Kansas City defeats Bengals in final seconds for AFC title, will face Eagles in Super Bowl LVII
Jalen Hurts, Eagles rout wounded 49ers in NFC championship
Patrick Mahomes was forced to rely on his badly sprained right ankle rather than his strong right arm when Kansas City was desperately driving with a chance to win the AFC championship.
The all-pro quarterback, missing three wide receivers to injuries and battered himself, took off on a third-down play near midfield in another gut-check game with the Cincinnati Bengals. Mahomes strained to reach the mark he needed and was headed out of bounds when he felt the hands of Joseph Ossai send him sprawling into the bench.
The mad dash, coupled with the 15-yard penalty for a late hit, was all Kansas City needed.
"I don't think we have any cigars," Mahomes said with a smile, "but we'll be ready to go in the Super Bowl."
It was vindication for the AFC West champions, who had lost three straight to their newfound nemeses, including a three-point overtime loss to Cincinnati in last year's conference title game. All of those defeats were by three points.
Now, Kansas City is headed back to the big game.
BUTKER GIVES THE <a href="https://twitter.com/Chiefs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CHIEFS</a> THE LEAD. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CINvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CINvsKC</a> <a href="https://t.co/VOeIUlSRwI">pic.twitter.com/VOeIUlSRwI</a>—@NFL
Awaiting them is coach Andy Reid's old team, the Eagles, in the first matchup of Black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Mahomes and Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts. It will also feature a brother-against-brother showdown between Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia centre Jason Kelce.
"I've watched them all year," Mahomes said. "It's going to be a great challenge for us. But I'm going to celebrate this first."
Mahomes, who hurt his ankle against Jacksonville in the divisional round, threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns, even though he was missing three of his wide receivers to injuries by the end. Marquez Valdes-Scantling led with 116 yards and a touchdown, while Travis Kelce — bad back and all — had seven catches for 78 yards and a score.
"It's a tough bunch. My heart goes out to them, man, they're tough guys," Reid said. "They worked so hard this week. Pat and Kelce were both banged up a little bit. They pushed through and great things happened."
Kansas City also managed to shut the mouths of the Bengals, some of whom had taken to calling their home "Burrowhead" for Joe Burrow, who had never lost to Kansas City. Even Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval started in on the trash talk.
"I've got some wise words for that Cincinnati mayor," Kelce said. "Know your role and shut your mouth, you jabroni!"
Burrow, who was sacked five times and wobbly by the end, finished with 270 yards passing to go with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bengals. Tee Higgins had six catches for 83 yards and the score.
Kansas City was able to do early what the Buffalo Bills could not in last week's divisional round: They ran roughshod over an ailing Bengals offensive line missing two starters to injury with another bothered by a sore knee.
Eagles roll past 49ers
Jalen Hurts can conduct a singalong about as well as he can orchestrate the kind of punishing scoring drives that sent the Eagles into the Super Bowl.
At the end of one more triumph, Hurts stood on the stage on the field — as his Eagles teammates passed around the NFC championship trophy — and clutched a microphone in front of what was suddenly Philadelphia's largest karaoke joint. His rendition of the team fight song was a tad off-key.
Hurts may not sing as well as he can score, but it was another memorable moment in a season full of them. And the Eagles don't believe they're done yet.
"We've got new moments," Hurts said. "New moments and new times."
The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl five years ago with a different coach and quarterback, will try to do it again behind the formidable duo of Hurts and coach Nick Sirianni.
"We get to do it because we did it better than anyone in the NFC this year," Sirianni said.
Hurts had a modest game by his standards after a season in which he was a finalist for MVP. He was 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39, improving to 16-1 as a starter this season. The Eagles (16-3) lost two games that he missed with a sprained right shoulder.
Hurts sat alone at his locker dressed all in purple and he took a few puffs of a cigar as the Eagles celebrated around him. He understood there was one more game to win.
"I never knew how far we'd go," Hurts said, "but I never said it couldn't be done."
Miles Sanders ran for two touchdowns and linebacker Haason Reddick made the hit that forced 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Reddick also recovered a fumble by Purdy's replacement, Josh Johnson, who later suffered a concussion.
That forced Purdy back into the game, but his injury was clearly a factor as the 49ers all but gave up on the passing game, even while trailing by multiple scores. Purdy said he was unable to throw the ball more than 10 yards after his elbow got hurt.
Philadelphia police greased traffic and light poles in what proved again to be a futile attempt to slow the post-game revelry. The city now has its beloved Birds in the Super Bowl just three months after the Philadelphia Phillies reached the World Series.
"When you guys go into our indoor [practice facility], there's always that picture in the back part of it of the 2017 NFC championship game, and it's just the electricity of the stadium," said Sirianni, who was hired two years ago to replace the Eagles' Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson. "We're looking forward to getting another picture up there of this special moment that we had."
The game disintegrated in the waning minutes and Philadelphia's K'Von Wallace and San Francisco's Trent Williams were ejected for their roles in a brawl. Williams yanked Wallace from behind and slammed him to the ground.
The moment only seemed to rile up Eagles fans even more as they soon waved their green towels and went wild as confetti fluttered around them.
"We've got one more game for the rest of our lives," Sanders said.
The Super Bowl is Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz.
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