Chiefs 38, Bills 24
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes lobbed a touchdown pass to his favorite target, tight end Travis Kelce to push Kansas City’s lead to 38-15, making the comeback hill that much steeper for the Buffalo Bills with 7:36 remaining in the game.
Chiefs cornerback Rashad Fenton intercepted Bills quarterback Josh Allen at the Kansas City 12-yard line, just as the Bills were knocking in the red zone. To that point early in the fourth quarter, Buffalo had gone 55 yards in 11 plays to create a scoring opportunity. But Allen tried to thread a pass to John Brown in double coverage that Fenton returned 30 yards.
Kansas City started its drive on the Buffalo 42-yard line. Trying to run down as much of the clock as possible, the Chiefs ran the ball six times on the drive, with five carries going to Darrel Williams. Mahomes also scampered for nine yards.
In the red zone and under pressure, Mahomes drifted back in the pocket and lobbed the ball to the end zone, where Kelce was all alone.
Mahomes is now 29 for 35 passing for 325 yards and three scores. Kelce has 13 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Travis Kelce has set the record for most receptions (13) in a Conference Championship game in the Super Bowl era
Kelce surpasses Michael Irvin (1994 vs SF)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 25, 2021
Chiefs 38, Bills 21
Chiefs 38, Bills 15
Chiefs 31, Bills 15
The Chiefs and Bills traded field goals to start the second half, Kansas City used its speed and a bit of trickery to add a touchdown and expand their lead to 31-15 with under four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Chiefs’ score — an underhanded toss to tight end Travis Kelce, who ran the ball in from 1 yard out — was set up by a 71-yard reception by receiver Tyreek Hill, who eluded several Bills defenders with stutter steps before sprinting across the field on what had been a second-and-10 play from the Kansas City 25-yard line.
The four-play scoring drive, which took just 2:20, highlighted the challenge for Buffalo’s defense. Bills defenders have tried to limit long passes by playing their safeties deep, but Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has instead thrown short passes to Kelce, who has 11 receptions for 101 yards, and Hill, who has eight catches for 160 yards.
Buffalo hasn’t helped its own cause. Two drives stalled in the red zone, forcing the Bills to settle for field goals. The Bills have only converted 30 percent of their chances on third down.
Tyreek Hill reached a top speed of 20.76 MPH on this 71-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes, Hill’s 12th play reaching 20+ MPH this season, most in the NFL.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 25, 2021
Chiefs 24, Bills 15
Chiefs 24, Bills 12
Chiefs 21, Bills 12
The Kansas City Chiefs are playing in their third straight A.F.C. championship game at Arrowhead Stadium, and look completely at home, surging to a 21-12 lead at halftime.
The Buffalo Bills, who haven’t been to an A.F.C. championship game in 27 years, jumped out to a 9-0 lead. After kicking a field goal on their opening drive, the Bills scored a touchdown one play after recovering a muffed punt at the Chiefs’ 3-yard line.
But the Chiefs have shown over and over that they can score quickly and often. They trailed by double-digits in all three of their playoff games last year, so coming back from a 9-point deficit was little problem for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Taking snaps mostly out of the shotgun formation and running play-action plays to freeze Buffalo’s defenders, Mahomes has connected with five different receivers, led by tight end Travis Kelce, who already has nine catches for 92 yards. Buffalo has heavily blitzed Mahomes, who lacks his usual mobility because of a foot injury.
The Chiefs have also used their speed. On one drive, Mahomes pitched the ball on an end-around to receiver Mecole Hardman, who sprinted for a 50-yard gain. On another drive, Mahomes broke a tackle to buy enough time to find receiver Tyreek Hill for 33 yards.
After the Chiefs scored three touchdowns on three possessions in the second quarter, the Bills finally regained some momentum. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who has been under pressure all night, hit tight end Dawson Knox for a 12-yard gain, then connected with running back T.J. Yeldon for 20 more yards. Allen also ran for 10 yards.
