KANSAS CITY – Randi Martin arrived at Arrowhead Stadium two hours earlier than kickoff. She had a sense she couldn’t fairly clarify. She was sure one thing would occur, one thing unbelievable and inevitable. A lifetime of watching her son play soccer—all of the escapes, scampers, sidearm throws and late heroics—plus this adventurous Chiefs season, and a formidable opponent in the Payments, had knowledgeable an unmistakable vibe. However what? How? “I don’t know,” she stated, earlier than attempting to summarize the sensation in one phrase.
Randi wore bedazzled footwear and carried a bedazzled purse. Her son’s quantity was laid out with red-and-gold gems in three locations, No. 15 splashed in all places, abruptly.
She stood on the carpeted steps of a set contained in the stadium, flanked by her mother, Debbie, and her daughter, Mia. All three spied the quarterback who related them, Patrick Mahomes, alternately an NFL famous person, movie star endorser and Tremendous Bowl champion. However to not them. He chucked warm-up tosses on the sector down beneath. None knew—not then—of the dialog their No. 15 had with teammate Mike Remmers earlier this week. It meant little, even nothing, on the time.
In some way, the quarterback and the deal with landed on the subject of the Minneapolis Miracle, the nickname for an epic playoff triumph Remmers skilled whereas enjoying for the 2017 Vikings. Trailing, 24–23, the time remaining measured not in minutes however seconds, Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum threw up a desperation cross, which receiver Stefon Diggs snagged earlier than his defender fell, earlier than he sprinted into the tip zone and NFL historical past—his rating the primary time an NFL postseason contest ended on a game-winning landing as time expired. Mahomes advised Remmers he needed that form of second. Indelible, etched in stone, by no means forgotten. No, the time beyond regulation landing he threw to tight finish Travis Kelce to beat the Chargers in December didn’t rely. He needed that form of second at residence, at Arrowhead, in the playoffs, with the very best of stakes, in entrance of a sell-out crowd and the girl who bedazzled his quantity on each her footwear.
Maybe Mahomes felt the same premonition. Maybe not. Both approach, just a few hours later, he stated, “I’ll bear in mind this for the remainder of my life.”
Choose a play. Any quarter, both staff. Early on. Earlier than halftime. Tremendous late. In OT. Brimming with hope. Stiff-arming despair. After Nelly went on stage and rapped about warmth in 40-degree climate and in some way managed to make sense.
It was scorching in right here.
Any play will do.
Or decide 17 performs, every from one fourth-quarter sequence by a Buffalo offense that trailed, 26–21, with simply over seven minutes left. That’s nearly as good a spot to begin as any. The drive began on the 25-yard line, because the Payments trudged slowly, intentionally and methodically up the sector. They didn’t seem like the less-experienced staff in a sport the place expertise is meant to matter. Not with Josh Allen enjoying quarterback.
He didn’t transfer the offense a lot as he willed it. As this specific drive stretched from 5 performs, to 10, to fifteen, Allen ran the ball six instances. He transformed a 3rd down with a brief cross to wideout Cole Beasley, transformed one other third down with a bull-rush up the center and transformed a 3rd by pivoting round and streaking towards the left sideline. He didn’t convert his subsequent third down. Which led to a fourth down, the place Allen evaded Melvin Ingram III, juked two different defenders, confused one other by faking a cross and ran for the primary. Which led to each the two-minute warning and an apparent query: Not may Mahomes rating if Buffalo took the lead? However would he have sufficient time? (Ha!) Which led one other fourth down, fourth-and-13 on the Chiefs’ 27-yard line.
As if Sunday night time hadn’t been unusual sufficient, a (maybe, in all probability, seemingly drunken) fan sprinted onto the sector. Maybe this fan didn’t acknowledge Diggs, now with the Payments, from his Miracle days. However this fan gained’t overlook Jan. 23, 2022, both. Not after Diggs recorded an unofficial de-cleating, knocking the attention-seeker onto his bottom.
Any play will do.
On the following one, Allen drifted again, noticed confusion in the Chiefs’ backfield and lasered a throw to a wide-open Gabriel Davis. The Arrowhead crowd gasped. Then, silence. It’s not that Davis is an unknown wideout; he caught 35 passes and gained 549 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. However on Sunday, he caught eight passes, for 201 yards and an NFL playoff file 4 touchdowns. This sport was drunk like that. Diggs snagged a two-point conversion on the subsequent play, including a key offensive play to his very good “defensive” one. Payments 29, Chiefs 26.
