I think we are all still trying to process what just happened.
The Kansas City Chiefs qualified for the AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals after winning an unprecedented game against the Buffalo Bills.
We’ve all witnessed two quarterbacks playing at the peak of their respective abilities — and again and again, delivering in clutch moments. Two very good teams faced each other – and it’s a shame to have to call one of them a loser.
It’s also a shame to put one of the leaders in this category – but we’ll do it anyway.
Here are your winners and losers from Sunday night’s heavyweight bout.
(Author’s note: The application of the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to pass judgment on the skill or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to rate their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.)
Patrick Mahomes: The Kansas City quarterback has won this game at least three times. In a match against the new next great quarterback, Mahomes delivered a on my corpse performance for the ages. His stat line was incredible — 33 completions on 44 attempts for 378 yards and three passing touchdowns plus 69 yards and a rushing touchdown — but even that doesn’t begin to tell the story of this game. From the opening frame – when it looked like the drive might stall – Mahomes refused to allow it. He played after a spectacular play – from the 34-yard run on the first drive to the final touchdown pass to end the game. But what we’ll probably remember the most from this game is those epic 13 seconds at the end of regulation. After Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen hit what should have been the killing blow, driving the field and striking Gabriel Davis – who had the game of his life – it appeared that the season of Chiefs could be seconds away from a heartbreaking finish. . Three plays and 44 yards later, Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce allowed Kansas City to give their fans an incredible gift: extend the game into overtime. Then the reaper then led the eight-game 75-yard run that resulted in Kelce scoring. It was Mahomes Hall of Fame star stuff – nothing less than a legendary game from a living legend.
Travis Kelce: On a night when he found himself four yards out of his fifth straight playoff 100-yard game, Kelce got what really mattered. With the game on the line, Mahomes went to No. 87 with a shoulder throw into the end zone to walk away with a win. Kelce repeatedly did the big takes, moving the chains when they absolutely needed to be moved. Quite simply, the Chiefs’ offense is blessed with more than one player who could one day be considered the NFL’s greatest in their position.
Tyrek Hill: The Chiefs’ biggest offensive play of the game came with a minute left – and we thought it was the game-winner. Kansas City had the ball two minutes from time and the Chiefs needed to score to keep the season alive. Hill took Mahomes’ pass, turned on the jets and threw the peace sign as he scored on a 64-yard touchdown play. It wasn’t Hill’s only big game of the night. He finished with 11 catches on 13 targets for 150 yards and that score — not to mention a 45-yard punt return to put the offense on the 15-yard line after the defense got its only save of the fourth quarter. . It was a spectacular night for Hill and the offense – which is once again as explosive as any in the league.
Melvin Ingram: The midseason addition played his heart against the Bills. Ingram finished the game with a sack and three tackles – but his impact was felt throughout the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Ingram seemed to gain momentum, furiously tackling Allen, narrowly missing a few more sacks, and affecting the backfield on a number of other plays. That night, he was Kansas City’s best passing thrower.
Nick Bolton: In his first postseason, the rookie is making his presence felt. Bolton had eight tackles (one for a loss) and was instrumental in keeping the Bills’ run game in check. The Chiefs defense held running back Devin Singletary to just 26 yards – and even Allen didn’t destroy them on the ground. Bolton’s aggressiveness and tackling ability came through on screen.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon: The second-year running back returned to the field, showing off a flurry many had forgotten he possessed and averaging 8.6 yards per carry. McKinnon continued his hot streak. Most of his successes came through the air; his five catches and 54 yards were behind only Kelce and Hill. As the offensive line continues to open up lanes for whoever is out there, this rollback-by-committee thing might work well. The Chiefs are back to making big plays – and those two are a huge reason why that happened.
Mecole Hardman: The wide does a bit of everything. Now that he’s settled into his role as an add-on gadget player, it turns out he’s pretty damn good at it! Hardman’s 25-yard rushing touchdown was the first of his career – and it was incredible. He escaped on the touchline, using his speed, keeping his balance and plunging into the pylon. His only goal of the day also resulted in a 26-yard reception. He’s still not a high-volume player on a consistent basis – but he’s making a difference.
All of us: I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a better sporting event for Kansas City fans. It was right there with the Royals’ Wild Card game in 2014: a beautifully executed performance by two terrific attacks, led by clutch performances from both quarterbacks. A total of only six penalties were called – and there were no sales figures. Five times these two teams have gone on the fourth down – and five times they have converted. There were seven lead changes, including five after the two-minute warning. It was simply breathtaking. He lived up to all the pre-game hype – and more. We could just talk about this one for many years to come.
Harrison Butker: Give him credit, he did it when it mattered. But it might not have mattered so much if he had done it earlier in the game. Butker hit a 49-yard kick to send this game into overtime, giving Mahomes and Kelce a chance to win it. But his 50-yard miss at halftime – and an extra point missed – almost came back to bite his team. This game couldn’t have been more important – or closer. At times like these, the work of the kicker is essential. Again: Be glad it didn’t cost Kansas City his season. If that had been the case, Butker’s rough night might have been a “kicker who will not be named” kind of experience.
Mike Hughes, Armani Watts, Juan Thornhill and L’Jarius Sneed: This Chiefs secondary lost her point guard when Tyrann Mathieu left with a concussion. After that, they just looked lost. It was a bit of everything: miscommunications, guys falling over, and safeties being knocked overboard. Once again, a receiver had a banner day against the Chiefs; The Bills’ Gabriel Davis went for over 200 yards with four touchdowns. It’s happened throughout the game, it’s happened to almost every secondary member, and it’s happened in the biggest moments possible. Josh Allen was indeed brilliant – but these guys made it a little too easy for him.
Blake Bell: It wasn’t his decision, but that option to play in the red zone after Tyreek Hill’s big punt return was ugly. On a night like this, head coach Andy Reid should know better than to take the ball out of Mahomes’ hands. The Bills saw it coming a mile away. As a result, the attack was content with a placement on the pitch, leaving the match at hand. Bell has been great at quarterback – and he’s a terrific blocker – but I don’t think any of us want to see him play that option any time soon.