Chiefs outlive Bengals and get 2 weeks to heal for Super Bowl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes certainly earned a cue ball in Sunday night’s AFC title game when the All-Pro quarterback rushed away with his sprained right ankle in the final seconds to help set up the winning field goal.

Travis Kelce probably too. With the Chiefs missing three wide receivers from injuries, the All-Pro tight end played through remnants of back spasms that kept him almost entirely out of the game, finishing with seven catches for 78 yards and a score.

However, the true MVP of the 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals may have been longtime Chiefs coach Rick Burkholder and his staff. It was Burkholder and fellow coach Julie Frymyer who devised a plan to get Mahomes ready for the Bengals and then had to find a way to get Kelce ready when his back appeared 48 hours from kickoff.

“I didn’t expect to be able to walk much,” Mahomes admitted. “The training staff, Julie, did a great job of getting me enough range and mobility to protect myself and then I had to run at the end of the game to get first place and got us in the field goal -Area. So credit to them.”

Thanks for Kelce too.

“I wasn’t sure if I could do it,” he said, “but we have the best coaching staff in the entire NFL. … I’m just very grateful and appreciative. I don’t know where I would have been mentally if I couldn’t play this game.”

One thing is for sure: The Chiefs probably wouldn’t prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

For Burkholder and his team, however, the work is only just beginning.

Mahomes ended up limping badly and will no doubt use the next two weeks to prepare his ankle for another game. Kelce will also use the time to rest his injured back. Then there’s cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who’s on concussion protocol; linebacker Willie Gay Jr. with an injured shoulder; and wide receivers Kadarius Toney (ankle), JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Mecole Hardman (pelvis), all of whom watched Sunday night’s dramatic conclusion from the sidelines.

The practice room could be the busiest spot at Arrowhead Stadium ahead of the Chiefs’ trip to Phoenix next week.


The Chiefs sacked the Bengals’ Joe Burrow five times, including one by Chris Jones, who forced a final punt and gave Kansas City a chance to drive on the eventual field goal. That pressure helped a defensive backfield playing against a trio of rookie cornerbacks and a rookie safety hang with one of the best groups of wide receivers in the league.

“My entire offseason was devoted to this game,” said Jones, who never had a postseason sack in 11 games before getting two on Sunday night. “Make sure that when that moment calls, especially for me, that I answer the call.”


With no three receivers injured and their quarterback limping, the Chiefs kept trying to establish the run Sunday night. But they only managed 42 yards on 20 carries, a paltry 2.1 yards per attempt.


Frank Clark had five sacks in 15 regular-season games, but the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher had a postseason rip. He has 2 1/2 between the divisional round and the AFC title game, giving him 13 1/2 in the playoffs for his career. He trails only Willie McGinest (16) and Bruce Smith (14 1/2) for most postseason sacks since 1982.


Right tackle Andrew Wylie had some brutal moments against the Bengals. His holding penalty returned a touchdown run from Isiah Pacheco, forcing Kansas City to kick a field goal. Wylie was later called out for a taunt for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Mahomes fumbled three games later to set up a Cincinnati tie touchdown early in the fourth quarter.


Mahomes, Kelce, Sneed, Gay, Hardman, Smith-Schuster and Toney would be enough. But the Chiefs also had WR Justin Watson (illness) inactive on Sunday and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (sprained ankle) is still not fully back from injured reserve.


3 – The Chiefs will make their third Super Bowl appearance in four years and fifth in franchise history. They will also be aiming for their third Lombardi Trophy, having won their first two 50 years apart.


The Chiefs are 5-4 against the Eagles, and coach Andy Reid has won his last six games. How did he do it? Reid won his last three before being fired by Philadelphia and has since won all three against his former team with Kansas City.