One minute and 54 seconds remained in regulation. It appeared honest to contemplate time beyond regulation at that time, or to surprise the converse of the earlier query: Would Allen have sufficient time if the Chiefs kicked a subject aim to tie it? However then Mahomes threw 4 passes, and three of them fell incomplete. The sport clock ticked all the way down to 1:16. “I at all times received religion,” wideout Tyreek Hill would say later. In that second, he invoked Friday Evening Lights; particularly, the character of Boobie Miles, who, like Hill mimicked on the Chiefs’ sideline, preferred to shout, “Feed Boobie, man!”
“I’m a canine, dawg!” Hill shouted.
The ball snapped, and Hill streaked just like the fan—solely about 30 instances sooner—crossing the sector from the left facet to the precise. Mahomes zipped a throw that Hill caught in stride, permitting the receiver to show upfield with out dropping pace, whereas figuring out the precise excellent path between defenders. Diggs wasn’t there to cease him. Hill discovered the one lane close to the precise sideline the place no person may catch him. “That’s simply Pat, understanding precisely once I’m going to interrupt,” Hill stated. “Good timing. Good throw. Good play name. The remaining is historical past.” Hill knew that earlier than he scored, as evidenced by the peace signal he threw up with defenders close by in pursuit. “All the things labored excellent,” he stated, “identical to it was imagined to.” Or had it?
Chiefs 33, Payments 29. Simply over a minute left. Not almost sufficient time for Buffalo to attain a landing. Proper?
Ha! This sport was a time machine. The clock by no means ran out! Hours, half hours, minutes, seconds, didn’t matter. By no means mattered. Any play will do. Allen went again to Davis (for 28) and again to Davis (for 12) and located Emmanuel Sanders for 16 extra, simply to interrupt up the routine. Then, nicely, again to Gabriel catch-anything-and-everything Davis. He scored once more. Payments 36, Chiefs 33.
The respective win probability charts regarded like damaged electrocardiogram machines, with strains in all places, taking pictures upward, then plummeting, solely to spike once more. Coach Andy Reid needed Mahomes to play “Grim Reaper,” and “go get it.” That’s what he advised his quarterback on the sideline. Mahomes recalled Reid’s confidence, too. “We’re going to do that,” Reid advised him. “We’re going to get in subject aim vary, and we’re going to get factors.”
Delusional! All of them! Solely 13 seconds remained in regulation, which is hardly sufficient time to run a play, not to mention direct an offense midway down the sector, far sufficient for a kicker with a powerful leg however two misses on Sunday—one subject aim, one additional level—to make an try with all of the stress of the second touchdown squarely on his shoulders.
In that suite, along with her household, Randi determined to proceed to “converse [an ending] into existence.” She stated issues like “he has sufficient time” and “he higher not run,” as her son, No. 15, jogged again onto the sector.
It’s humorous, as a result of it’s true. Mothers know, proper? They possess that Spidey sense of instinct. Like Donna Kelce, who sat in a resort foyer close to Arrowhead on Saturday afternoon and sipped from a espresso cup as she nonchalantly and inadvertently predicted the seesaw nature of a playoff sport that might kick off in 26 hours. “You simply by no means know,” she stated. “It’s at all times in the again of your thoughts. Something can occur.”
She understood that, as a result of each her boys—Eagles middle Jason and Chiefs tight finish Travis—made the NFL, turned starters, then stars; they gained Tremendous Bowls, overcame accidents and, finally, got here to play for separate groups on the identical Sunday in the identical playoffs. As a result of Donna believed that something may occur, she determined to make a daring try at attending each of their video games in individual.
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, she drove from her residence in Orlando to Tampa, as a result of the Eagles kicked off first, towards the Bucs, at 1 p.m. the subsequent afternoon. She stopped on the airport however to not fly—not but. As a substitute, she checked right into a resort there, stayed the night time and took a cab over to Raymond James Stadium, however not earlier than leaving her luggage on the entrance desk.
With the Bucs in command—and Jason’s season just about over—she left close to the tip of the third quarter, solely to understand that the Uber lot was a protracted hike away. Fortuitously, a pedicab occurred to roll by, and when the driving force requested why she was leaving early, she defined: two video games, two sons, her journey. He pedaled sooner, as if getting into a Tour de Tampa, and when she arrived on the ride-share lot to seek out no rides, he helped her hail a taxi, then directed site visitors till a path ahead opened. Resort. Bag. Airport. Then … a delay!
