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BALTIMORE -- Fittingly, Travis Kelce ran the wrong route.

And, fittingly, Patrick Mahomes had to become an improvising, whirling dervish -- and then get crushed.

And, fittingly, it worked, because the magic Mahomes and Kelce make knows no bounds. In this case, it was a third-and-5 at the Ravens' 27-yard line, with Baltimore fans' boos raining and actual rain falling, too.

"Of course Travis ran the wrong route," Mahomes deadpanned after the Chiefs' 17-10 win. "And he ended up getting the football. The offensive line did a great job protecting. I was trying to find a way to run, but they were doing a good job of containing me with the D-line, and then Travis just worked his way to get open. When he's one-on-one, I give him a chance, and I threw the ball, and he made a heck of a catch.

Five plays later, Isiah Pacheco scored what turned out to be the game-winning score. Mahomes' miracle flip to Kelce may have been the highlight, but it was far from alone: Kelce finished the game with 116 yards, catching all 11 passes Mahomes threw his way.

"He's a special player, man," Mahomes said of his tight end. "I always say it, but when the lights get brighter, he plays better. That's the true mark of a champion, and that's what he is."

Kelce's numbers are overwhelming. He passed Jerry Rice for most career playoff catches and tied him for most career playoff 100-yard games. His 11 catches on 11 targets is the best by any player in the playoffs in the last 15 years.

Kelce said Friday he wanted to win this game "more than I ever wanted one in my life," and his intensity was obvious early: a pregame kerfuffle with Justin Tucker and a remarkable touchdown catch on Kansas City's opening drive. But according to his coach, this wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

"Listen, Travis is always fired up," Andy Reid said. "He's always fired up. But with the playoffs, he's even more so. I never worry about him being ready to go. He's always right there and just brings that emotion to the guys.

"I appreciate his attitude always. He's just added a little bit to it. I think that week off helped him, for him to be able to get a little bit of rest and get in there and go."

Perhaps that's what makes these Chiefs so impressive -- their ability to meet the moment over and over again. They join the Patriots (2014-18) and Bills (1990-93) as the only teams to go to four Super Bowls in a five-year span. And it starts with their quarterback.

"It's hard to describe a player like him, because he's good at everything he does, and he gives everyone that belief and hope that [it] doesn't matter what the odds are, where we're playing, where we're going, we got '15' under center we have a shot," general manager Brett Veach said.

This wasn't Mahomes' greatest playoff game. Far from it. The Chiefs got shut out in the second half. But when they needed it most, they again put the game on Mahomes' shoulders, and he again came through, this time with a 32-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

It was emblematic of the Chiefs' path this season. Valdes-Scantling dropped a similar pass against the Eagles in November, a game that kicked off Kansas City losing four of its next six. But Mahomes shouldered the blame then and was eager to pass off the praise Sunday.

"I looked at, I think it was Rashee [Rice] first," Mahomes explained. "The safety cut him, and it gave MVS the free lane, and I put it up and let him make a play. In those situations, you put it up -- you don't want to overthrow it -- so you just put it up there, one-on-one, let a guy make a play, and he did that. He made a great catch and sealed the deal."

The Chiefs, who had the third-most drops in the NFL this season, didn't have a single one Sunday, their first such game this season.

For all of the plays Mahomes made, the first Reid mentioned after the game was one his quarterback didn't make.

"Kind of thrown by the side is him taking a sack there at the end as opposed to trying to fit the ball in," Reid said of a sack Mahomes took with just over six minutes remaining, one that led to the Ravens using their first timeout. "He took the sack, kept the clock running. Good things happened there at that particular time."

Much like this game, this has been far from Mahomes' best season. But through those struggles, he improved his ability to manage games -- so often a skill used to deride quarterbacks but the one that helped the Chiefs advance to the Super Bowl.

"That's stuff that I've learned throughout the season -- even if we're not having the success that I want to have, [if] the defense is rolling [and] getting stops, let's just take the safe choice, get the ball out of my hand, don't turn the ball over, and let's go win a football game," Mahomes said.

And now, in a season that had more struggles than ever, he gets another shot to win it all.

"You don't take it for granted either," Mahomes said. "You never know how many you're going to get to, or if you're going to get to any. It truly is special -- just to do it with these guys after what we've been through all season long, the guys coming together -- it really is special. But I told them the job's not done. Our job now is to prepare ourselves to play a good football team in the Super Bowl and try to get that ring."