But once in the red zone, the Bills’ drive stalled and they had to settle for a 20-yard field goal.
Chiefs 21, Bills 9
The Kansas City Chiefs are making it look easy now. They scored their third touchdown of the second quarter — a one-yard run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire — to expand their lead over the Buffalo Bills to 21-9.
After another Bills drive stalled, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed again why he is one of the most dangerous passers in the league. Playing with a cleat that is a half-size bigger to create space for a cushion for his injured toe, Mahomes has not run the ball. But he has eluded tacklers and scrambled out of the pocket long enough to find open receivers.
On third-and-6 from the Chiefs’ 38-yard line, Mahomes seemed to be within the grasp of Bills linebacker Matt Milano, before cutting back to his left and finding tight end Travis Kelce up the middle for an 11-yard gain that kept the drive alive.
Lining up in shotgun formation, Mahomes found himself under pressure again, but connected with receiver Tyreek Hill on a crossing route for a short pass that Hill extended for a 33-yard gain. On the next play, Kelce caught another short pass around the Bills’ 19-yard line and turned upfield for a sideline sprint before being pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Edwards-Helaire’s touchdown run was the Chiefs’ third score in its last three possessions.
After spotting the Bills nine points, the Chiefs have now scored two convincing touchdowns, and both of them involved wide receiver Mecole Hardman. The Chiefs now lead, 14-9, midway through the second quarter.
After stopping the Bills on their fourth drive of the game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tossed the ball to Hardman on a play-action call on first-and-10 from the Kansas City 18-yard line. The receive found the edge and sprinted into the open field for a 50-yard gain.
Two plays later, Mahomes found workhorse tight end Travis Kelce for a 15-yard gain that put the Chiefs on Buffalo’s 6-yard line. Kelce has seven catches for 64 yards. From there, Williams took the handoff and ran up the middle for a 6-yard score. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker connected on the extra point attempt.
Despite the Bills’ early lead, the momentum in the game has swung with the Chiefs’ defense locking in on the Bills offense. Buffalo’s cornerbacks have tightly covered the Bills’ leading receiver, Stefon Diggs, and blitzed quarterback Josh Allen.
Chiefs 14, Bills 9
Kansas City wide receiver Mecole Hardman atoned for a muffed punt by catching a short touchdown pass to give the Chiefs their first points of the A.F.C. championship game. The sccore narrowed the Buffalo Bills’ lead to 9-7.
The Chiefs put together a methodical 14-play, 80-yard drive, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes hitting two of his favorite targets, tight end Travis Kelce (four catches on the drive) and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Mahomes showed no ill effects from an injured toe he suffered in last week’s game against the Cleveland Browns. The quarterback had also entered the league’s concussion protocol after a hit in that game sidelined him.
While he didn’t run the ball on the first touchdown drive, Mahomes looked comfortable in the pocket looking for receivers. He hit Hardman with a short pass before connecting with him on a 3-yard touchdown score to end the drive that lasted nearly seven minutes.
With Travis Kelce in motion, Patrick Mahomes hits Mecole Hardman on a quick WR screen pass (1.14s time to throw), who takes it in for the 3-yard score.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 25, 2021
Bills 9, Chiefs 7
Bills 9, Chiefs 0
The Bills got the first big break of the A.F.C. Championship Game — a recovery of a muffed catch on a punt — and quickly turned it into a touchdown to add to their early field goal.
After a missed extra point, the Bills now lead the Chiefs 9-0 with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
When their second drive stalled on their end of the field, the Bills punted. Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs punt returner, dropped the ball near the Chiefs 10-yard line. The ball bounced all the way back to the goal line with Bills players scrambling for it. Taiwan Jones fell on the ball.
On the next play, quarterback Josh Allen hit tight end Dawson Knox, who walked into the end zone for the score.
