KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Just 8 seconds left when the Kansas City Chiefs lined up at the 44-yard line three points down in the AFC Divisional Round Sunday at GEHA Field in Arrowhead Stadium.
Patrick Mahomes looked at Travis Kelce and started barking a command.
“Probably halfway through his cadence, he yelled at me in the scrimmage, ‘Do it,'” Kelce said. “I was like, ‘Okay, here we go guys.'”
The Bills had taken the lead with 13 seconds left.
Hopes for a win looked bleak, but Tyreek Hill had caught a 19-yard pass and the Chiefs called a timeout.
At that point, Mahomes and Kelce had a quick chat that the remarkable, improbable and exciting 42-36 overtime win in NFL postseason lore.
“After timeout, we looked at what the defense was doing and (Kelce) basically said to me, ‘If they do it again, I’ll go right in between the two guys guarding me,’” Chiefs said quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Buffalo played a pretty standard defense.
Secondary was deep, cover was soft – worried less about giving up a first down than giving up a piece.
“It’s a pretty common defense in a situation like this,” Kelce said. “The defense will try to take away the sideline throws, give you more of the seams and keep the center of the field open. That, and that they’re soft and obnoxious so you can get a little bit of an edge.”
Kelce told Mahomes that he intended to exploit that flaw in seam coverage rather than run the game as intended.
“I said to Mahomes, ‘I’m probably not going to walk the route that’s mentioned. I’m just going to run to the open area,'” Kelce said.
That brilliance — built on confidence over the past five seasons in practice, honed in the playoffs over the past four years, and virtually unprecedented in NFL annals — paid off.
Kelce caught a 25-meter pass on the hem, went down and called a timeout.
Harrison Butker then drove a 49-yard field goal to force overtime where Kansas City marched 75 yards on eight plays for the game-winning touchdown.
“It was just a little bit of football in the backyard with a few seconds left that gave us a chance to extend the game,” Kelce said.
Fittingly, that Mahomes-to-Kelce connection ended the game with an 8-yard, back-shoulder fade—touching one of the loudest roars Arrowhead Stadium, the loudest stadium in the country, has ever heard.
“That was a nice experience,” Kelce said. “I remember the catch and the sight of Tyreek standing over me yelling ‘game’ and when Pat came running up to me. I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
While Chiefs coach Andy Reid waited for the touchdown to be confirmed — for what “felt like 5 minutes” — the players celebrated on the field.
Kelce never doubted he gave Kansas City its record fourth consecutive home AFC Championship Game.
“I knew right away it was a touchdown,” Kelce said. “I was given full control of the matter, I had both feet on the ground. I knew immediately it was a touchdown.”