Chiefs, hobbling Patrick Mahomes headed to fifth straight AFC title game

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However, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the AFC Championship Game for the fifth year in a row Patrick Mahomes he may be limping his way there.

The Chiefs took care of the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 27-20 victory at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday night, despite Mahomes leaving the game early with an ankle injury before returning in the second half. With his right ankle badly wrapped, Mahomes still had enough vigor to throw a key fourth-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Marques Valdez-Scantling.

Kansas City will find out who and where it is playing for a spot in the Super Bowl on Sunday. If the Bengals can beat the Bills, the Chiefs will host Cincinnati; if the Bills win, the AFC title game will be played as a neutral site at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Chiefs and Jaguars were tied 7-7 when Mahomes went down late in the first quarter, with outside linebacker Arden Key landing on his right foot as he writhed on the ground. Mahomes tried to stay in the game, literally hopping and limping for the rest of the game, which ended with a Harrison Butker field goal. Veteran backup Chad Henne came in on the next drive, leading the Chiefs on a 98-yard drive that ended with Travis Kelce’s second touchdown catch of the game.

Kelce had a prolific day, finishing with a game-high 14 catches for 98 yards on 17 carries. This is an NFL record for catches by a tight end in a playoff game, one of 15 league records set by Darren Sproles of the Saints in 2012 and James White of the Patriots in 2019.

Mahomes was able to overcome the injury after missing the entire second quarter. But even with a week off, it’s likely to limit him to some degree at least in his next game.

Jacksonville, which had rallied from a 27-0 deficit to stun the Chargers in last week’s wild-card game, had a touchdown pass before the quarterback. Trevor Lawrence to receiver Christian Kirk. The Jags’ offense was held in check until the fourth quarter, when Lawrence hit wide receiver Zay Jones for a 37-yard gain to set up a Travis Etienne touchdown, pulling within 20-17 with 11:53 left.

That score put pressure on the Chiefs and Mahomes, but he responded with a 75-yard touchdown run, never reaching a third down en route to finding some cushion with the scoring throw to Valdez-Scantling in the back of the end zone with 7:08 left. Mahomes finished 22 of 30 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Isiah Pacheco rushed for 95 yards.

Jacksonville, down by two scores, drove to the Kansas City 9-yard line when Lawrence’s throw to Jamal Agnew resulted in a fumble recovered by Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Their next drive ended with Lawrence being intercepted by Chiefs rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson.

The Jaguars, who boasted the league’s worst record the previous two seasons, rebounded from a 2-6 start under first-year coach Doug Pederson to win their last six games and the AFC South in 2022.

Kansas City’s five straight trips to the conference championship round tie for the second-longest streak in the Super Bowl era, trailing only the Patriots’ eight consecutive appearances from 2011-18.

Greg Auman is the NFC South reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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