Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs past the Bills and back into the Super Bowl

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Republican Right Decisions

Jan 26, 2021, 5:55:02 AM1/26/21
Two Republican teams in the Super Bowl.

At various points of their Super Bowl defense, the Kansas City
Chiefs discharged traces of vulnerability. They developed a
chronic penchant for close games. Patrick Mahomes stumbled and
departed a playoff game last week after a nasty hit around his
head. The rise of Josh Allen in Buffalo allowed for the
possibility that another team may match the force of nature they
deploy at quarterback. Early in Sunday evening’s AFC
championship game, they trailed by two scores. They allowed the
rest of the NFL periodic reason for hope, hope that always
dissipates once it comes time to play.

Until further notice — or maybe until Tom Brady has his say —
there are the Chiefs and there is everybody else. Kansas City is
headed back to the Super Bowl after its 38-24 dispatching of the
Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., another
statement of its superiority. In two weeks, Mahomes and the
Chiefs will face Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a dream Super
Bowl LV matchup. The Chiefs will be favored over the legend
playing at his home stadium in his 10th Super Bowl, a fitting
acknowledgment of their place atop the league.

“We just got to be ourselves,” Mahomes said afterward, standing
on a podium erected in the middle of the confetti-covered field.
“I trust my guys over anybody.”

The Chiefs kept alive their bid to become the first repeat Super
Bowl champion since Brady’s New England Patriots in the 2004
season. In his fourth year, at age 25, Mahomes could become the
eighth quarterback to win consecutive Super Bowls. The first
seven do not require first names: Brady, Elway, Aikman, Montana,
Bradshaw, Griese and Starr.

Mahomes already belongs with the greats. He exited last week’s
victory early after a choke-slam tackle left him wobbly and
glass-eyed. He spent the week navigating the NFL’s concussion
protocol and healing a banged-up toe that forced him to limp
before his departure against the Cleveland Browns. In his third
straight AFC championship game appearance, Mahomes completed 29
of 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, one of which he
shoveled underhand a couple of feet to tight end Travis Kelce,
who merely caught 13 balls for 118 yards and two scores.

“You guys are seeing him grow right in front of you,” Chiefs
Coach Andy Reid said in a virtual news conference. “You’re
seeing the steps that he’s taking. I’m sitting there, I’m an old
guy that’s seen a couple good quarterbacks. This guy seems to
amaze more every game.”

Late Sunday night, Reid recalled the moments after the previous
highest-stakes meeting between Brady and Mahomes. After Brady’s
Patriots beat the Chiefs in the AFC championship game two years
ago, Brady entered the Chiefs’ locker room to speak with
Mahomes. “Patrick responded like a young guy would talking to
the GOAT,” Reid said.

The reverence for Brady will cease once the whistle blows.
Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was asked if he had a message
for Brady. He did not. “I’ll see his ass on Sunday in the Super
Bowl,” Clark said.

The Bills emerged from the wilderness this season with their
best team since the Super Bowl bridesmaids of the mid-1990s, a
powerhouse that had won eight straight entering Sunday. Allen
harnessed the power in both his arms and legs and elevated to
elite status among quarterbacks. They and their raucous fans
came to see themselves as a team of destiny. They realized they
are ultimately, in one way, no different than the rest of the
NFL: not as good as the Chiefs.

Down 3-0 after the teams’ first possessions, Kansas City forced
Buffalo to punt. Mecole Hardman muffed it inside the 10, and the
ball squirted to the 3, where the Bills recovered. The
disastrous start left the Chiefs down 9-0, one point shy of the
deficit they faced in last year’s AFC championship game against
the Tennessee Titans.

The Bills discovered the same hard truth as the Titans: The
Chiefs are never really in trouble because their offense is an
unsolvable problem. When a defense attempts to plug one leak,
another springs up, then another.

The Bills played a defense designed to protect against the big
plays made possible by the speed of wide receivers Tyreek Hill
and Hardman, a sound choice. But the Chiefs also have one of the
greatest in NFL history at exploiting soft coverage in the
middle of the field. Kelce snared nine passes in the first half,
constantly delivering first downs.

For the Chiefs’ first touchdown, Reid essentially chose to
uplift Hardman, who scored on a screen pass at the goal line.
Hardman then jump-started the Chiefs’ next drive with a blazing
50-yard sprint on an end-around. The Chiefs would score 21
points in the second quarter and take a 21-12 lead into halftime
after the Bills made the fatal mistake of kicking a field goal
inside the 5-yard line to end the half.

Almost immediately, the Chiefs showed why field goals will not
beat them. Early in the second half, the Bills moved up their
safeties to deal with Kelce. On the first play of the Chiefs’
second possession, Hill turned a slant off a run-pass option
play into a ­71-yard gain, dancing around Buffalo defensive
backs as if they were traffic cones. Despite the Bills’
intentions, Hill still caught nine passes for 172 yards.

Allen played a valiant game and flashed his immense talent, but
the Chiefs’ battle-tested defense and veteran coordinator Steve
Spagnuolo exposed his lack of experience. Spagnuolo’s ever-
changing scheme made Allen play tentative in a way he had not
all season. Stefon Diggs, the star wideout who powers the Bills’
offense, caught only two passes for 12 yards in the first half
and was not a factor, finishing with six catches for 77 yards.
Afterward, Diggs lingered on the Bills’ sideline and watched the
Chiefs’ celebration.

“The way it ended, it doesn’t sit well with me,” Allen said.

In the spring of 2017, the Chiefs fell in love with a
quarterback out of Texas Tech, but they knew they were picking
too late in the first round of the draft to select him. They
convinced the Bills to trade them the 10th overall pick. By the
end of the night, the Chiefs had Patrick Mahomes, and the Bills
did not. On Sunday night, in the end, that made all the

— Adam Kilgore

The live updates below were reported by Des Bieler.

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