Mahomes, Kelce headed to the Super Bowl after the Chiefs shut out the Ravens
The first quarter was vintage Patrick Mahomes, beating the Baltimore defense with quick passes, with Travis Kelce on the other end of some of them.
Then Kansas City’s defense — now elite after a few shaky seasons in the past — took over.
Finally, when Mahomes needed one more completion to send the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl, he went to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whose struggles this season are emblematic of the team’s bad receiving corps.
Completed 32 yards. Ball game.
“The Chiefs are still the Chiefs,” said Kelce.
After all the moments this season where they looked disjointed and weak, the Chiefs are returning to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years.
Mahomes and Kelce were at their best in the first half, and Kansas City’s defense produced another masterpiece against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, leading the Chiefs to a 17-10 victory in the AFC championship game last week. Sunday
Kelce caught 11 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, and now the big question at next month’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas is whether his girlfriend Taylor Swift will be there in the middle of her tour. The pop star was at it again on Sunday, and it was a milestone day for the 34-year-old Kelce, who surpassed Jerry Rice’s career record for postseason receptions.
Kansas City (14-6) will play either San Francisco or Detroit on Feb. 11, and a win would make the Chiefs the first team to win it all in back-to-back seasons since the New England Patriots 19 years ago. passed.
Swift’s presence has made the Chiefs a more glamorous team than before, but it’s been a blue-collar performance on the field this season. With the exception of Kelce, Mahomes’ playmakers aren’t as threatening as they have been in years past.
Only once this season has Kansas City scored more than 31 points, and a Christmas home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders — the same day Baltimore made a statement with a win in San Francisco — seemed to indicate that the days of the Chiefs atop the AFC are numbered.
Not so fast.
Playing on the road in the playoffs for the first time with Mahomes, the Chiefs defeated Buffalo and Baltimore in consecutive weeks to win the conference.
“I’ve never doubted, no,” said coach Andy Reid. “That’s not how we roll.”
The Chiefs led 17-7 at halftime, and Justin Tucker’s 43-yard field goal with 2:34 left in the game was the only score of the second half. Baltimore kicked hard after that, and on third-and-9, Mahomes connected with Valdes-Scantling, who moved on and knew what that catch meant.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said. “It was. I knew we needed the first one to get us to the goal, and they trusted me to get one.”
Mahomes went 30 of 39 for 241 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson could have won his second MVP after leading Baltimore to the league’s best record and point differential during the regular season, but the Ravens allowed touchdowns on Kansas City’s first two possessions and looked a little flustered at times after that.
Baltimore (14-5) made undisciplined mistakes throughout the game, while Kansas City looked the part of a team making its sixth straight appearance in the conference title game.
With the Ravens down 10 in the third quarter, rookie Zay Flowers caught a 54-yard pass to the Kansas City 10 — then was flagged for taunting after the play. Moments later, he fumbled near the goal line and the Ravens ended up scoreless.
That was one of many frustrating moments for fans in Baltimore, whose city hosted an AFC championship game for the first time since January 1971, when the Colts defeated the Oakland Raiders.
Jackson went 20 of 37 for 272 yards and a touchdown, but Baltimore never capitalized on its perceived advantage on the ground. Jackson ran under one of his own tipped passes in the first half for a 13-yard reception, but he also turned the ball over twice, including a forced pass into heavy coverage that was picked off. in the end zone with 6:45 left in the game.
When it was clear defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had the upper hand against Baltimore’s offense, Mahomes was happy to manage the game and avoid doing anything too risky.
“Spags, it seems like when the games get bigger, when the challenges get bigger, he gets better,” said Mahomes.
Jackson fell to 2-4 as a starter in the postseason despite being the top seed in the AFC twice. He made some outstanding individual plays, but the Ravens had trouble moving the ball the other way.
“That guy was the main guy I played with, really,” Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen said. “He’s going to get a lot of things that he doesn’t deserve. This is his opportunity to be able to write some of those things and move on to the next thing. that you love and cherish, take what they get.”
Mahomes, meanwhile, completed his first 11 pass attempts, and though the Ravens largely shut down Kansas City after that, the damage was done on a rainy day in Baltimore.
There was some chippy behavior before the game, which included Ravens defensive back Arthur Maulet and a group of Kansas City players having to separate.
Then the Chiefs forced a three-and-out on the first drive of the game and went 86 yards for the opening touchdown. Kelce caught a 13-yard pass from Mahomes midway through fourth-and-2. Then the star tight end hit All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton for a 19-yard touchdown to make it 7- 0.
Jackson responded in his own unique way. He took off for a 21-yard run when Baltimore took it on fourth-and-1 from its 34. Then the star quarterback deflected off a close sack by Leo Chenal, dropped back a bit. and threw 30 yards. scoring strike to Flowers, who celebrated with teammates by doing the “swag surf” dance that Swift and Chiefs fans did in a recent game.
Kansas City was untroubled. Mahomes drove his team 75 yards in 9:02 — aided by Kelce’s acrobatic diving catch on a third down toss — and Isiah Pacheco capped a 16-play march with a two-yard touchdown. run.
The Chiefs really missed an opportunity to increase their lead. A sack by Charles Omenihu forced a fumble by Jackson that gave Kansas City the ball at the Baltimore 33. But Kelce was flagged short on the third down catch, and Pacheco was stopped on the ensuing fourth down at the 13.
After several Baltimore personal fouls helped Kansas City cross midfield late in the half, the Chiefs were flagged for back-to-back holding calls, the second of which erased a 33-yard screen. pass to Rashee Rice that would have been a touchdown.
A nine-yard pass to Kelce put Kansas City in position for a 52-yard field goal by Harrison Butker that made it 17-7.
The Harbaugh brothers fell short in their attempt to sweep the college and pro championships after Jim Harbaugh coached Michigan to a national title. Jim, who left the Wolverines to coach the Los Angeles Chargers, was at Sunday’s game.
John Harbaugh said he’s still proud of Baltimore’s season.
“I feel like it’s a team that has a lot of challenges. I don’t think it was a team that was heavily favored coming into the season with pundits and prognosticators and all that, and I think they proved to be that’s a lot of people’s mistakes, all year,” he said. “The quarterback makes a statement all year.”
Omenihu left with a knee injury, and star defensive tackle Chris Jones was shaken up in the fourth quarter for the Chiefs.
Chiefs: Kansas City could face a rematch with the Detroit team it lost to 21-20 in the season opener. The Chiefs have not played the 49ers this season.
Ravens: Baltimore knows it can win more games with Jackson and his talented supporting cast, but getting past the Chiefs seems like a much more daunting task if they can’t do it this season.