A last-minute field goal saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 at the AFC Championship and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl on Sunday (January 29), setting up a showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain only days earlier but produced a heroic sprint to get the Chiefs the first down with the game tied and mere seconds left on the clock.
An unnecessary roughness call on defensive end Joseph Ossai, who shoved Mahomes out of bounds, put kicker Harrison Butker within range and the Chiefs had their revenge a year after Cincinnati ended their path to the Super Bowl.
“The work’s not done,” head coach Andy Reid said to a euphoric Kansas City crowd. “We’ve got a few practices here and then we’ve got to take care of business.”
The Bengals rolled into icy cold Kansas City on a 10-game winning streak but struggled at first to keep their cool amid the ear-splitting cheers from the home fans, as a relentless Chiefs defense sacked Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow four times in the first half.
But the game turned into an epic duel as Burrow leveled the score with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins in the third quarter and Mahomes retaliated, connecting with Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone.
A touchdown on a two-yard sneak by Samaje Perine put the Bengals back in contention, but the Chiefs would not be denied their third trip four years to the Super Bowl.
The win set up a tantalising showdown between the Chiefs’ powerhouse offense and one of the most devastating defenses in the league, after the Eagles thrashed the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 in the NFC Championship on Sunday.
A pair of rushing touchdowns from Miles Sanders helped the Philadelphia Eagles clinch it, after injuries hit San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy and backup Josh Johnson.
“This is something you dream about as a kid,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said in televised remarks. “Just to be able to do this together with a bunch of men that love each other, that have connected to each other, that would do anything for each other, it’s pretty sweet.”
The Eagles set the tone early, converting on fourth down on the opening drive with a sensational one-handed catch by receiver DeVonta Smith before the Pro Bowler Sanders scrambled six yards into the end zone.
The situation went from bad to worse for San Francisco as Purdy left the game with an elbow injury after a strip sack by Eagles’ linebacker Haason Reddick during the 49ers’ first possession.
Running back Christian McCaffrey broke through a swarm of defenders to put the Niners on the board in the second quarter but Sanders wrested back the lead immediately with a 13-yard touchdown.
Johnson, the Niners’ fourth-string quarterback after injuries previously sidelined starters Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, fumbled the ball late in the second quarter and the Eagles recovered, sending a shiver of despair through the away team as Boston Scott ran it into the end zone.
Purdy went back into the contest after Johnson smacked his head on the turf but was ineffective against the razor-sharp Eagles, as quarterback Jalen Hurts leapt into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter and Jake Elliott made a 31-yard field goal in the fourth.
“This is a special city,” said Hurts, 24, before leading the euphoric crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in singing the Eagles’ fight song, “Fly, Eagles Fly”. “We’ve got one more.”