepped in front of Brady’s pass in the end zone for his second interception of the year to thwart the drive.
It marked Brady’s first postseason interception inside the opposition’s 9-yard line in over a decade, last doing so in 2007.
New England later extended its lead when Brady found wide receiver Phillip Dorsett for a 29-yard score with just seconds remaining in the half, pushing the Patriots’ advantage to 14 points entering the break.
The Chiefs managed to answer following the intermission, as Mahomes led Kansas City on a 4-play, 74-yard scoring drive to begin the third quarter. The series was highlighted by a 54-yard strike to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, which led to a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce a play later.
Kansas City was then back in the end zone to begin the final quarter of play when Mahomes hit Williams for a 1-yard score to narrow the deficit to just three points.
The Patriots proceeded to move the ball near Kansas City’s red zone on their ensuing drive, but Sorensen came flying in to stop Burkhead on fourth-and-short to turn the ball back over to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense.
Kansas City wasn’t able to move the ball on the following possession, but just three plays later, Sorensen picked off Brady and set up Williams’ go-ahead touchdown, pushing the Chiefs ahead for the first time. The two teams then traded the lead before Butker sent the game to overtime and Burkhead eventually sealed it for New England.
Williams finished the contest with 96 total yards of offense and three touchdowns while Watkins hauled in four catches for a team-leading 114 yards through the air.
It was a thrilling – albeit disappointing – conclusion to an exhilarating season, and while it came to an end on Sunday night, the 2018 campaign provided a glimpse into an exciting future.
Photos from the Chiefs AFC Championship matchup against the Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 20, 2019