KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the AFC championship game.
How they returned to the brink of their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years was unlike anything anybody could have imagined.
After digging a 24-0 hole against Houston early in the second quarter Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the high-flying Chiefs embarked on the biggest comeback in franchise history. Their young superstar proceeded to throw for 321 yards and five touchdowns, Travis Kelce and Damien Williams reached the end zone three times apiece, and Kansas City reeled off 41 consecutive points in a 51-31 victory over the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to win a playoff game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20 points. And Mahomes is the first player in NFL history with at least 300 passing yards, at least five TD passes and at least 50 rushing yards in a playoff game.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously we didn't start the way we wanted to, but all we were preaching – offense, defense and special teams – is let's do something special,” Mahomes said. “Everybody's already counting us out, let's keep fighting and just go one play at a time, and we found a way. Obviously, this is a huge win and now we've got the AFC championship game at home.”
The Chiefs (13-4), who lost to the Patriots in overtime in last year's conference title game, will play Tennessee on Sunday for a spot in Miami. The Titans stunned Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.
“We've already played them and we know they're a tough team,” Mahomes said of the Titans, who beat the Chiefs 35-32 in November. “They're a team that battles all the way until the end. They're a team that's really hot, playing really good football right now, so we know it's going to take our best effort.”
Kelce finished with 10 catches for 134 yards, Williams ran for two scores while catching a TD pass, helping the Chiefs win their seventh consecutive game and reach back-to-back AFC title games for the first time.
Watson, meanwhile, threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns while running for another, but not even his heroics could bail out the Texans (11-7) after they were outscored 28-0 in the second quarter. They continued to allow Kansas City to pull away during a dismal third, their epic collapse leaving the reborn Houston franchise 0-4 in the divisional round.
The Chiefs certainly gave them the perfect opportunity to finally break that streak in the first quarter.
Kansas City blew overage on Kenny Stills on the opening possession, allowing him to walk into the end zone from 54 yards. On offense, they wasted timeouts, dropped a series of easy passes and managed just 46 yards. And on special teams, the Chiefs had a punt blocked for a score and fumbled a return that set up another touchdown.
The Chiefs' miscues made them only the fourth home playoff team to trail 21-0 after the first quarter.
Then it was the Texans' turn to struggle.
They had stretched the lead to 24-0 before the Chiefs, whose largest deficit overcome had been 21 points, put together a comeback for the ages. Mahomes hit Williams with a quick touchdown toss, then Houston faked a punt at its own 31-yard line and was stuffed, giving the Chiefs a short field and another easy touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Texans return man DeAndre Carter had the ball pop loose and into the arms of Darwin Thompson, whose return set up a second Mahomes-to-Kelce touchdown in a matter of seconds. And a third came after the Chiefs forced a punt and they drove 90 yards to take a stunning 28-24 halftime lead.