Jan. 29 (Reuters) – A last-minute field goal saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in the AFC Championship and hole their ticket to the Super Bowl on Sunday, setting up a final showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles .
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes sprained his ankle high just days earlier, but produced a heroic sprint to get the Chiefs down to first with the game tied and seconds left on the clock.
An unnecessary rough call to defensive end Joseph Ossai, which pushed Mahomes out of bounds, put kicker Harrison Butker within reach and the Chiefs got their revenge a year after Cincinnati ended their path to the Super Bowl .
“The job isn’t done,” coach Andy Reid told an elated Kansas City crowd. “We have some paperwork here and then we need to take care of business.”
The Bengals entered frigid Kansas City on a 10-game hitting streak, but struggled to keep their composure early on to ear-splitting cheers from home fans, while a relentless Chiefs defense sacked Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow four times in the first half .
But the game turned into an epic duel as Burrow tied the score with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins in the third quarter and Mahomes fought back, connecting with Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone.
A touchdown on a two-yard sneak by Samaje Perine put the Bengals back in contention, but the Chiefs would not be denied their third trip in four years to the Super Bowl.
The win set up a tantalizing showdown between the Chiefs’ powerful offense and one of the most devastating defenses in the league after the Eagles beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
A pair of Miles Sanders rushing touchdowns helped the Philadelphia Eagles get it, after injuries affected San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy and backup Josh Johnson.
“This is something you dream about as a kid,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said in a televised address. “Just being able to do that with a group of men who love each other, who connected with each other, who would do anything for each other, is pretty sweet.”
The Eagles set the tone early, turning on fourth down on the opening drive with a sensational one-handed catch by receiver DeVonta Smith before Pro Bowler Sanders scrambled six yards into the end zone.
Things went from bad to worse for San Francisco as Purdy left the game with an elbow injury after a sack by Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick during the 49ers’ first possession.
Running back Christian McCaffrey broke through a swarm of defenders to put the Niners on the board in the second quarter, but Sanders immediately got the lead back with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Johnson, the Niners’ fourth-string quarterback after injuries that had previously sidelined starters Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, fumbled the ball late in the second quarter and the Eagles rallied, sending a shiver of desperation through the team away while Boston Scott scored all the way to the end of the zone.
Purdy returned to the game after Johnson slammed his head into the turf, but was ineffective against the razor-sharp Eagles, as quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter and Jake Elliott made a field goal from 31 yards in the quarter.
“This is a special city,” said Hurts, 24, before leading the elated crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in singing the Eagles’ fight song, “Fly, Eagles Fly.” “We still have one.”
Reportage by Amy Tennery in New York Edited by Christian Radnedge, Clare Fallon and Gerry Doyle
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