It will be the first Super Bowl appearance for the Chiefs since January 1970 in Super Bowl IV and the first for Mahomes, the NFL MVP in the 2018 season who made a rapid recovery this season from a dislocated right kneecap, returning to the lineup after missing only two games.
He was 23-for-35 passing for 294 yards Sunday as the Chiefs succeeded where they failed last postseason, when they lost the AFC championship game at home in overtime to the New England Patriots. He also ran for 53 yards and was Kansas City’s leading rusher against Tennessee, which was denied what would have been a third straight stunning upset during these AFC playoffs.
“We fell short last year, and we learned from it,” Mahomes said. “We built every single day, and now we have a chance to go to Miami and get the ultimate goal, [which] is the Super Bowl.”
Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, regarded by many as the NFL’s best current coach without a Super Bowl triumph, gets another chance. Reid, while with the Philadelphia Eagles, lost his lone Super Bowl appearance 15 years ago to the Patriots.
“Last year we were four inches short,” Reid said, referring to a key play against the Patriots on which the Chiefs lined up offside. “The guys made it a point to get better than that four inches. … They weren’t going to go through that again.”
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt was able to raise the AFC championship trophy named for his father, Lamar Hunt, the team’s late founder who coined the term Super Bowl.
“Obviously this is a very special day for our family and the entire organization,” Clark Hunt said later.
Mahomes had two first-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill as the Chiefs overcame early deficits of 10-0 and 17-7. They took their first lead at 21-17 on a dazzling 27-yard touchdown run by Mahomes 11 seconds before halftime. He isn’t known as a runner, but he made at least four defenders miss him and tiptoed his way along the sideline before veering inward near the goal line.
“I broke it and was thinking about just running out of bounds,” Mahomes said. “As I got to the sideline, I realized I could cut up. And I was running down the sideline, and I knew we had two timeouts. So I was like, ‘I might as well try to cut it back.’ ”
Tailback Damien Williams provided a three-yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter. Mahomes threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who got open behind the Tennessee secondary as Mahomes moved around and bought time on a third-and-six play, and the Chiefs made it 28 straight points after trailing 17-7. The Titans broke that string with a cosmetic touchdown after converting a pass on a fake punt into a first down.
The Chiefs had overcome a 24-0 deficit the previous weekend against the Houston Texans in the divisional round. For other teams, falling behind the Titans, with their potent running game, was a mistake that could not be overcome. For the Chiefs, it was no big deal, given how quickly they can score with Mahomes.
The Titans came one upset shy of being the NFL’s third No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl, following the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 season and the Packers in the 2010 season. They had used the bullying running of tailback Derrick Henry to win on the road against the third-seeded Patriots and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens.
Things looked promising against the second-seeded Chiefs in the first half when Henry ran for a four-yard touchdown after taking a direct snap and quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a one-yard touchdown pass on a trick play to Dennis Kelly, a reserve offensive tackle who lined up as an eligible receiver on the play.
But the Titans couldn’t close the deal this time, and Tannehill, obtained in an offseason trade with the Miami Dolphins, won’t make a triumphant return to South Florida as a Super Bowl starter. Henry ran for a modest 69 yards on 19 carries Sunday. He was virtually nonexistent after halftime, and the Titans simply didn’t have enough answers for Mahomes on a cold, breezy afternoon in which the game-time wind chill was 5 degrees.
“I felt like we got off to the start we wanted in all three phases,” Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. “But I think when you play teams like this and teams that are as good as the Chiefs, as explosive as they are, you kind of knew they were going to make a run. … We had some stops that we could not get.”
The Chiefs were able to celebrate Sunday on their home field, a year after watching the Patriots celebrate an AFC title at Arrowhead.
“We all were bitter,” Reid said. “That’s not a good feeling. It wasn’t just me. ... Everybody took responsibility.”
Read below for our in-game updates.
January 19, 2020 at 6:10 PM EST
Kansas City is headed to the Super Bowl
The Chiefs, who last won the Super Bowl 50 years ago, will play the winner of Sunday night’s NFC title game. It is the first Super Bowl appearance for Mahomes, Kansas City’s star quarterback who was last season’s league MVP, and the second for Coach Andy Reid, who lost to the New England Patriots while with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2004 season. (Chiefs 35, Titans 24, end of game)
January 19, 2020 at 5:51 PM EST
Titans cut into Kansas City’s lead
It’s probably too little, too late, but the Titans drew closer on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to tight end Anthony Firkser. That came after Tennessee converted a fake-punt pass into a first down to extend its drive. (Chiefs 35, Titans 24, 4:18 left in fourth quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 5:42 PM EST
Deep TD pass could be clincher for Chiefs
The Chiefs appear Super Bowl-bound. Patrick Mahomes threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who got open behind the Tennessee secondary as Mahomes moved around and bought time on a third-and-six play. Make it 28 straight points for the Chiefs since they trailed, 17-7. (Chiefs 35, Titans 17, 7:33 left in fourth quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 5:25 PM EST
Kansas City extends lead
The Chiefs added to their lead on the second play of the fourth quarter when tailback Damien Williams scored on a three-yard run on a sweep to the right. Kansas City has scored 21 straight points since trailing, 17-7. Patrick Mahomes had an 11-yard run on the drive and had a 15-yard completion to wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a first down at the Tennessee 3-yard line. (Chiefs 28, Titans 17, 14:50 left in fourth quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 5:20 PM EST
Kansas City takes lead into fourth quarter
After a high-scoring first half, the third quarter of Sunday’s AFC championship game was scoreless. Neither team was able to score on its first possession of the second half, but Kansas City is driving deep in Tennessee territory as the fourth quarter begins. (Chiefs 21, Titans 17, end of third quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 4:47 PM EST
Halftime in Kansas City
It’s halftime at blustery Arrowhead Stadium and the Chiefs lead the Titans, 21-17, in an AFC championship game that has been a study in contrasts.
