Quarterback Patrick Mahomes played with heavily strapped ankle after being injured in the 27-20 playoff win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday
Miami (AFP) - Despite quarterback Patrick Mahomes struggling with a sprained ankle, the Kansas City Chiefs held off the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday, reaching their fifth straight AFC Championship game with a 27-20 win.
Tight-end Travis Kelce delivered a game-winning performance with 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
At a cold, wet but rocking Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs took the lead with their first drive of the game in familiar fashion as Mahomes found Kelce with a short pass and the tight-end turned and dashed into the end-zone.
Jacksonville responded immediately, however, with Trevor Lawrence connecting with Christian Kirk on a ten-yard touchdown pass.
But then Mahomes was hurt when Jaguars linebacker Arden Key landed on him while he was going down under a tackle.
Mahomes remained in the game for the rest of the drive, which ended in a Chiefs field goal, but then went to the locker-room and did not return for the rest of the half.
Back-up quarterback Chad Henne, a former Jaguar, took over and he led the Chiefs to a 17-7 lead with a one-yard pass to Kelce.
The Jags reduced the deficit before half-time with a field goal but there was a major boost for Kansas City when Mahomes returned for the second half, albeit with a heavily strapped right-ankle.
A 50-yard field goal from Harrison Butker made it 20-10 but Jacksonville, who last week came from 27 points down to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers in the first round of the NFL playoffs, were never going to roll over.
Travis Etienne ran in from four yards for a Jaguars touchdown but despite Mahomes still looking far from comfortable, the quarterback found Marquez Valdes-Scantling with a six yard pass to restore the ten-point advantage.
- Costly Jags turnovers -
Lawrence then showed his running ability as he burst 12 yards for a first down at the Kansas City nine yard line.
But with Jacksonville closing in on a touchdown with less than six minutes to go, Jamal Agnew fumbled the ball after catching a Lawrence pass and the Chiefs recovered.
It was a turnover that could have been even more costly, but the Jaguars defense made a crucial stop, forcing the Chiefs to punt, only for Lawrence to throw an interception on the next drive with Jaylen Watson making a superb one-hand grab.
Riley Patterson’s 48-yard field goal gave Jacksonville the opportunity of an on-sides kick, but the Chiefs recovered the ball to secure the win.
The Chiefs will face the winners of Sunday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills.
Later on Saturday, the New York Giants were at the NFC’s top seed, the Philadelphia Eagles.