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Chiefs overcome loss of Mahomes while Buccaneers end Saints' hopes


The Kansas City Chiefs had lost Patrick Mahomes to a concussion and were in danger of losing the game.

Then their defense and Chad Henne kept their Super Bowl hopes alive with a 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns that advanced them to the AFC championship game.

With their star quarterback reduced to a spectator, the oft-forgotten Chiefs defense opposite Mahomes’ high-powered offense forced the Browns to punt in the waning minutes. Then, his 35-year-old backup showed some moxie with a long third-down scramble and fourth-down completion to Tyreek Hill when Andy Reid decided to go for it with just over a minute left, giving the Chiefs a first down and allowing them to run out the clock.

“That’s why we love Big Red. He’s always on time,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said of the decision to go for the fourth down. “We always knew he has one play on the table.”

Mahomes hadn’t played in 21 days, since the Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed in Week 16, but he hardly missed a beat before leaving midway through the third quarter. He finished 21 of 30 for 255 yards and touchdowns passing and running.
Harrison Butker added three field goals for the Chiefs, who nearly blew a 19-3 lead but held on to become the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference championship games. They’ll face the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.

Baker Mayfield threw for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Browns, who were coming off their first playoff win since the 1994 season. But their inability to drive for the winning touchdown – they punted with 4:23 left in the game – kept them from winning two playoff games in a season for the first time since 1950.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-20 New Orleans Saints

Tom Brady’s best game in three tries against New Orleans kept the Buccaneers moving on in the NFL playoffs, and has Saints quarterback Drew Brees headed home perhaps for good.

Brady and the Bucs’ offense turned three Saints turnovers, including two interceptions of Brees, into touchdowns, and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 30-20.

Two of those touchdowns came on short passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. And after Brees was intercepted by linebacker Devin White in the middle of the fourth quarter, Brady drove the Bucs to the one, from where he scored himself to all but ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game his first in the NFC.

That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.

Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.

The game may have been the last in the Superdome for the 42-year-old Brees, who is under contract for one more year but has not discussed any plans to play beyond this season, and has sometimes hinted at his impending retirement.

If it was his last game, it won’t be one he’ll want to remember. The NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards passing was 19 of 34 for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards in what often resembled more of a defensive struggle. Unlike his previous two meetings with the Saints both losses he was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.

After Brees’ third interception on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs were able to close out the game with Brady, in his first season with Tampa Bay after 20 with New England, taking a knee.



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