In a never-say-die showdown between two of the NFL’s top teams, and two of its bright young quarterbacks, the Bills and Chiefs played a classic Sunday night decided by one of them calling tails and the other making him pay for it.
Josh Allen’s decision on the overtime coin toss was his only mistake for Buffalo all night.
Patrick Mahomes promptly followed it by marching Kansas City downfield against the NFL’s top-ranked but exhausted defense, then finding Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone from 8 yards, giving the Chiefs a memorable 42-36 victory — and never giving his burgeoning rival an opportunity with the ball.
“It worked out well for us this time,” said Mahomes, who has his team playing in its fourth consecutive AFC title game. “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.”
Did it perfectly, too, setting up a showdown next Sunday against Cincinnati for another trip to the Super Bowl.
“The guys didn’t flinch,” Chiefs 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 down the stretch?
“When it’s grim, be the grim reaper, and go get it,” Reid said. “He made everyone around him better.”
The lead changed hands three times in the final two minutes of regulation, and there were 25 points scored over that stretch. Harrison Butker, who earlier had missed a field goal and extra point, drilled a 49-yarder as time expired to force the extra session, and when the Chiefs won the coin toss, Mahomes took care of the rest.
He 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.
“We got tremendous leaders on both sides of the ball, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams,” Hill said. “Nobody panicked. Nobody was like, ‘Oh, the game is over, there’s 13 seconds left.’ We just made plays.”
Allen did everything he could to prevent another season-ending loss inside Arrowhead Stadium. 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 of the game — with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
Allen’s only mistake? His coin toss call.
He finished with 329 yards passing, and Davis with eight catches for 201 yards, as the Bills lost their ninth straight road playoff game — a streak that includes last year’s loss to Kansas City in the AFC title game.
“It’s just tough, you know? To be in that moment again,” Allen said. “It sucks the way it happened, you know? We wanted to win that game. We had opportunities. Just, yeah, taking it all in, holding onto that feeling, and making sure we don’t feel like this again — back-to-back years in the same spot. It’s tough to take in.”
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