By Terrance Turner
Jan. 17, 2021
The Kansas City Chiefs played the Cleveland Browns today in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City Missouri. The Chiefs (14-1) are seeking a second consecutive Super Bowl berth; Cleveland is in the playoffs for the first tine since 2002. It was high drama in Arrowhead today, but Kansas City somehow pulled off yet another close-call, heart-stopping win.
On their opening drive, Kansas City had 5 runs and four passes before the climactic scoring plays. On 3rd and 2, wide receiver Tyreek Hill got a first-down catch. On 1st and goal, Williams was just short. Then quarterback Patrick Mahomes ran into the end zone for a touchdown. Kicker Harrison Butker missed the extra-point kick, but Mahomes’ 1-yard run put the team ahead 6-0.
The Browns mounted a drive in spite of an injury to their left tackle. At 3rd and 21, they barely evaded a delay of game. On 4th and 17, a 46-yard field goal was good. That made it 6-3. The Chiefs took back over. Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had a 41-yard run, then picked up nine more on the next play for a first down. Byron Pringle also achieved a first-down to end the first quarter.
The second quarter began with a near-catastrophe. After a disastrous snap, Mahomes managed to snap the ball to Hill. Mahomes ran near the two-yard line, but a holding penalty on Austin Reiter wiped out the gain. On 2nd and 17, tight end Travis Kelce had a 20-yard touchdown reception. This time, the extra point was good. That made it 13-3.
The Browns had worse luck. WR Jarvis Landry had a great catch negated by a holding penalty. Running back Bradley Chubb dropped two passes. Then, on 3rd and 20, the ball was batted back and sonehow caught by QB Baker Mayfield. But the team still lost eight yards on the play.
The Chiefs’ drive saw two penalties on the offense, and Mahomes struggled with a foot injury sustained earlier. Though he ran 13 yards for a first down, Mahomes was gimpy. He walked gingerly after each successive play. The Chiefs were stopped on 3rd down by Browns defensive end Adrian Clayborn, setting up a field goal. Kicker Harrison Butker drilled a 50-yard field goal to make it 16-3.
The Browns got the ball back, embarking on a promising drive. They managed a 26-yard play at the two-minute warning. Wide receiver Tee Higgins had 23 yards and got the ball on the next play. Higgins was this close to scoring. But as he dived towards the end zone with the ball, he collided with Chiefs defender Daniel Sorensen. The ball was knocked free and bounced in the end zone. The result was a touchback, resulting in a first down for Kansas City. They cashed in on the turnover. Butker nailed a 28-yard field goal attempt to make it 19-3 at the half.
In the second half, the momentum switched wildly. Safety Tyrann Mathieu had a huge interception — the first in 10 games by Baker Mayfield. But the Chiefs did nothing with it. Butker missed a 33-yard field goal. That miss would be costly: the Browns scored on their next possession to make it 19-10. Then Mahomes got hurt on the Chiefs’ next drive: what looked like a big shoulder-to-shoulder hit took him to the ground. Mahomes needed help getting up and looked woozy as he went to the sideline. He would soon jog to the locker room, where he was evaluated. Mahomes has a concussion. He was ruled out for the rest of the game.
Backup QB Chad Henne came in. On 4th and inches, Chiefs running back Darrel Williams took off for a first down. Then he gained 17 yards. But the Browns stopped the Chiefs on 3rd down. On 4th down, Kansas City elected to go for a field goal. This time, Butker came through, making a 33-yard field goal to extend the lead. The Chiefs led, 22-10.
The Browns ran all over the Chiefs defense, converting two fourth downs. The eight-minute drive was successful; running back Kareem Hunt ran in for the touchdown. (Hunt formerly played for Kansas City.) That made it 22-17.
A promising Chiefs drive ended horribly. Tyreek Hill made an incredible catch in contested coverage, pinning the ball to his thigh. (Cleveland challenged the play, to no avail.) Then Travis Kelce made a great catch. But it was wiped out by a late flag; a “chopback block” cost them 15 yards. Then Henne threw an interception.
The Browns took over. But the Chiefs defense stepped up. They managed to shut down the Browns offense, forcing Mayfield to throw the ball away and then tackling Kareem Hunt. That gave the Chiefs the ball back. And as the fourth quarter ran under five minutes, the pressure on the Kansas City Chiefs was immense. They had the lead, and the ball. But could they hold on?
Yes! On a heart-stopping final drive, the Chiefs moved down the field. On 3rd and 14, Henne ran 13 yards and dove head-first towards a Browns defender, sacrificing his body to make the play. He came just inches from the first down marker and was ruled just short. On 4th and inches, Chiefs coach Andy Reid made a gamble. But it paid off big: Henne threw to Hill for a first down, ending the game. The Chiefs won, 22-17. They will face the Bills in the AFC Championship Game.
After the game, Chiefs coach Andy Reid provided background on Mahomes’ injury and condition: “He got hit in the back of the head, and it kind of knocked the wind out of him,” Reid said, “so we took him out. He’s doing great right now, which is a real positive as we looked at this.” Reid added: “He’s actually doing really well. I just talked to him and he’s doing good. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
UPDATE (Jan. 18, 2021): Today, Coach Reid said that Mahomes is still in concussion protocol: “He’s in the protocol, and we’ll just follow that and see how he does here in the next couple days,” Reid said Monday, per Matt McMullen. But Reid admitted: “I can’t tell you from a medical standpoint where he’s at. I don’t know that.”
He added: “There’s a day-to-day plan on that and how they go about it. Especially if a player staggers right there, they’ve got to go through some things. That ends up being important.” It is unclear if Mahomes will be able to play in next week’s AFC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, Mahomes’ backup Chad Henne drew praise for his performance at the end of the game. Tight end Travis Kelce praised Henne for his “gutsy play”, saying: “Everybody knew that he had that in him to be able to put his body on the line for the team, and we love him for it.” Kelce lauded Henne for his professionalism and work ethic: “First of all, he’s a professional. He comes to work every single day, knowing that he’s just a snap away from calling the plays and leading us to victory. Second of all, he’s a competitor, man. That guy — no matter what it is — he’s ready and he’s fired up and ready to go, and we love him for it.”