The Bills and Chiefs understood the assignment.
Handed the finale of what had already been one of the best playoff weekends in NFL history, they brought the house down. With an overtime thriller that should go down as one of the best games ever played, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen just kept raising the bar on each other, leaving us all with the gift of an indelible memory. One of those games you will forever remember where you were when you were watching, that you will never forget for the greatness encompassed in two rival quarterbacks determined to outdo each other on every successive possession.
It’s almost a shame to declare one of them the winner, because that means the other one of them was the loser, and the way Mahomes and Allen played Sunday night in Arrowhead Stadium, neither one deserved to lose. But this is sports, and with one absurd last-second field goal drive to tie the game, one fortuitous coin toss to get the first possession in overtime, and one dramatic touchdown drive to win it, 42-36, Mahomes was the well-deserved victor.
But Allen was a winner too, with four more touchdown passes to go with the five he threw in the wild-card win over the Patriots. Those nine in two games stamp him as a playoff beast not just for now, but years to come. His final TD Sunday, the fourth to receiver Gabriel Davis, finished off a 75-yard drive to take a 36-33 lead with a mere 13 seconds to go.
Had it been any other quarterback on the other side, that surely would have been enough. But in a game that would see the two teams score 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation, Mahomes, already a playoff beast himself, did his part by covering 44 yards in three plays to set up the game-tying kick.
We have seen the future of football, and it is Mahomes and Allen.
“That [No.] 17, Josh, is a player, man,” Mahomes told ESPN in the moments after his win. “We’re going to play in a lot of these games over time and it’s always going to be a battle. It’s never easy. They have a great football team. Much credit to him. He played his tail off today.”
Mahomes could have been talking about himself. Once in overtime, he directed an eight-play, 75-yard drive to win the game, his 8-yard touchdown toss to Travis Kelce preventing Buffalo from even getting the ball. That had to be sweet for the side-arming, acrobatic quarterback, considering he saw his first trip to the AFC title game three years ago end in OT against the Patriots, when Tom Brady took the ball and scored a touchdown, leaving Mahomes without a possession of his own.
Mahomes has been back to the game every year since, winning the Super Bowl two years ago before losing a bid for back-to-back titles to Brady and his new team, the Bucs. Amazingly, thanks to a loss Saturday by the top-seeded Titans, the Chiefs will host the title game for the fourth straight year, the first time that’s happened in league history.
That the Bills came oh-so-close to making it a 4-for-4 road team upset sweep of the weekend only speaks to what a thrilling two days of football it was. From that Joe Burrow-led defeat of Tennessee to the abrupt end of what might be Aaron Rodgers’ final year in Green Bay (they lost to the 49ers), from the end of Brady’s title defense in Tampa Bay to the near-redemptive upset for Allen’s Bills, it was a non-stop weekend of action capped by a perfect finale.
“It was one of those things where it felt like whoever had the ball last was going to win,” Buffalo center Mitch Morse said. “We just ended up on the wrong end of maybe one of the greatest games in postseason history.”
Amen to that.