The Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans battled in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game with a trip to Super Bowl LIV at stake. The clash of conference powers provided plenty of entertainment, but one team emerged victoriously to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The Titans got rolling early with Derrick Henry powering through the Chiefs’ defense before finding the end zone. After jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, NFL fans wondered if Kansas City might be in trouble.
Patrick Mahomes then proved why he’s the best player on the planet. Fighting for a chance to compete in the Super Bowl, the 25-year-old quarterback made plays that left everyone speechless. When halftime arrived, the Chiefs turned a 10-point deficit into a 21-17 lead.
Here are the winners and losers from the Chiefs’ 35-24 win over the Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
Winner: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
We’re out of adjectives to describes Mahomes’ greatness. Just when you thought he couldn’t make a more jaw-dropping play than this 20-yard touchdown strike, he makes one of the best plays of the NFL season. There are no words that capture the absurdity of Mahomes’ game-tying touchdown, you just have to watch it.
Mahomes needed just one half to become the first Chiefs’ player to throw multiple touchdowns and rush for a score in a postseason game. He returned after halftime and kept picking this defense apart. The Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl and Mahomes is playing at a level that might help them win it all.
Loser: Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
The Chiefs provided Henry with bulletin-board material this week. After rushing for 377 yards against two of the NFL’s best defenses, Henry seemed to disappear after being called out. When the Titans needed him the most, the 6-foot-3 running back came up small.
He rushed for 32 yards and a score on Tennessee’s first two drives. Following those eight carries, Henry struggled to rack up 37 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Once Kansas City jumped out to a two-score lead, Henry’s inability to contribute on passing downs proved costly. Henry’s incredible run in December and into the postseason was fun to watch, but he crashed hard in the AFC Championship Game.
Winner: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Hill made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the game. Fortunately, he backed up his pre-game gesture with a dominant first-half performance. He helped snap Kansas City’s offense out of its cold spell early with a lightning-quick touchdown. Tennessee didn’t learn its lesson.
Hill’s ridiculous speed helped him create just enough separation over the middle and helped him haul in his second touchdown of the half. While he might not have posted breathtaking numbers, he made his opportunities count. We can’t wait to see what the Chiefs draw up for Hill with two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl.
Loser: Bashaud Breeland, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are celebrating right now, but Breeland is the reason this game wasn’t an even bigger blowout. When the game was tight and the Chiefs needed a spark, Breeland’s two gaffes proved costly early.
First, he dropped an interception that hit him right in the hands. Instead of giving the ball back to Mahomes, Breeland’s drop kept the Titans’ offense on the field and they found the end zone six plays later. He committed pass interference on the next drive, which turned a failed third down into a new life and another touchdown a few plays later.
Winner: Chiefs’ defensive line
The return of Chris Jones made the difference. Playing through a painful calf injury, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle made his presence felt on nearly every snap. Of course, he also helped create opportunities for his teammates.
Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon racked up two sacks and defensive tackle Mike Pennel came up with huge stops against Derrick Henry. Tennessee came into this game with their offensive line dominating opponents, but the Chiefs simply overpowered them. If this entire unit can be healthy for the Super Bowl, they will do serious damage against whoever they face.
Loser: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Tannehill deserves plenty of credit for how well he played this season. However, it also can’t be ignored that the Titans hit their ceiling with him at quarterback. Once this game turned into a shootout, Tennesse’s offense was exposed with the game on Tannehill’s shoulders.
He threw for 209 yards with two touchdowns. While the numbers are solid, he also benefitted from multiple dropped interceptions and Kansas City playing a prevent defense in the final minutes. Tannehill will still get paid this offseason, but the Titans hit their peak with him.
Winner: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Everyone’s favorite NFL coach is going back to the Super Bowl. After years of being haunted by some poor decisions, especially in key moments, Reid’s team executed everything in this game. Reid didn’t panic when the offense struggled early, he stuck to his plan and trusted in Mahomes.
This team, fan base and coaching staff went through so much heartbreak last year, but it’s all worth it now. The Lamar Hunt Trophy is now headed home. Reid and the Chiefs are headed to Super Bowl LIV with a great shot at bringing a title back to Kansas City.