EditorsNote: Minor rewording in lede; changed to “eight seconds” in 2nd graf; changed to “45” in 6th graf; changed to “the 6” in 7th graf; changed to “7-yard” in 8th graf;
Harrison Butker kicked the Kansas City Chiefs back to the Super Bowl.
Butker made a 45-yard field goal with three seconds remaining and the Chiefs beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 to win the AFC Championship Game for the third time in the past four seasons on Sunday.
Patrick Mahomes had 326 passing yards and two touchdowns and set up the game-winning kick on a scramble to his right with eight seconds left in the game. As he crossed the sideline, Mahomes was shoved by Joseph Ossai, resulting in a 15-yard penalty to set up Butker’s game-winning kick.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, tight end Travis Kelce caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and Kansas City’s defense had two interceptions and five sacks of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
In a 20-20 tie, Burrow and the Bengals took over at their own 12-yard line with 2:30 to play, but defensive tackle Chris Jones’ second sack of the game forced Cincinnati to punt to rookie Skyy Moore, who caught the ball at the 18 with 35 seconds left and returned it to Kansas City’s 47.
The Bengals pounced on their first takeaway and recovered momentum in the final minute of the third quarter. From the shotgun, Mahomes faked a handoff to Isiah Pacheco but as he twisted his body to the right, he lost control of the ball. Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard came up with the ball at Kansas City’s 45.
The drive appeared to stall quickly but the Bengals went for it on fourth-and-6, and Burrow went deep for Ja’Marr Chase, who hauled the ball in at the 6. Two plays later, running back Samaje Perine churned into the end zone for a 2-yard score and knotted the game at 20 with 13:30 remaining.
A hobbled Mahomes operated most of the second half without multiple key receivers due to injuries. He found Valdes-Scantling one step into the center of the end zone to put the Chiefs up 20-13, hooking up on third-and-10 for a 19-yard touchdown with 4:15 left in the third quarter. The 11-play drive covered 77 yards and was extended on a 7-yard connection to Valdes-Scantling on the previous third down.
Higgins hauled in 27-yard touchdown from Burrow to the tie the game at 13. On third-and-6, Burrow lofted a pass to the front, right corner of the end zone where Higgins elevated over Chiefs rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson for the score.
Three of Kansas City’s top receivers -- Mecole Hardman (pelvis), Kadarius Toney (ankle) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) -- exited with injuries in the first half.
Evan McPherson connected on his second field goal as time expired in the second quarter to bring the Bengals within seven points, 13-6.
Burrow was sacked four times before his fifth completion in the first half and faced constant pressure in the pocket. He was picked off three plays after the Chiefs jumped ahead 13-3 with 3:53 left in the second quarter.
On a fourth-and-1 rollout, Kelce caught his 15th career postseason TD, which tied him for second all-time with Rob Gronkowski.
--Field Level Media