Kansas City reaches 2nd consecutive Super Bowl after dispatching Bills
Tampa Bay becomes 1st team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium
It took Kansas City five frustrating decades to make their second Super Bowl appearance.
Now, the defending champs are headed there for the second straight year.
Showing no lingering effects from a concussion, Patrick Mahomes sliced up Buffalo's secondary with ruthless efficiency as Kansas City rolled to a 38-24 victory over Josh Allen and the Bills in the AFC championship game Sunday night. Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, with most of it to favourite targets Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill,
Kansas City will face a familiar foe — Tom Brady — and the NFC champ Buccaneers in two weeks in Tampa, Florida.
Kelce finished with 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and Hill added nine catches for 172 yards, becoming the first duo in NFL history with consecutive games of at least 100 yards receiving each in a single post-season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams added short TD runs for Kansas City, who will try to become the eighth franchise and first team since the Brady-led New England Patriots in 2003 and '04 to defend the Lombardi Trophy.
Allen, who had his worst game of the season in a Week 6 loss to Kansas City, again struggled against the blitzing Kansas City defence. He finished with 287 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception, but a big chunk of his numbers came as the Bills tried to rally from a 38-15 deficit in the final minutes.
Their frustration boiled over with 3:19 to go, when Allen was getting sacked by Tanoh Kpassagnon. Alex Okafor finished off the tackle, and Allen pitched the ball in his face in resentment. Offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Dion Dawkins rushed in and levelled Okafor, resulting in a flood of offsetting personal foul penalties.
Bills can't capitalize on early start
It capped a bitter loss for the Bills, who had reached their first AFC title game since beating Kansas City at home on Jan. 1, 1994. They had won 11 of 12 since their loss to Kansas City earlier this season — in fact, they hadn't trailed in the second half since Week 8 — and were riding a wave of confidence that this might finally be their championship year.
Instead, after finally conquering the Patriots in the AFC East, the Bills have a new roadblock to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City actually spotted the Bills a 9-0 lead, thanks in large part to Mecole Hardman's muffed punt inside their 5 that gifted Buffalo a touchdown. But the reigning champs were hardly rattled; Kansas City, after all, rallied from double-digits in each of their post-season wins last season, including their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.
Mahomes and Kelce soon found their groove. And the rest of the Kansas City offence followed suit.
They surgically took apart Buffalo's defence on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a short TD throw to Hardman — no hard feelings over that fumble. Then, Kansas City cruised 82 yards in just five plays, the big one Hardman's 50-yard end-around that set up Williams' touchdown tumble. Finally, they made it three TDs in three possessions when Edwards-Helaire — in his first game back from an ankle injury — capped a 77-yard drive with a short plunge.
The only answer from Buffalo was Tyler Bass's chip-shot field goal that made it 21-12 at the break.
You don't beat Kansas City by kicking field goals from the 3-yard line, though. Or from the 9, where the Bills settled for another one to close within 24-15 late in the third quarter.
That became painfully clear on the ensuing drive. Mahomes hit Hill in stride and the All-Pro wide receiver promptly made the Bills secondary look downright foolish. Weaving in and out of woebegone defenders, Hill was finally caught inside the 5-yard line after a 71-yard gain, ultimately setting up Kelce's short TD catch a few plays later.
Any hopes the Bills had of a comeback were dashed when Rashad Fenton picked off a tipped pass deep in Kansas City territory. Kansas City breezily marched the other direction, and Mahomes and Kelce kicked off the celebration of another trip to the Super Bowl when they connected for their second score of the game.
Brady leads Buccaneers past Packers
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' road magic have them heading home to the Super Bowl, the first team to play in one on their home field.
Brady owns six Super Bowl rings with New England and now heads to his 10th NFL championship game with his new team. With help from a stifling pass rush and a curious late call on fourth-and-goal by the Packers, Brady and the Bucs beat top-seeded Green Bay 31-26 for the NFC title Sunday.
"It's great to get another road win, and now we got a home game," said Brady, who went 20 of 36 for 280 yards with three touchdowns. "Who'd ever thought a home Super Bowl for us? But we did it."
The Bucs (14-5) earned their franchise-record eighth consecutive road victory to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since their 2002 championship season.
They were helped by a strange decision by Packers coach Matt LaFleur with just over two minutes remaining and down by eight points. On fourth-and-goal, he elected to kick a field goal to get within five. Tampa Bay then ran out the clock on the Packers (14-4).
The Bucs will face Kansas City at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.
'We're coming home to win'
"We're coming home," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. "We're coming home to win."
Green Bay trailed 31-23 and had first-and-goal from the 8 in the last few minutes. But after Aaron Rodgers threw three straight incompletions, the Packers settled for Mason Crosby's 26-yard field goal with 2:05 left.
The Packers had all three timeouts left and were hoping their defence could force a punt. The Bucs foiled that plan, draining the rest of the clock, helped by a pass interference penalty on Kevin King.
Led by Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combining for five sacks, Tampa Bay snapped Green Bay's seven-game winning streak. The Packers lost in the NFC championship game for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. Green Bay hasn't reached the Super Bowl since its 2010 championship season.
Rodgers went 33 of 48 for 346 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, but fell to 1-4 in conference championship games as a starting quarterback.
Tampa Bay took command in the middle portion of the game.
Green Bay trailed 14-10 and had the ball just before halftime until Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off Rodgers at the Tampa Bay 49-yard line with 28 seconds remaining. After converting a fourth-and-4, Tampa Bay was at Green Bay's 39 with 8 seconds remaining. The Bucs passed up a long field-goal attempt, and Brady found Scotty Miller down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown catch with just 1 second remaining.
"We didn't come here to not take chances to win the game," Arians said. "Love the play we had. Got a great matchup and got a TD. That was huge."
The Bucs built a 28-10 lead early in the third quarter thanks to Brady's three touchdown passes. Brady went 20 of 36 for 280 yards.
The Packers got the ball to start the second half, and Aaron Jones caught a short third-down pass. He took a huge hit from Jordan Whitehead that knocked the ball loose. Devin White recovered and ran 21 yards to the Green Bay 8.
One play later, Brady found a wide-open Cameron Brate to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 28-10.
The Packers rallied as Brady threw interceptions on three straight drives for just the second time in his career. Green Bay cut the lead to 28-23 late in the third quarter on Rodgers' touchdown passes to Robert Tonyan and Davante Adams.