KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a back-and-forth thriller between two of the NFL’s top teams and two of its bright young quarterbacks, Buffalo and Kansas City played an instant classic that needed overtime Sunday night.
Calling tails on the OT coin toss turned out to be Josh Allen’s only bad decision all night. Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City made him pay for it.
Mahomes marched the hosts 75 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked but exhausted defense, finding Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass 4:15 into OT to give Kansas City a 42-36 win.
Kansas City earned a spot in its third straight AFC Championship Game and will host the Bengals on Sunday.
"The guys didn’t flinch," said coach Andy Reid, whose team is one win away from playing in the Super Bowl for the third year in a row. "You talk about an epic game, well, that’s the way the players took it. They had tremendous respect for Buffalo and they knew it was going to be a battle and they kept going."
What was Reid’s advice for Mahomes down the stretch? "When it’s grim, be the grim reaper and go get it," he said. "He made everyone around him better."
In a playoff game for the history books, the teams played 58 minutes that few will remember. And about two minutes and an OT that few will forget.
All four divisional games featured a kick on the last play of regulation. The first three decided the game; the one in this game — a 49-yarder by Harrison Butker — forced overtime.
The lead changed hands three times in the final two minutes of regulation before Butker’s kick tied it at 36. A total of 25 points were scored in that span.
After Buffalo took a 36-33 lead on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Gabriel Davis — his postseason-record fourth TD reception of the game — Kansas City had just 13 seconds to get in field-goal range for Butker. What was going through Allen’s mind? "I’m thinking it’s Pat Mahomes on the other side," he said.
"Nobody panicked," Tyreek Hill said. "Nobody was like, ‘Oh, the game is over, there’s 13 seconds left.’ We just made plays."
Once Kansas City won the OT coin toss, Mahomes took care of the rest. "I’ll remember this for the rest of my life," he said.
Mahomes passed for 378 yards and three touchdowns and gained 69 yards on seven carries.
Unfortunately for Allen and the Bills, they never got to touch the ball in overtime. "It worked out well for us this time," Mahomes said. "When you have two teams going back and forth, it stinks when you don’t get to see the other guy go. But all you can do is play the rules the way the rules are explained, and that’s what we did."
On fourth-and-13, Allen threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Davis with 1:54 left in regulation and hit Stefon Diggs with the two-point conversion pass as Buffalo took a 29-26 lead. Mahomes found Hill over the middle and he ran away from cornerback Levi Wallace for a 64-yard TD as KC took a 33-29 lead with 62 seconds remaining. Allen threw the 19-yarder to Davis with 13 seconds to play before Butker’s kick tied it at 36-36.
Allen passed for 329 yards and rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries. Davis had eight catches for 201 yards as the Bills lost their ninth straight road playoff game.
"Those guys are hurt, we’re disappointed — we’re all disappointed, we’re all sick to our stomach,’’ Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "You move on and you try and get yourself to learn from it, but it stings. It stings. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It stings."
"You’re walking off the field and you realize you won’t have the same roster each and every year, coaches included. A lot of us have been together five years. That might not be the case," Bills safety Micah Hyde said. "It’s beyond football. We’re really like brothers. We celebrated, we cried together, we laughed together throughout the years. And once something like that happens, it’s a hard way to go out. It’s tough."