She modified jerseys, swapping Eagles for Chiefs, and chatted with strangers who have been, by that time, following her sojourn on social media. Her flight sat on the tarmac for an additional half-hour. Upon touchdown, fellow passengers advised her that Travis had already scored a landing. The sport was shut. The Chiefs had organized for a driver, who picked her up and promised to take care of her baggage. However the quantity of textual content messages overwhelmed her cellphone, which saved freezing, that means she couldn’t open the app along with her tickets. A staff official got here to the rescue, and she or he settled into her seats—whew—as an offensive avalanche began. Mahomes threw 5 touchdowns in below 12 minutes of sport time. Her son would additionally throw the primary landing of his life, a bucket checklist achievement he had way back predicted. She would shock him in the postgame interview. And Donna would arrive this previous Saturday after a a lot simpler itinerary believing that something may occur, as a result of the weekend earlier than, something and all the things already had.
She would additionally challenge one other clarification that would appear prescient the subsequent night. “It looks like it’s easy,” she stated of the Chiefs’ run, the three straight AFC title video games that Kansas Metropolis hosted, the back-to-back Tremendous Bowl appearances, all of the factors scored and the triumph in LIV. However easy? “No,” she stated. “It’s not.” In any case, the Chiefs had misplaced that first convention championship sport to the Patriots, in time beyond regulation, when her son, Mahomes and the Kansas Metropolis offense by no means even touched the ball.
Donna Kelce settled into one other suite on Sunday afternoon, because the Rams—something can occur!—upended the Bucs in Tampa. The solar set. The stands stuffed. Fireworks exploded overhead, because the Chiefs’ offense sprinted onto the sector, one after the other, for introductions. Travis went second-to-last, smoke billowing. Mahomes adopted him, fists pumping.
The actual fireworks would go off quickly sufficient.
First drive: Allen transformed an straightforward fourth down at midfield, exhibiting an ultimate components of persistence blended with interludes of spectacular. The Payments scored, straight away, and watched as Chiefs security Tyrann Mathieu—the heartbeat of the Kansas Metropolis protection—entered concussion protocol, by no means to return.
Mahomes nonetheless answered, like on third-and-5 at his 31-yard line. He scrambled away from stress, shifting left, then ahead, then proper, then, in some way, flipping the soccer ahead however in the wrong way as his momentum carried his physique—for a mind-boggling completion.
The Chiefs had figured the Payments would run a variety of Cowl 2 shell, a zone protection designed to restrict large performs. That very scheme had slowed Kansas Metropolis down halfway by means of the season, made the Chiefs look—relative to their very own requirements—mortal, human. Buffalo did simply that, enjoying a ton of zone however mixing its coverages, and Mahomes countered by working with the ball, a lot to his mother’s chagrin. On the primary drive alone, he gained 49 speeding yards and scored a landing together with his legs.
Already, the group needed to react as if watching a tennis match, heads flinging backwards and forwards, as two high-powered offenses streaked down the sector. Something did occur. Any play did do.
Early, second quarter: Buffalo punted for the primary time this postseason. Based mostly on the Payments’ bludgeoning of the Patriots, this certified as newsworthy.
Later, second quarter: On third-and-goal, Mahomes continued together with his magic routine, working left, turning 180 levels and beginning to sprint proper, solely to see a defender closing in from just a few yards away. Mahomes made a split-second determination in that instant, lofting a ball towards the tip zone, the arc excellent, the flight path elegant. The defender nailed Mahomes and he lobbed this specific try off his again foot, towards Byron Pringle. Because the quarterback fell, two different defenders dove towards his supposed goal. Too late. Landing. The Chiefs took a 14–7 lead, and, for proof of simply how a lot occurred afterward, this throw—unimaginable, to not be tried and so very Mahomes—was all however forgotten in the aftermath.
Even later, second quarter: Simply when the Chiefs appeared to have seized momentum, there got here Allen, with one other drive. With 49 seconds left, he observed that Kansas Metropolis deliberate to ship additional blitzers, with seven rushers complete, and he motioned Cole Beasley over close to Davis. The wideouts ran a nifty switch-release, main their defenders to Keystone Cops–fall into one another, with Mathieu out. Landing, Davis. Naturally. Any play will do.
