Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs defeat Bengals to reach Super Bowl

Patrick Mahomes should be tied up or at least restricted.

A week before the AFC championship game, a right ankle sprain sustained the trash-talking Cincinnati Bengals to favorites over Mahomes and a Kansas City Chiefs team to host the conference title game for the fifth straight season.

But on Sunday night, Mahomes showed once again why he is considered perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL and a talent of the entire generation.

Mahomes made the deciding play when he tried for a first down – and absorbed a late hit – to set up Harrison Butker’s 45-yard field goal by three seconds that gave the Chiefs a 23-20 win from a 73.426 at the Arrowhead stage.

The Chiefs ended a three-game losing streak against the Bengals, whom they defeated in the AFC Championship game last season, and advanced to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.

“We wanted to play this team and we got them at Arrowhead Stadium and this time we were able to finish the job,” Mahomes said. “And the work is not over for us.”

The Chiefs play NFC champions Philadelphia Eagles, who defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 on Sunday, in Super Bowl LVII on February 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

For anyone familiar with NFL history, it might as well be called the Andy Reid Bowl.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid celebrates defensive end with Frank Clark, right.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid celebrates with defensive end Frank Clark after the team’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

(Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

The Chiefs coach is in his 10th season in Kansas City after 14 with the Eagles, whom he led to the 2004 Super Bowl.

“I had a great time there,” Reid said of his years in Philadelphia. “I’m happy for you. Happy for the city.”

Nobody was happier than Mahomes to return to the Super Bowl. He won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in 2018 and won the Super Bowl the next season.

But he failed to win back-to-back titles as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. And he endured three straight losses to the Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow.

“When I first came into the league, everything happened so quickly,” he said. “I won MVP. I won the Super Bowl.

“I thought that was just how it went. … Now that I’ve dealt with failure, losing the AFC championship and losing the Super Bowl, I know how much hard work and daily drudgery it takes.”

Mahomes and his teammates didn’t need extra motivation to go into Sunday’s game. But the Bengalis saw to it.

Cornerback Mike Hilton dubbed Arrowhead Stadium “Burrowhead.” Even the mayor of Cincinnati got involved.

“Dig my ass in,” tight end Travis Kelce said during a post-game television interview.

Mahomes said he and his teammates heard the barbs.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow carries the ball in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow carries the ball in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs.

(Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

“The guys were probably pumped up like I’ve never seen them at a football game,” Mahomes said. “A lot of trash talk comes from a lot of different places.”

Shrugging off the talk and the injury, Mahomes played a game that had little magic but plenty of clutch play.

On a day with a 77-degree kickoff and a wind chill of 10, Mahomes completed 29 of 43 passes for 326 yards, including touchdown throws for Kelce and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

He only appeared limited a few times. In the third quarter, Mahomes rolled left and threw back right to complete a pass. But as he ran back to the pile, he limped noticeably for the first time.

“It definitely didn’t feel good,” he said.

The pain was worse in the next series when he tried to retrieve a ball that slipped out of his hand and was recovered by the Bengals for a fumble.

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker celebrates after the team's win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker celebrates the team’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game.

(Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Burrow also absorbed shots. A Chiefs defense led by tackle Chris Jones and Frank Clark released Burrow five times — four in the first half — and rookie cornerbacks Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams intercepted passes.

Burrow completed 26 of 41 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown.

And the Chiefs kept giving him opportunities to repeat last season’s championship performance as he led the Bengals back from a 21-3 deficit to win in overtime.

After Kansas City took a 13-6 lead at halftime with two field goals and Kelce’s touchdown catch, the Chiefs’ inability to take full chances seemed to make for another disappointing result against the Bengals.

Burrow’s touchdown pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins early in the third quarter closed the score 13-13. Bengals, running back Samaje Perine’s touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, tied 20-20.

“The tide turned our way,” Burrow said. “It felt like we were only going to find one way to win this game.”

Williams’ interception with just seven minutes left gave Mahomes a chance, but the Chiefs didn’t take it. However, the defense forced the Bengals to tally, and Skyy Moore’s 20-yard return gave Mahomes the ball at the Chiefs’ 47-yard line with 30 seconds remaining.

In third and fourth place, Mahomes struggled for a first down and then was hit late by Bengal linebacker Joseph Ossai. A 15-yard penalty for unnecessary rudeness moved the ball to the 27, and Butker’s kick cleared the goalpost for the win.

“It was pure courage,” Reid said of Mahomes’ performance. “I can’t say enough that Pat does what he did and that he runs in the end. He’s the MVP in my eyes.”

General manager Brett Veach said: “People don’t know how injured he was. … It only adds to his already great legacy.”

Noted by Veach’s comments, Mahomes indicated he had work to do.

“My goal is to win a Super Bowl,” he said. “For me, the work is not over yet.” Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs defeat Bengals to reach Super Bowl

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