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Patrick Mahomes Guides Chiefs to 1st Super Bowl in 50 Years with Win vs. Titans

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2020

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 19: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after running for a 27 yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs claimed their first AFC championship by beating the Tennessee Titans 35-24 in the conference title game Sunday at home at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl for the third time, the last of which came the year before the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.

With the victory, Kansas City avenged last season's overtime defeat to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.

The Chiefs finished with a 112-85 edge in rushing yards, which few would've seen coming before the game. Damien Williams' three-yard scoring run made it a two-score game in the fourth quarter.

NFL @NFL

Damien Williams gets to the edge for the touchdown! @Chiefs lead 28-17 in the fourth quarter. #ChiefsKingdom #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsKC on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/x5sQRf24XS https://t.co/ARzykA89uB

Sammy Watkins caught his first touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes since Week 1 to break things wide open.

NFL @NFL

Right on time. @PatrickMahomes @SammyWatkins #NFLPlayoffs #ChiefsKingdom 📺: #TENvsKC on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/x5sQRf24XS https://t.co/OC8K5N3Rgv

Getting this close to the Super Bowl and falling short is always disappointing, but reaching this stage of the postseason would've been unthinkable for the Titans in October when they had dropped four of their opening six games.

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Notable Performers

  • Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs: 23-of-35, 294 yards, three touchdowns; 53 rushing yards, one touchdown
  • Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs: seven receptions, 114 yards, one touchdown
  • Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs: five receptions, 67 yards, two touchdowns
  • Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans: 21-of-31, 209 yards, two touchdowns
  • Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: 19 carries, 69 yards, one touchdown
  • A.J. Brown, WR, Titans: three receptions, 51 yards

          

Mahomes Delivers Again for Kansas City

Last week, the Chiefs trailed the Houston Texans 24-0 before scoring four touchdowns to completely alter the direction of their divisional round clash. Shell-shocked, Houston had seven points over the remainder of the game.

Sunday wasn't a carbon copy of that incredible comeback, but Kansas City found itself in another early hole after Tennessee put 10 points on the board. A one-yard touchdown reception by offensive tackle Dennis Kelly made it 17-7 in favor of the Titans with 6:43 left in the first half. 

That's when Mahomes went to work. He hit Tyreek Hill for a 20-yard touchdown pass and then ran for a 27-yard score to give Kansas City a four-point edge, 21-17, heading into halftime.

NFL @NFL

THAT. WAS. INCREDIBLE. Championship moment for @PatrickMahomes. #NFLPlayoffs #ChiefsKingdom 📺: #TENvsKC on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/x5sQRf24XS https://t.co/fopHAvVlzl

Rich Eisen @richeisen

That Mahomes run is one of the greatest plays in the history of #NFL100 We will be seeing it over and over forever and ever. It’s that amazing.

Calling Mahomes "great" might be a bit hasty since he's only in his second season as a starter. But he has undoubtedly reached a level at which throwing for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns is par for the course.

Dan Orlovsky @danorlovsky7

I thank Jesus for a lot. Today, mainly, for @PatrickMahomes

Russell Wilson @DangeRussWilson

😳😳😳 Mahomes = #Baller

Mina Kimes @minakimes

Patrick Mahomes is so consistently ridiculous that he just made an INSANE throw and we're all gonna forget about it

In general, this win differed from the Chiefs' comeback over the Texans in that they didn't have an offensive explosion that put the game out of reach in the second half. Kansas City basically used the Titans' approach against them.

For example, the entirety of Tennessee's offense in the third quarter was limited to a six-play, 17-yard drive.

Leroy Hoard @BigMouthLeroy

This is like death by 1k paper cuts. KC is just methodically moving the ball down the field. The Titans D can’t hold up much longer. The need a rest #AFCChampionship

Ty Schalter @tyschalter

Chiefs doing to the Titans what I thought the Titans might do to the Chiefs: wearing them down. https://t.co/Wk9bauHALh

The Chiefs defense made much-needed improvements since hiring Steve Spagnuolo, climbing from 26th to 14th in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders. Kansas City showed Sunday a methodical offense can sometimes be the best form of defense.

Frank Clark's Trash Talk Proves Prophetic

Frank Clark appeared to be tempting fate when he said Derrick Henry was "not hard to hit" in an interview with NFL Network (h/t ESPN.com).

"He's just a big guy. 240, 245, 250 [pounds]; honestly, he should be running harder at his weight and at his size," Clark said. "I don't see no difficulty in tackling him ... He's just easy to me up front because I don't look at any running back like they can't be tackled. He's not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me, honestly."

Generally it seemed like a bad idea to provide additional motivation to a running back who had 377 yards in his team's last two games.

The Chiefs held Henry in check for the most part, though.

He had the Titans' first touchdown, finding the end zone on a four-yard run in the first quarter.

NFL @NFL

Direct snap to Henry and he's in! 👑 @KingHenry_2 puts the @Titans up 10-0 in the first quarter. #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsKC on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/x5sQRf24XS https://t.co/Z7voodKUyo

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Frank Clark seeing Derrick Henry score a touchdown https://t.co/5MY1nnSR9U

Having logged 367 carries between the regular season and playoffs, he may have begun to run out of gas. Many were expecting Henry to hit another gear in the second half, and he never did.

Ben Gretch @YardsPerGretch

Derrick Henry has 19 carries for 69 yards (3.6 per). Plenty of game left but he hasn’t had a lower YPC since Week 6.

Rich Ohrnberger @ohrnberger

Derrick Henry in the 2nd Half, 2019: 171 attempts, 997 yards, 5.8 yd/rush, 14 TD, 74 yard long ...the Chiefs are playing keep away right now, and it’s brilliant. 10:57 of TOP in the 3rd Quarter.

Arif Hasan, orbital traveler 🎆 @ArifHasanNFL

Tannehill has powered through more Frank Clark takedowns than Derrick Henry send tweet

The Titans attempted to mount a late charge, fueled by a gutsy fake punt on 4th-and-8 from their own 22-yard line.

NFL @NFL

The @Titans pull off the fake punt! #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsKC on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/x5sQRf24XS https://t.co/HQQrwMgyIS

A 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Anthony Firkser with 4:18 left in the fourth quarter made things interesting. By the time Tennessee got the ball back, however, only 2:08 remained on the clock. That forced Tennessee to go for it on 4th-and-6, a play that ended in a Tannehill sack to seal the team's fate.

          

What's Next?

The Chiefs will meet either the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

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