The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans took the field on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium with the opportunity to host the AFC Championship Game on the line. A matchup between two of the NFL’s best, young quarterbacks lived up to the hype with a game we’ll never forget.
Houston shocked everyone early by overwhelming the Chiefs and jumping out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter. A day after the Tennessee Titans stunned the Baltimore Ravens, we seemed destined for another unbelievable playoff upset.
Suddenly, just as fans at Arrowhead Stadium started to cascade the team with boos, everything changed. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, with some help from the special teams, engineered a stunning comeback in the second quarter and erased a 24-point deficit quickly.
After a historic first half of scoring and crazy swings of momentum, both sides returned for the second half and delivered an incredible finish. The Chiefs capitalized on their momentum and ultimately ran away with it, keeping their Super Bowl LIV hopes alive.
Here are the winners and losers from Kansas City’s unforgettable 51-31 win over the Texans, sending the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game.
Winner: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
If any other quarterback faced a 24-point deficit, everyone would have called the game over. Everyone knows Mahomes is different, though, and he proved once again. He kept fighting, looked for open spots in Houston’s secondary and delivered the improbable comeback.
Mahomes’ four first-half touchdown passes, tying a postseason record, were stunning on their own. Of course, that wasn’t enough for the 2018 NFL MVP award winner. He didn’t just pick the secondary apart with surgeon-like precision. He ran all over them for 56 rushing yards, too. Mahomes finished with five touchdowns and 321 passing yards in a performance for the ages. Of course, of greater importance to him, he is one win away from a trip to Super Bowl LIV.
Loser: Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
O’Brien deserves criticism for his inexcusable decision to kick a field goal rather than put the ball in Deshaun Watson’s hands for fourth-and-one from Kansas City’s 13-yard line. Somehow, he found a way to make that the least of his fireable offenses on Sunday.
Everything changed on the disastrous fake punt, which came from Houston’s 31-yard line. Not only did the Texans not execute the play well, by not running it the second everyone was lined up, but it came at the worst time. It sparked Kansas City’s absurd turnaround and gave Arrowhead Stadium new life.
O’Brien provided more than enough evidence to prove he should be fired. Of course, because the Texans have essentially made him their general manager, he’ll probably end up getting a raise this offseason.
Winner: Daniel Sorensen, Kansas City Chiefs
It’s said that even one person can change the course of history. Sorensen proved that to be true with an effort on special teams that will make him a player that fans will never forget.
The 29-year-old safety read Houston’s fake punt to perfection and made the tackle that changed the entire game. If Sorensen misses that tackle, the Texans get a first down and could put the game away. One game-changing play wasn’t enough, though. He delivered the bone-crunching hit on the next kickoff to set up another touchdown for the Chiefs. When the story of this comeback is retold in the years to come, Sorensen must be remembered for making it happen.
Loser: Lonnie Johnson, Houston Texans
Johnson found himself in the right place at the perfect moment to recover a blocked punt for a touchdown. As soon as he took the field on defense, though, he became the crispiest piece of burnt toast.
We’re not exactly sure what O’Brien saw in Johnson to believe he could cover Travis Kelce. The 6-foot-5 tight end outmuscled and outran the 6-foot-2 corner one play after another. When Johnson couldn’t stop Kelce, he committed defensive pass interference penalties twice and gifted the Chiefs an additional 43 yards. This was a humbling experience for the rookie cornerback.
Winner: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson did everything in his power to match Mahomes in this game. Despite facing plenty of pressure from Kansas City’s pass rushers and continuously needing to slip out of sacks, the 24-year-old proved why he’s one of the NFL’s greatest stars.
It’s more than just his rushing ability, which we enjoyed once again when he took flight for a key touchdown late in the game. He slipped out of countless sacks to keep plays alive and made numerous jaw-dropping throws. Watson finished with 388 yards through the air, 37 on the ground and scored three total touchdowns. He deserves so much better than this organization gives him. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that changes are made by the front office.
Loser: Romeo Crennel, Houston Texans
A coaching career that began in 1970 likely came to a humiliating end on Sunday. Crennel’s defense turned in one of the worst performances we’ve seen from a playoff team in years and it wasted an excellent performance by Houston’s offense.
Frankly, the Texans only shut out the Chiefs in the first quarter because of brutal drops by receivers. Once Mahomes and this offense locked in, they did whatever they wanted against Crennel’s defense. Kansas City became the first NFL team in postseason history to score a touchdown on seven consecutive drives. A chance to host the AFC Championship Game in Houston is now gone and it’s time for Crennel to retire.
Winner: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
The Texans simply never had an answer for Kelce. He came into Sunday’s game with a knee injury and even hurt his hamstring during the game, but the star tight end still looked unstoppable despite playing injured.
It proved to be a record-setting day for Kelce. He set the franchise’s playoff record for receiving yards and made NFL history with three touchdowns in the second quarter. Kelce racked up 134 receiving yards on 10 receptions and drew two DPI calls to help move this team down the field. Kansas City’s offense is simply unstoppable right now and it’s hard to see the Titans containing Kelce and Tyreek Hill.