The Chiefs' hopes of reaching a third straight Super Bowl and hoisting a second Lombardi Trophy with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes were dashed Sunday after the Bengals came into Arrowhead Stadium and pulled off the 27-24 upset in overtime. Out of the gate, it looked like Kansas City was going to be well on its way to an AFC Championship win after scoring touchdowns on its first three drives. However, the Chiefs seemed to run out of steam as the game went on, which opened the door for Cincinnati to mount the comeback.
"When you're up 21-3 in a game, you can't lose it, and I put that on myself," Mahomes said after the defeat.
The Chiefs held that commanding lead with just over five minutes remaining in the second quarter. After that, the Bengals were able to march down the field for their first touchdown of the afternoon, and it was at that point that Kansas City started to show some cracks in the armor.
Despite traveling 80 yards down the field before halftime, the Chiefs were unable to put up points on the drive. They got to the Cincinnati one-yard line with nine seconds remaining in the half. After an incomplete pass on the first down, Mahomes made the poor decision of throwing to Tyreek Hill around the line of scrimmage instead of going for the end zone. Hill caught the ball and was stopped for no gain, which led to the clock running out to end the half. In a game that was decided by a field goal, that proved to be a massive missed opportunity.
"I was supposed to throw the ball away," Mahomes said. "I got a little greedy there and tried to give it to Tyreek and get a touchdown, they had two people out there. In the long run of things, it looks bad, but if we had another chance, I'd go for another play again."
The second half was particularly sluggish for Kansas City. The offense generated just 83 total yards while Mahomes had 55 yards passing. Those goal-line issues were also front-and-center when the Chiefs were trying to find the end zone before settling a field goal that forced overtime at the end of regulation. After having the ball at the Cincinnati four-yard line, Mahomes was sacked on back-to-back plays, with the second resulting in a fumble recovered by Kansas City.
"There was a few misreads here and there," the quarterback said of the Chiefs' second-half issues. "There was guys that were open and I didn't hit at the right time or I passed up on something shorter that I wanted to get something deeper down the field. When you're playing a good team and you don't hit what's there and you try to get a little bit more than what's necessary it kind of bites you in the butt, I guess you would say. We were playing so well in the first half, and in the second half we were just off a tick, and that's all it takes to lose a football game."
With the Chiefs loss, the Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1988 and will face the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams.