Kelce, defense lead Chiefs past the Ravens back to the Super Bowl

Posted by

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is expected to be named MVP for his incredible regular season, but Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has saved his best work for the playoffs.

Teaming up with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce on Sunday, Mahomes won his second straight postseason game on the road with a 17-10 AFC Championship Game victory over the top-seeded Ravens. The defending champion Chiefs return to the Super Bowl for the fourth time since 2019, looking for their third title.

After giving up a touchdown on Baltimore’s second possession, the Chiefs’ defense led the way, as it has done much of the season. No play was more important than L’Jarius Sneed’s fumble recovery in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs, who for most of this regular season looked more vulnerable than at any time since Mahomes became their starting quarterback in 2018, are going back to the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and then used a superb defensive game plan to beat the Ravens.

Describe the game in two words: Kelce dominates. Kelce, who said during the week he wanted to win this AFC Championship Game “more than I’ve ever wanted one in my life,” played like it. Kelce caught 11 passes, including the Chiefs’ first touchdown, for 116 yards. He set an NFL record for postseason catches with 152, breaking the mark held by Jerry Rice.

QB breakdown: Mahomes was on point. He was content to take mostly shorter throws but was able to make them work. Mahomes was 30-of-39 for 241 yards and a touchdown. Throwing just to Kelce, he was 11-of-11.

Pivotal play: Coach Andy Reid had the Chiefs try to convert on fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 41 on their first drive of the game, and Mahomes completed a 13-yard pass to Kelce to keep the drive alive. The Chiefs went on to score the game’s first touchdown — and never trailed. — Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, Feb. 11 (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Baltimore Ravens

Jackson will have to wait another year until he can deliver on his draft-day promise to bring a Super Bowl to the Ravens.

Jackson and the Ravens offense melted down with three turnovers, which ended the season for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and caused the first home AFC Championship Game in Ravens history to end in bitter disappointment. The Ravens have not reached the Super Bowl since winning it in 2012.

The Ravens are 0-8 in team history when committing three or more turnovers in the postseason.

Jackson punctuated the struggles of the Ravens offense when he slammed his helmet into the ground after throwing into triple coverage and getting intercepted in the end zone in the fourth quarter. The Ravens also turned the ball over on Jackson getting stripped from behind in the first half and wide receiver Zay Flowers fumbling near the goal line. The only other time Baltimore had turned the ball over three times was Week 5 in a loss to the Steelers.

The NFL MVP favorite, Jackson finished 20-of-37 for 272 yards, a TD and interception as Baltimore tied a season-low with 10 points.

QB breakdown: Jackson struggled the most in extending drives. He was 1-of-6 for 7 yards and two sacks on third downs. This was a reversal of fortune for the Ravens, who converted 42% of their third downs in the regular season, which ranked No. 9 in the NFL.

Pivotal play: Flowers’ fumble near the goal line in the fourth quarter. With Baltimore down 17-7, Flowers dove toward the end zone with what looked to be a touchdown but then got the ball punched out by Sneed. It marked the first fumble of the season for Flowers, a 2023 first-rounder who was visibly distraught on the sideline. It was also an uncharacteristic mistake by Baltimore as a team. This was the Ravens’ first red zone turnover since Week 5.

Troubling trend: Jackson trailed by double digits for only the fifth time in his six-year career, but it’s the third time this has happened against the Chiefs.

It was a bad time for Jackson and the Baltimore offense to produce their slowest start of the season. Excluding the season finale (when Jackson didn’t play), the Ravens totaled first-half lows of points (seven), yards (110) and completions (five).

It wasn’t just the offense that struggled. The Baltimore defense allowed touchdowns on the first two drives for the first time since 2021 against the Vikings.

Eye-popping stat: Jackson delivered the most unique highlight of the game in the second quarter, when he caught his own pass. The 13-yard Jackson-to-Jackson connection was the longest completion by a player to himself in the postseason in the Super Bowl era.

On second-and-5 at his own 18-yard line, Jackson had his pass tipped at the line by safety Justin Reid, which deflected the ball high in the air. He ran downfield to pull in the pass, which was the longest completion by a player to himself since Kent Graham in 1998 with the New York Giants.

But four plays later, the Ravens ended up punting — which was a theme for the game. — Jamison Hensley