NFL Playoff Diary: AFC Championship
Well, that was one odd day of football. Patrick Mahomes went walk-about. The 49ers lost by trying not to lose. The Bengals are going to the Super Bowl. Matthew Stafford is going to the Super Bowl. The CBS halftime show featured four guys who couldn’t hear each other talk. USAA continues for strange reasons to run commercials of Gronk uncomfortably trying to get discounted insurance without having served in the military. And a sizable group of really quacky fans blamed Tom Brady’s family for his possible retirement as he CLOSES IN ON AGE 45.
One odd day of football.
Cincinnati 27, Kansas City 24 (OT)
So before getting into the Bengals — and maybe telling a Mike Brown story or two; there’s nobody in professional football or, really, professional sports quite like him — we really need to talk about Patrick Mahomes.
What the heck happened to Patrick Mahomes?
For 29 minutes and 55 seconds, Mahomes played about as well as he has ever played — and that’s saying a lot because Mahomes has played about as well as any quarterback in NFL history. He was 17 for 20 for 220 yards and three touchdowns. And as good as those numbers are, they still do not capture the artistry of his game, the way he ran around in the pocket, the way he kept finding open receivers, the brilliant throws he made. We have been spoiled by Patrick Mahomes; he reaches this level so often — a little bit of Fran Tarkenton, a dash of Michael Vick, a pinch of Aaron Rodgers, a hint of Brett Favre, a spot of Peyton Manning — that we grow accustomed to it.
Then there were five seconds left in the first half, and the Chiefs were at the Bengals 1-yard line with no timeouts and a 21-10 lead. The prudent thing to do was kick the field goal, take the two-touchdown lead — heck, the Chiefs were getting the ball to start the second half anyway.
But Mahomes wanted one more play.
So, OK, five seconds left, one play, you try a quick hitter in the end zone, you either score or you kick the field goal …
… only Mahomes did what he never does; he made a really bad decision. He flipped a pass outside to Tyreek Hill with the hope and expectation that he could beat two defenders and get into the end zone. Hill is a football miracle worker. But this was beyond even his talents. He was stuffed well short of the goal line, no gain, and the clock ran out, and the Chiefs scored no points.
And from that moment on something went very, very wrong with Patrick Mahomes.
Well, at first, it didn’t seem like a bit deal. On the first drive of the second half, Hill and Travis Kelce dropped Mahomes’ passes, and the Chiefs had to punt for the first time. Hey, it happens.
But then the Chiefs got the ball back, and Mahomes missed consecutive passes which led to another punt. The Bengals kicked a field goal to close the margin to seven.
And then the Chiefs got the ball back, and Mahomes tried to throw a little receiver screen that was batted in the air and intercepted by Cincinnati’s enormous defensive tackle B.J. Hill. That led to a Joe Burrow touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase and a tie game.
The whole fourth quarter was left to be played.