On his first two drives of the game, Allen completed 4 of 8 passes for 38 yards. He kept the Bills’ opening drive alive when Buffalo opted to go for it on third-and-3 from their own 22-yard line, finding Knox with a 17-yard pass. Buffalo closed that drive with a 51-yard field goal to open scoring.
Allen’s scrambles were critical to the Bills’ second drive, as he twice ran for third-down conversions with rushes of 17 and 15 yards.
Bills 3, Chiefs 0
The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills will have more than a conference championship on the line when they face each other Sunday night: They have history, too.
The Chiefs, who had a league-best 14-2 record this season, are trying to become the first team since the New England Patriots to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Only seven teams (including the Pittsburgh Steelers, who did it twice) have accomplished the feat, and only two — the Patriots and the Denver Broncos — have won consecutive titles after the 1994 season, when the league installed a salary cap.
Snake-bitten Bills fans will take even one championship. Buffalo made history in the early 1990s by playing in four straight Super Bowls. Unfortunately, they also made history by losing all of them. This is their first trip to the A.F.C. championship game since the 1993 season, the last year of that four-year run.
This Bills team went 13-3 in the regular season and won the A.F.C. East for the first time in a quarter-century, unseating the Patriots. Quarterback Josh Allen had an M.V.P.-caliber year, throwing for more than 4,500 yards and 37 touchdowns, and running for another eight scores. His favorite target, Stefon Diggs, led the league in receptions and receiving yards.
The Buffalo defense will have to stop Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was knocked out of last week’s victory over Cleveland with a concussion. Mahomes has shown an uncanny ability to befuddle defenses, including in last year’s playoffs, when he helped the Chiefs erase a 24-point lead in the divisional round. The Kansas City offense is loaded with talent, from tight end Travis Kelce to wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
This is the fourth playoff matchup between the Bills and Chiefs. Buffalo won the first two in the 1990s. The Chiefs’ only win came in 1967, when they beat the Bills and faced the Green Bay Packers for the title.
Buccaneers 31, Packers 26
In March, seeking a rewarding second chapter to a glittering career, Tom Brady signed a $50 million free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl victories as quarterback for the New England Patriots. The hope in Tampa was that Brady’s megawatt celebrity and proven talent could sprinkle a little stardust on a middling N.F.L. franchise and perhaps vault it to the league’s upper echelon.
On Sunday, Brady and the Buccaneers got their wishes. And maybe more.
In a stirring, tense duel between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Brady and the Buccaneers held off a late charge by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for a 31-26 upset victory in the N.F.C. championship game in Green Bay, Wis. The Buccaneers will become the first N.F.L. team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium, on Feb. 7.
After the game, when Coach Bruce Arians was asked what Brady had brought with him to Tampa Bay, he said: “The belief he gave everybody in the organization that this could be done. It only took one man.”
Brady, in a postgame interview, tried to deflect credit for the victory, but said: “Who would have even thought a home Super Bowl for us? But we did it.”
Addressing Buccaneers fans, Arians shouted: “We’re coming home, and we’re coming home to win.”
Tampa Bay, which has won three successive postseason games on the road this month, took an 11-point halftime lead on two Brady touchdown passes. The Packers, the top seed in the conference, stormed back, trimming the deficit to 5 points late in the third quarter. But Brady, who will be making his 10th Super Bowl appearance, led fifth-seeded Tampa Bay to a pivotal fourth-quarter field goal, and the Packers failed to score a touchdown on a crucial, late possession despite a first-and-goal at the Buccaneers’ 8-yard line.
The Buccaneers will play the winner of Sunday night’s A.F.C. championship game, between the Buffalo Bills and the host Kansas City Chiefs, in the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Brady, 43, will become just the fourth quarterback to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl. It was also done by Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning and Craig Morton.
For Rodgers, who won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2010 season, Sunday’s loss was his fourth in a conference championship game.
