KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was easy to forget after back-to-back Super Bowl appearances the past couple of years, but the Kansas City Chiefs have a tortured playoff history.
They added another chapter to the sorry list in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs led 21-3 in the second quarter but collapsed, with the Bengals running off 21 straight points to take a 24-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw touchdowns on each of the Chiefs’ first three possessions, but they didn’t score again until Harrison Butker‘s 44-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Chiefs won the coin toss, but Mahomes threw an interception on the first possession and the Bengals drove for the winning field goal.
The Chiefs won’t be haunted just by wasting an 18-point lead but by a decision they made late in the first half. Leading 21-10 with five seconds left and no timeouts remaining, they tried a pass play from the Cincinnati 1 rather than kick a field goal.
Mahomes completed a pass to Tyreek Hill but short of the end zone, and Hill could neither get into the end zone nor out of bounds before time expired.
“I knew the time was low and I knew we needed to get points,” Mahomes said. “We called a play where we were trying to get somebody over the middle quick [or] I was supposed to throw the ball away. I got a little greedy there. … In the long run of things it looks bad but if we got another chance I would have went for another play again.”
It’s the latest troubled playoff chapter for the Chiefs. In recent years they wasted a 28-point lead during a loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round (2013 season), lost by two points without allowing a touchdown to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round (2016), blew an 18-point lead in a loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round (2017) and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game (2018).
The 18-point comeback for the Bengals matches the largest in the conference championship round (2006 Indianapolis Colts over the New England Patriots) and matches the second-largest road comeback in NFL postseason history.
“In the second half we were just off a tick and that’s all it takes to lose a football game,” Mahomes said. “I’ve got to be better. We were up 21-3 at one point and you can’t lose it. I put that on myself.”