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Yes, there was a winner and a loser, although it was hard to tell which was which after Patrick Mahomes sprinted 30 yards to find Josh Allen and the two embraced for a few seconds after this thrilling overtime playoff game late Sunday.
The scoreboard attests it was the Chiefs who triumphed 42-36, and the schedule confirms they will host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game at 3:05 ET next Sunday.
But to call Mahomes the winner and Allen the loser feels wrong.
Because Allen didn’t play like a loser.
Both these young quarterbacks played as if a generation of amazing playoff meetings is ahead of them. Both played up to the legacy of past great quarterback rivalries, such as Manning versus Brady or Young versus Aikman or Stabler versus Bradshaw.
And both did the remarkable, the unthinkable, and at times, the seemingly impossible.
That left us all feeling like winners for witnessing them both work. It was like watching contemporaries Michelangelo and Da Vinci set up shop in the same studio and take turns applying brush strokes.
The result was not just one masterpiece but two.
“To be in this moment, in this game, against that team and to make a play to walk off a game at Arrowhead, I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” Mahomes said afterward.
“We’ll learn from this one,” Allen said.
This game was both memorable and a learning experience.
History says this was the first ever NFL playoff game with three go-ahead touchdowns scored in the final two minutes of regulation.
The fact is the Bills and Chiefs combined for 25 points in final two minutes.
First, Allen threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis and completed a 2-point conversion pass to give Buffalo a 29-26 lead with 1:54 to play.
Then Mahomes threw a 64-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill to take back the lead, 33-29, with 1:02 remaining.
Allen answered with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Davis with 13 seconds remaining. We’re all thinking it’s over, Bills win.
“I’m thinking it’s Pat Mahomes on the other side,” Allen said.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid approached Mahomes along the Chiefs sideline and assessed the situation before giving his quarterback some advice:
“When it’s grim,” Reid said, “be the grim reaper and go get it. He did that. He made everybody around him better, which he’s great at and does it effortlessly.”
The Bills did not squib kick or limit the depth of the kick to force a return and take time off the clock. They kicked deep for a touchback that didn’t run the clock at all.
And two Mahomes completions of 19 yards and 25 yards later, the Chiefs lined up and successfully kicked the game-tying field goal as regulation expired.
This wasn’t punch and counter-punch from two boxing technicians. This was both quarterbacks throwing and landing haymakers.
Except no one would go down.
Allen finished the game completing 27 of 37 passes for 329 yards, with 4 touchdowns. Mahomes answered by completing 33 of 44 passes for 378 yards and 3 TD passes.
And both led their teams in rushing, Mahomes gaining 69 yards and Allen 68.
Bills center Mitch Morse played with Mahomes in Kansas City before signing with the Bills in 2019, so his perspective summed up the truth for both teams.
“You just know when that quarterback and that offense is at the helm, the game’s not over with,” Morse said. “They executed and we didn’t and that’s the reason they’re continuing and we’re not.”
“We’re not the same team,” Morse offered, “without Josh Allen.”
Allen never saw the field in overtime. The Bills lost the coin toss and Mahomes plunged a dagger into Buffalo’s season in the form of a walkoff 8-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce.
And now the problem the Bills have is one the entire AFC suffers as well, and that is Mahomes is only 26 years old and remains elite. And the Chiefs, having eliminated the Bills two consecutive years, remain an obstacle.
“It hurts and you don’t like feeling like this, especially in back-to-back years in the same place,” Allen said. “We got to find a way to be better for next year to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
Think about those words because Allen understands Mahomes is in his way and only one of them can advance.
But the thought should pervade the entire AFC outside of Kansas City, Buffalo, Cincinnati and probably Los Angeles. Because the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals and Chargers all have elite quarterbacks that are all 26 years old or younger.
And this game won’t be the last time a duel like this will be decided among them.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
8 CommentsLeave a Reply
“… Michelangelo and Da Vinci swapping brush strokes” … KUDOS! BOFFO!
Somewhere Grantland Rice and Jim Murray are smiling. I lament that such colorful prose will be unappreciated by an audience that applauds “F-bombs” but I sure do appreciate it.
Yeah it certainly seems like the AFC is where it’s at with the young superstar QBs. Meanwhile the NFC top guns (Rodgers, Brady) may be retiring.
What are you talking about?
13 miserable seconds. Music City Miracle was bad but just one play. Fluke at that. Wide right. It happens. Give up a FG in 13 seconds. Inexcusable.
Mahommes is a GOAT… #FistRaised
LOL good one
I thought mahommes was great but I gave the nod to allen. Mahommes had other players make great plays. Short throws long runs. Allen hit monster long throws with pinpoint accuracy. Was amazed. Didn’t think he was that good…
That was the best played game by both QB’s I’ve ever seen. That’s with my own eyes, my own judgement and QB passer rating combined for one playoff game.