With both teams depleted by injuries — the Packers were without running back Aaron Jones and Tampa Bay was missing both starting safeties — Green Bay charged back from an 18-point deficit with two third-quarter touchdown passes by Rodgers, who completed 33 of 48 passes for 346 yards. The Packers, assisted by a penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit near the goal line, cut the Tampa Bay lead to 5 points after a 2-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams. Green Bay attempted 2-point conversion was unsuccessful, and it trailed Tampa Bay, 28-23.
The Packers’ rally was greatly assisted by three interceptions thrown in the second half by Brady, who completed 20 of 36 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns. But only one of those interceptions led to a Packers touchdown. More significant was Green Bay’s last possession, when Rodgers led his team to the Tampa Bay 8-yard line with the chance to tie the game with a touchdown and a successful 2-point conversion. Rodgers instead threw three successive incompletions — the last two directed at Adams — and Green Bay settled for a field goal rather than trying for the end zone again on fourth down with slightly more than two minutes remaining.
That decision proved consequential since the Packers never possessed the football again.
After the game, Rodgers called his future with the team “uncertain.” The Packers traded up to select quarterback Jordan Love from Utah State in the first round of the 2020 N.F.L. draft, which led to some friction between Rodgers and the franchise.
“There’s a lot of unknowns going into this off-season now,” Rodgers said Sunday. “I’m just going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything. But it’s pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There’s always change. That’s the only constant in this business.
Buccaneers 31, Packers 26
After failing to get in the end zone despite a first down at the Tampa Bay 8-yard line, the Packers settled for a 26-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2 minutes and 9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, to narrow the Buccaneers’ lead to 31-26.
That score followed a Tampa Bay field goal that ended Tom Brady’s interception streak. With 4 minutes and 46 seconds remaining, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Succop had extended the Buccaneers’ lead to 31-23 with a 46-yard field goal that punctuated an 8-play, 44-yard drive.
Buccaneers 31, Packers 23
Staying aggressive, the Buccaneers moved deep into Green Bay territory early in the fourth quarter and seemed poised to extend their lead. Tom Brady had completed two of three passes in a smooth drive. But a pass over the middle for Mike Evans was a bit high and ticked just off Evans’s fingertips. Green Bay defensive back Jaire Alexander caught the deflection and returned the interception to the Green Bay 19-yard line. Three straight Tampa Bay possessions ended in Brady interceptions.
But the Packers could not make anything of the turnover as the Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaq Barrett sacked Rodgers on third down to force a punt. The Tampa Bay defense has sacked Rodgers four times today and eight times this season counting the Buccaneers regular season rout of Green Bay.
On the next Buccaneers possession, Brady, under pressure from the Green Bay pass rush, threw a reckless pass downfield that floated and was intercepted by Alexander again. Evans was again the target but was more than five yards from the underthrown pass. The Tampa Bay defense, however, forced another Green Bay punt after three plays.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 23
With both teams depleted by key injuries — Packers running back Aaron Jones left the game with an injury and Tampa Bay is missing both starting safeties — Green Bay stormed back with a second successive third-quarter touchdown in a game in which they had trailed by 18 points.
The Packers, assisted by a penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit near the goal line, cut the Tampa Bay lead to five points after a 2-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams. Green Bay attempted an unsuccessful 2-point conversion and trails Tampa Bay, 28-23.
The sequence began when Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady, who has been brazenly flinging the football deep downfield throughout Sunday’s game, too one risk too many. Trying to connect with wide receiver Mike Evans along the right sideline, Brady’s deep throw fluttered a bit and Green Bay safety Adrian Amos had time to run over from the middle of the field to intercept the pass and give the Packers the football at their own 32-yard line.
Tom Brady is picked-off by Adrian Amos!
With Jaire Alexander in press coverage, Mike Evans struggled to separate, never gaining more than 2 yards of separation at any moment of the route.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 24, 2021
A methodical Green Bay drive ensued with a mix of running and passing plays, and the Packers advanced into Tampa Bay territory. Green Bay converted a third-and-2 from the Tampa Bay 24-yard line with an 11-yard reception by Jamaal Williams. Two plays later, a 7-yard pass to Adams concluded with a tackle by Tampa Bay’s Carlton Davis, who lowered his head as he collided with Adams.