On and on this went, as thousands and thousands of followers drooled over an offensive show not like virtually any in NFL postseason historical past. It will be laborious to discover a sport with a comparable mixture of performs, stars and stakes. Mahomes ducked all the way down to create a sidearm angle on one cross to Hill, slinging a dart not over a defender’s outstretched arms however below them for a completion. He would by no means cease shifting, working this fashion, then that one, sprinting ahead or backpedaling, scampering, pirouetting, juking, faking, sliding, even bouncing up after a defender’s knee collided together with his head.
Because the Payments shifted their consideration—and defensive emphasis—to how and the place Mahomes moved, the remainder of the Chiefs’ offense opened up. However fold? No. Not these Payments.
Late, third quarter: With Kansas Metropolis up, 23–14, Allen determined to point out off maybe professional soccer’s strongest arm. He dropped again, stepped ahead and launched. His cross traveled roughly 60 yards in the air, resulting in audible gasps, as Davis beat his defender and settled below it. One other landing; this time, in a drive that lasted for all of 10 seconds.
For some time, it appeared just like the Chiefs have been making probably the most vital errors. Their kicker, Harrison Butker, missed a subject aim earlier than halftime and an additional level in the third quarter. Then Reid and his offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, made what gave the impression to be probably the most vital (dangerous) determination of all.
Early-ish, fourth-quarter: After a penalty negated a Payments punt, forcing a second, re-do try, Hill caught the ball because it descended and streaked up the precise sideline for a 45-yard return. “Rookie yr me? I in all probability would have cribbed that,” Hill stated, that means he would have scored. “Come on 10!”
And but, regardless of beginning the following drive solely 16 yards from the tip zone, the Chiefs sputtered. On third-and-1, neither Hill nor Kelce trotted onto the sector. The something that was occurring for Donna Kelce was her son having a smaller affect than common. Mahomes didn’t take the snap, both. As a substitute, it went to a backup tight finish, Blake Bell, who handed the ball off on a play that misplaced three yards. Butker made a subject aim, which arrange the Payments’ lengthy drive, the late swings and the 13 seconds that remained in the Chiefs’ season.
Afterward, nobody may consider it. Not the coaches, not the gamers, not the followers—and never the mothers.
“I’m simply sorting it out,” Reid stated.
“I’m catching a cramp proper now, as we converse,” Hill stated. “Oh … God … ouch. Can I get some water?”
Solely Mahomes appeared unruffled. “It wasn’t laborious to maintain them targeted,” he stated. “We believed.”
However 13 seconds? Critically? Come on!
Actually late, fourth quarter: Mahomes discovered Hill for 19 yards. Eight seconds remained. He dropped again, scanned the sector and there was—who else?—Kelce, precisely the place Mahomes needed him. Go, on the right track; vary, discovered; Butker, good. Tie sport. Additional time.
Something can occur.
“If you happen to’re not going to go down preventing, then you definitely don’t should be right here,” Mahomes stated.
This wasn’t the convention championship sport from 4 seasons in the past, the one the place Tom Brady led the Patriots down the exact same subject to push again the coronation of Mahomes. This time, the Chiefs gained the coin toss earlier than OT. This time, Mahomes led an offense down the sector, as a worthy challenger to his kingdom stood on the other sideline, protect prepared, sword sharpened, however by no means to jog again in.
Additional time: Mahomes dropped again, passing for the forty fourth time. He would say that Kelce “wasn’t essentially imagined to do [what he did], however we received a take a look at what the protection was doing.” Mahomes threw. Kelce turned. Ball met fingers. Ft met floor. Kelce was already sure; he was in bounds and in management. Mahomes ran over and jumped on high of him, yelling “I really like you, man” and issues like that.
One of many best playoff video games in NFL historical past had ended, making certain the Chiefs will host their fourth straight convention title sport. “These are two of the one gamers on earth who could make these performs,” Mahomes stated later, that means Hill and Kelce. He additionally may have been speaking about himself and Allen, two quarterbacks now firmly entrenched in an NFL rivalry, the type that may outline not seasons however eras. This isn’t any form of daybreak. Extra like excessive midday. “That is positively one other step for him into the Corridor of Fame,” Hill stated of his quarterback.
The Chiefs celebrated like youngsters in the locker room, piling on high of one another, screaming and yelling. Their triumph wasn’t precisely the identical because the Tremendous Bowl, nevertheless it was fairly darn shut. As they launched into a well-earned celebration, maybe they’d have been smart to take heed to their moms. As a result of something can occur, typically 1,000,000 anythings—and on an epic night time to cap off an epic NFL playoff weekend, typically profitable, nevertheless it occurs, nevertheless far-off it appears, is the pleasant end result.
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