Kansas City advances to 4th consecutive AFC title game with thrilling OT win over Bills
Rams hold off Buccaneers, move on to NFL title game behind last-second field goal
Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone from eight yards early in overtime, and Kansas City rallied to beat the visiting Buffalo Bills 42-36 on Sunday night in a sizzling finish to a wild NFL divisional-round weekend.
The lead changed hands three times in the final two minutes of regulation before Harrison Butker, who earlier missed a field goal and extra point, drilled a 49-yarder for Kansas City as time expired to force overtime.
Kansas City won the coin toss, marched swiftly downfield against the NFL's top-ranked but exhausted defence, and right into their fourth straight AFC title game. They'll play the Bengals next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Mahomes finished with 378 yards passing and three touchdowns, including a 64-yarder to Tyreek Hill during the thrilling final minutes of regulation and the clutch throw to Kelce that sent players streaming off the bench.
"The guys didn't flinch," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "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 when Kansas City were up against it?
"When it's grim, be the grim reaper, and go get it," Reid said. "He made everyone around him better."
Josh Allen was pretty good, too. He threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis with 1:54 left in the regulation, then another to Davis — his playoff-record fourth TD catch — with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
Allen's only mistake? Calling tails on the coin toss for overtime.
He finished with 329 yards passing, and Davis with eight catches for 201 yards, as the Bills — who had beaten Kansas City in October — lost their ninth straight road playoff game dating to their last victory in the 1992 season's AFC championship.
In a playoff game for the history books Sunday night, the Bills and Kansas City played 58 minutes that few will remember. And about two minutes and an overtime that few will forget.
Kansas City were leading 26-21 when Allen, who had been nearly perfect all night, connected with Davis for the third time in the game — a fourth-and-13 dart that gave the Bills the lead.
Not to be outdone, Kansas City answered when Mahomes found Hill over the middle. The fleet-footed wide receiver ran away from cornerback Levi Wallace for a 64-yard touchdown that gave Kansas City the lead back.
Then it was the Bills' turn. Allen threw a 28-yard pass to Davis, hit him again for 12 yards, then found Emmanuel Sanders to give coach Sean McDermott's team a chance with 17 seconds on the clock.
Allen hit Davis right between the numbers, their 19-yard strike giving him the post-season record, but not the victory.
Mahomes wasn't done conjuring up playoff magic. He found Hill for 19 yards, then hit Kelce for 25 more. That gave Butker a chance to try a 49-yarder into a slight, chilly breeze as time expired.
Naturally, it split the uprights.
A fitting way to end a divisional-round weekend filled with last-second heroics.
Rams hold off Bucs late rally with clutch final drive
Matthew Stafford outplayed Tom Brady in the final minute, moving the Rams into position for a last-second field goal that gave Los Angeles a 30-27 victory over the hometown Buccaneers on Sunday after the seven-time Super Bowl champions led Tampa Bay on a late tying drive.
Stafford threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns, and Matt Gay's 30-yard field goal as time expired sent the Rams (14-5) into next Sunday's NFC championship game at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
Brady rallied the Bucs from a 27-3 second-half deficit with help from three Los Angeles turnovers, tying the game on Leonard Fournette's nine-yard run on fourth-and-inches with 42 seconds remaining. The NFL's all-time passer leader didn't get an opportunity to finish the job.
And it's uncertain if that was the final game for Brady, who's undecided on retirement.
Stafford led the Rams downfield after the ensuing kickoff, using completions of 20 and 44 yards to league receiving leader Cooper Kupp to set up Gay's third field goal of the day.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Stafford said. "I mean, we sure let 'em back in the game with a bunch of mistakes on offence. Our defence played outstanding. We've got to clean some stuff up, do a little better job in the turnover department.
"This is a tough team, man, this is what we're all about. Just happy to get a win and keep on moving."
Earlier, Stafford found Kupp wide open behind the Bucs secondary on a 70-yard scoring play that put Los Angeles up 17-3 early in the second quarter.
"Man, he's the heart and soul of this offence," Stafford said. "What he's able to do down in, down out, whether it's in the pass game, run game — he's an unbelievable competitor."
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Stafford, who had never won a post-season game before beating Arizona in the previous week's wild-card round, completed 28 of 38 passes without an interception. The 13-year veteran also scored on a one-yard run as the Rams (14-5) advanced to next Sunday's NFC championship game at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
Brady completed 30 of 54 passes for 329 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble.
Fournette also scored on a one-yard run for Tampa Bay, which pulled within 27-20 on Brady's 55-yard TD throw to Mike Evans, who made the catch with Jalen Ramsey in pursuit with 3:20 left.
The Bucs (14-5), who lost to the Rams for third time in two seasons, were trying to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the Brady-led New England Patriots during the 2004 season.
Stafford played one of his best games of the season in the September meeting, when he threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 34-24 Rams win in Los Angeles. He got off to another fast start Sunday, completing nine of his first 12 passes for 176 yards and the TDs to Blanton and Kupp to open a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Rams nearly blow 27-3 lead
It was 20-3 at halftime, and the Bucs were fortunate their deficit wasn't bigger. With the Rams on the verge of scoring again in the closing seconds of the second quarter, Cam Akers fumbled at the Tampa Bay one-yard line and Tampa Bay's Antoine Winfield recovered to keep the defending champs to keep from falling behind.
Akers initially was ruled down by contact, but a lengthy review of the play determined the ball was beginning to come loose before the running back's helmet hit the turf.
The Rams built the lead to 27-3 on Stafford's quarterback sneak, with help along the way from some uncharacteristic mistakes by the Bucs. That included unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for taunting and Brady, who was flagged while arguing unsuccessfully for what he felt should have been a penalty on the Rams for a hit that appeared to bloody his lip.
The Rams were generous, too, continuing to hurt themselves in the second half.
Kupp, who had nine catches for 183 yards, lost a fumble, and the offence failed to take advantage of Von Miller sacking Brady to a force a fumble at the Tampa Bay 25 when centre Brian Allen snap sailed past Stafford in shotgun formation and recovered by the Bucs.
Finally, Suh forced a second fumble by Akers at the Los Angeles 30, giving Brady an opportunity to tie it in the last two minutes.
Evans finished with eight catches for 119 yards. Fournette, activated from injured reserve after missing four games with a hamstring strain, rushed for 51 yards on 13 carries and had nine receptions for 56 yards.