Three plays later, Rodgers found Adams on a quick in-route in the end zone.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 17
Trailing by 18 points, the Packers went to the air more frequently than they probably anticipated early in the third quarter. But that aggressiveness paid off when tight end Robert Tonyan caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers at the end of an eight-play, 75-yard drive. The score cut the Tampa Bay lead to 28-17.
Rodgers was clearly looking to his more featured wide receivers early in the play but since they were either double covered or not open, he came back to the middle of the formation where Tonyan had found an unoccupied seam. With a sidearm motion, Rodgers zipped the ball for the touchdown that quickly got Green Bay back in the game. Rodgers was 5 of 6 passing in the possession.
Tampa Bay’s ascendant second-year linebacker Devin White was in the middle of a meaningful play for the second consecutive week when he recovered a fumble by Green Bay running back Aaron Jones at the start of the second half that led to another Buccaneers touchdown. Jones had caught a key third-down pass from Aaron Rodgers and was trying to pick up the first down when the football was dislodged on a tackle by Jordan Whitehead.
White recovered the ball and ran it to the Packers’ 8-yard line. On the Buccaneers’ next play, Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate for a 28-10 Tampa Bay lead. It was Brady’s third touchdown pass of the game.
White missed the Buccaneers’ opening playoff victory over the Washington Football Team because he was on the Covid-19 reserve list, but he has been a dominant force since.
In Tampa Bay’s 30-20 upset victory over the New Orleans Saints last weekend, White recovered a pivotal fumble by Saints tight end Jared Cook that led to a game-tying touchdown in the third quarter. He also made 11 tackles and had a game-clinching fourth quarter interception. In the regular season, White led the Buccaneers in tackles with 140, including 97 solo tackles.
“Great players usually smell blood in the water,” Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said of White last week. “I think sitting at home for a week really inspired him to show what he was missing, so he wanted to come out and make a splash.”
After the Saints game, White said he liked “to put his stamp on a game.” He added: “I felt like I hadn’t made a big play. The game was still tight and I didn’t want it to be tight.”
Said Tampa Bay Coach Bruce Arians: “That’s just typical Devin — flying around and making tackles and making some of the most important plays of the game.”
Oh, that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh
I like it!!!!
— Gisele Bündchen (@giseleofficial) January 24, 2021
On the final play from scrimmage in the first half, the Buccaneers continued to take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes — as they have throughout the postseason. This time Tampa Bay capitalized on a late Aaron Rodgers interception at midfield that gave Tom Brady a short field and under 30 seconds to score.
Brady threw a stunning, 39-yard touchdown strike to Bucs receiver Scotty Miller with one second left in the second quarter that put Tampa Bay ahead, 21-10. Tampa Bay came into Sunday’s game with 27 points scored following turnovers in its two previous road victories.
The sequence began when the Packers took over at their own 13-yard line with slightly more than two minutes remaining before intermission. On a third-and-9, the Buccaneers blitzed again, which left Allen Lazard open over the middle for a 23-yard reception. But on the next play, the Buccaneers Jason Pierre-Paul burst past the Packers left tackle Billy Turner and pounded Aaron Rodgers to the ground for his second sack of the game.
After a timeout, Tampa Bay defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting got away with grabbing Lazard’s jersey as they jostled downfield. Then Murphy-Bunting cut in front of Lazard to intercept a Rodgers pass with less than 30 seconds remaining before intermission.
The Buccaneers gained only six yards on three ensuing plays but went for it on fourth down at the Packers’ 45-yard line with 13 seconds left in the half. A Brady pass to Leonard Fournette picked up the first down and on the next play, which began with eight seconds on the clock, Brady threw in the left corner of the end zone to Miller, who ran away from Green Bay cornerback Kevin King.