By Mike Bonts
KANSAS CITY (Florida Sports Wire) – It was fun while it lasted. But the Kansas Chiefs were not to be denied their fifth straight trip to the AFC Championship game with Saturday’s 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars came into the game having won six straight and seven of their last eight. Jacksonville had two comeback wins in their last outings. Not today after two late turnovers and a failed onside kick defused any rally.
“I just told them I was proud of them for the season we put together. Nobody expected us, the Jaguars, to be in this football game. From the beginning of the season to today. I just told them how proud I was of them for how they hung together all season long, and how they battled and fought through a ton of adversity,” said Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson. “I am also proud of how they kept battling all season to get to this spot and really battling in this game to come down to an on-side kick to see what happens.”
Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 217 yards passing and a touchdown to Christian Kirk. Runing back Travis Etienne added 62 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The Chiefs had won five in a row.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had a two-touchdown game. Kelce’s 14 receptions are an NFL playoff record for receptions by a tight end.
Some early adversity (and anxiety) came for the hosts came when Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes went down with an ankle injury. His return was questionable, and he sat out the last possession of the first half.
Enter former Jaguars QB and NFL veteran Chad Henne, who led the Chiefs on a 98-yard drive and crucial TD.
“That was a momentum switch in the game. We had them at the two-yard line and let them off the hook a little bit,” added Pederson. “Those are opportunities there where we need to be better. We need to play better and coach better in those situations to try to get off the field at some point. I credit them. They executed well and ended up with a touchdown.”
Mahomes and his taped-up ankle returned in the third quarter. He threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Isiah Pacheco ran for 95 yards. Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught a TD pass.
“I mean, it’s a credit to the guys around me,” Mahomes said. “The offensive line kept me clean in the pocket, knowing that I couldn’t move, and guys made plays around me. That’s what a great team does, is when somebody gets a little banged up, everybody around them steps up.”
Kansas City’s Harrison Butker kicked two 50-yard field goals. Jacksonville’s Riley Patterson connected from 41 and 48 yards.
The Chiefs never trailed. They now face the winner of Sunday’s Buffalo-Cincinnati game.
Lawrence reflected on Jacksonville’s successful late season run and next season.
“It’s hard to talk and think about that. But it’s special what we were able to do. No one thought we should be here, and we just kept believing. It was really cool to be a part of, it was special. It’s just the beginning. This year was huge, obviously, for this organization, for our city and for our franchise moving forward. It sets the bar of who we’re going to be and what we’re going to do moving forward. That’s the mindset, and we won’t settle for less than that. We got a taste of it, but there’s more left and we all feel that.”