The Kansas City Chiefs knew the NFL had their number all season. They didn’t blink.
The Chiefs used stellar coaching and a stable of talent to answer nearly every challenge and engineer a second consecutive Super Bowl berth.
Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes posted a spectacular AFC championship performance just one week after entering the NFL’s concussion protocol. He cleared protocol on Friday and returned to lead his team to a decisive 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night.
The Chiefs will face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa for Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7. The Bucs beat Green Bay in Lambeau Field 31-26 in the NFC championship game and will become the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The Chiefs will aim to become the first team to defend their Super Bowl title since Brady and the Patriots after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. And they’ll have to beat Brady, who reached his 10th Super Bowl in 20 seasons, to do so.
“The job’s not finished,” Mahomes said. “We’re going to Tampa. We’re going to try to run it back.”
The AFC championship, for much of the night, wasn’t close.
The same Chiefs team that had won its previous eight games by an average of four points fell into a 9-0 hole after second-year receiver Mecole Hardman muffed a punt halfway through the first quarter. Buffalo recovered at the 3-yard line and promptly scored a touchdown the following play. But by halftime, the deficit — and Hardman’s blunder — were mere memories. The Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points, Hardman scoring Kansas City’s first touchdown as well as setting up its second with a resounding 50-yard jet sweep.
Travis Kelce had himself a game as the six-time Pro Bowl player overwhelmed Buffalo defenders, Hill scurrying for 172 yards on nine catches while Kelce had 118 yards and two touchdowns on a championship game-record 13 catches.