There’s precious few feats Patrick Mahomes has yet to accomplish in his already illustrious seven-year career, but Sunday marked another first.
“First off, this is a great environment, man. It really is,” Mahomes told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson on the field following the game. “But we did hear it all week about playing a road game, and we’re here to prove a point and show that we can play anywhere.”
Even after a season in which the Chiefs were uncharacteristically mediocre on offense with a 15th-ranked scoring unit, one would be foolish to doubt Kansas City’s ability to turn it on — regardless of location.
But it was indeed a storyline all week.
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Mahomes went an astounding six seasons into his tenure as a starting quarterback without playing a postseason game on the road.
He did win two Super Bowls at neural sites, and he lost Super Bowl LV to the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay’s home stadium — something he pointed out to reporters his postgame news conference — but his Sunday night at Highmark Stadium marked new territory as a true, designated away game.
Bills Mafia showed out to make him as uncomfortable as possible, but it showed up neither in the stat sheet nor the final result.
“I love being at Arrowhead,” Mahomes said at the postgame podium. “I love being at Arrowhead and playing in front of that crowd. But when you’re on the road, it’s you versus them. It’s you versus everybody in the stadium, and you have to come together as a team and let guys do that. You saw that in the game today.”
Counting out a one-play possession that ended the first half, Mahomes and Co. scored on their first five possessions.
He led them on drives of 46 and 64 yards that netted field goals, then hit another gear to keep up with Josh Allen and the Bills.
After seven straight games being held without a TD connection to Travis Kelce, Mahomes found his All-Pro tight end on a 22-yard pass to pull in front, 13-10, then again on a 3-yard score on the opening drive of the third quarter to again wrest the lead away from Buffalo, 20-17.
It wasn’t just Kelce, who had five catches for 75 yards, that picked things up as Kansas City required a shootout with the Bills through the first three quarters. Rookie Rashee Rice made a number of tough catches to contribute 47 yards, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, so long a poster child for the drops that have plagued Chiefs wide receivers in 2023, brought in two balls that posed a remarkable degree of difficulty for 62 yards.
K.C.’s running game was churning too, with Isiah Pacheco motoring past or willingly crashing through all comers for 97 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Buffalo’s crowd did make it hard on third down, where the Chiefs converted just once on five tries, but Kansas City gained 7.7 yards per play — 3.0 more than the Bills.
The game also turned to the defenses down the stretch, a necessity for Kansas City after Mecole Hardman fumbled through the Bills’ end zone for the lone turnover of the game and the Chiefs couldn’t put Buffalo away again when they punted for their only time all night the next time the offense had the ball.
“Through three quarters offensively, we were moving the ball up and down the field,” Mahomes said. “But we got shut down in the fourth quarter. I went over to the defense, and I told them. I said, ‘Y’all shut it down, and we’ll win this football game. We’ll go to the AFC Championship Game.’ And they did.”
As it has all season, Kansas City’s defense rose to the occasion. The unit gave up just five yards on Buffalo’s first drive of the quarter before seeing right though a fake punt by the Bills, then forced a three-and-out following Hardman’s gaffe.
The Chiefs did concede 54 yards on Buffalo’s final drive while holding a slim three-point margin, a time-burner that churned 6:40 off the clock, but they delivered another stop under the two-minute warning, and Tyler Bass could not tie the game on a 44-yard kick that went wide right.
It was another knock-down drag-out fight between the Chiefs and Bills in a series that has been recently littered with them.
The Chiefs again emerged standing, postseason victors for a third time in the last four seasons over the Bills.
Mahomes moved to 4-3 against Allen head-to-head, including the 3-0 postseason margin. Kansas City showed it can still provide fireworks offensively, and it did so in hostile territory.
Next up? Proving it all over again at M&T Bank Stadium against the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens.
“There’s no weakness there,” Mahomes told Wolfson regarding the Ravens. “It’s going to take our best effort. Defense, offense, special teams, they do it all. It’s always a great challenge, and that stadium is going to be rocking, so we’re excited for the challenge.”