Each time the Titans scored, it was: You can’t fall behind the Titans like this, with their running game.
Each time the Chiefs scored, it was: The Chiefs can come back on anyone, the way they can score so quickly.
Patrick Mahomes, the brilliant third-year quarterback for the Chiefs who’s seeking his first Super Bowl appearance, threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill and had a breathtaking 27-yard run for a touchdown 11 seconds before the break. Mahomes threw for 172 yards on 14-for-20 passing in the first half.
Titans tailback Derrick Henry had 62 rushing yards on 16 first-half carries, including a four-yard touchdown run on a direct snap. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a one-yard touchdown pass on a trick play to Dennis Kelly, a reserve offensive tackle who lined up as an eligible receiver on the play. (Chiefs 21, Titans 17, halftime)
January 19, 2020 at 4:32 PM EST
Patrick Mahomes’ long TD run gives Chiefs the lead
Patrick Mahomes isn’t known as a runner, but he gave the Chiefs their first lead of the day with a remarkable 27-yard run for a touchdown 11 seconds before halftime. He appeared headed out of bounds as he ran toward the sideline to his left. But Mahomes, after eluding a tackle by Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans, stayed in bounds, cut upfield along the sideline, then moved inside cornerback Tremaine Brock and reached the end zone. At least four Titans defenders had a shot to tackle Mahomes on the play, but didn’t. (Chiefs 21, Titans 17, 0:11 left in the second quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 4:16 PM EST
Chiefs strike back with Tyreek Hill’s second TD
The Chiefs struck back quickly as Patrick Mahomes threw his second touchdown pass of the day to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. This was a 20-yarder on a dart of a throw by Mahomes. The Chiefs moved 63 yards on only five plays after a 35-yard kickoff return by Mecole Hardman. Mahomes had earlier completions of 24 yards to Demarcus Robinson and 13 yards to fellow wideout Sammy Watkins. (Titans 17, Chiefs 14, 4:03 left in the second quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 4:10 PM EST
Titans use long TD drive to extend lead
The Titans, trying for a third straight stunning upset in these AFC playoffs, are taking it right to the Chiefs in Kansas City, just as they took it to the Patriots in New England and to the Ravens in Baltimore. They upped their lead to 17-7 with a trick-play touchdown, a one-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Dennis Kelly, a reserve offensive tackle who reported as an eligible receiver on the play. Kelly was wide open as the Chiefs defenders focused on Tannehill’s play-action take to tailback Derrick Henry.
The Titans held the ball for 15 plays and took more than nine minutes off the clock on the drive. That’s why it’s so dangerous for the Chiefs to be falling behind this team this way. (Titans 17, Chiefs 7, 6:39 left in the second quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 3:50 PM EST
Chiefs cut into Titans’ lead with Tyreek Hill TD
The Chiefs, after falling behind by 10 points to a team that loves to play from ahead, narrowed their deficit with an eight-yard touchdown by speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The play technically was a pass, with Hill taking a forward flip from Patrick Mahomes, but it essentially was an end-around. Hill had a 26-yard catch earlier on the drive, and the Chiefs converted on fourth and two from the Tennessee 28-yard line on a completion from Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce. (Titans 10, Chiefs 7, 0:46 left in the first quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 3:35 PM EST
Titans extend lead with Derrick Henry touchdown
Tailback Derrick Henry, called easy to tackle by the Chiefs’ Frank Clark in an interview Friday with the NFL Network, didn’t look so easy to tackle as he coasted into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown run after taking a direct snap. That concluded a drive that was extended when a would-be interception by Kansas City’s Bashaud Breeland was overturned via an instant replay review. It was the correct call, as the ball clearly hit the ground for an incompletion as Breeland was in the process of trying to make the grab.
The Chiefs defense contributed consecutive offside penalties, one of which handed the Titans a first down. Tennessee converted on fourth and two from the K.C. 29-yard line, and Ryan Tannehill had a 22-yard completion to tight end Jonnu Smith to the 4-yard line to set up the touchdown. (Titans 10, Chiefs 0 with 5:52 left in the first quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 3:19 PM EST
Three and out to start for Chiefs
The Chiefs got off to a sluggish start last weekend in falling behind the Texans, 24-0, before rallying to win. And they begin this game with an unproductive series on offense, going three plays and out and punting. Patrick Mahomes was sacked on second down and threw a third-down incompletion to tight end Travis Kelce. (Titans 3, Chiefs 0 with 9:59 left in the first quarter)
January 19, 2020 at 3:14 PM EST
Titans kick field goal on opening drive
The Titans aren’t much for field goals. But they have the early lead in Kansas City, thanks to a 30-yard field goal by kicker Greg Joseph. The Titans took the opening kickoff on the cold, blustery day at Arrowhead Stadium (the game-time wind chill was 5 degrees) and moved 58 yards. Wide receiver A.J. Brown had a 37-yard catch and run, and Ryan Tannehill later had a 12-yard completion to wideout Corey Davis. But the Chiefs pressured Tannehill into an incompletion, on a pass thrown out of the back of the end zone, on third and six from the Kansas City 12-yard line. (Titans 3, Chiefs 0, 11:29 left in the first quarter)