Shortly, the discussion will turn toward Patrick Mahomes and his status after leaving this game in the third quarter with a concussion. For now, though, the Kansas City Chiefs will celebrate their third consecutive AFC championship appearance following their 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.
STORY OF THE GAME
The margin for error shrinks when you’re playing a team as explosive as Kansas City is on offense, and the Browns made several key mistakes early that exceeded that margin.
Their first drive reached the edge of the red zone before a Baker Mayfield sack forced them to settle for a field goal. The Browns then got into Chiefs territory again on the following drive, but a Wyatt Teller holding penalty nullified a big reception and ultimately forced a punt. Finally, with the first half winding down, Rashard Higgins fumbled out of the back of the end zone while reaching for the pylon on a hit that could have been whistled for Daniel Sorensen leading with his helmet.
Three drives crossing the 50-yard line — two of which reached the 20-yard line — yielding just three points is not a recipe for success against any team, let alone the team that has been the Super Bowl favorites for nearly the entire year. It gave the Chiefs a 19-3 cushion heading into halftime, and it proved to be too much for Cleveland to overcome, even with Mahomes sidelined down the stretch.
Mayfield finished the game with an underwhelming stat line, but he played well for most of the afternoon in a passing attack that focused primarily underneath the coverage. His average depth of target 5.6 yards downfield was nearly four yards below his season average (9.2 yards), but he hit all three of his passes that traveled 20 or more yards downfield in the game.
Mayfield’s biggest blemish came in the form of a Tyrann Mathieu interception early in the third quarter — part of a tremendous game from the heart and soul of the Chiefs defense in which he allowed -5 receiving yards into his coverage on five targets pending final review. He was active and around the football throughout the contest.
It seemed as though the Browns would get a shot at a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Kansas City was looking at a third-and-14 with Chad Henne at quarterback. However, Henne did his best Mahomes impersonation and came up just inches short of the first down on a scramble. The Chiefs followed that play up with a game-sealing completion to Tyreek Hill on fourth down, putting the city of Kansas City at ease in a game that became tense late.
The first member of this game to hear his name called in the 2020 NFL Draft — Jedrick Wills Jr. — played just one snap before exiting with an injury.
Donovan Peoples-Jones brought in a beautiful pass from Mayfield down the sideline for 23 yards early, but that proved to be his only target of the game.
L’Jarius Sneed manned the slot again for the Chiefs, as he has ever since returning from injury. His biggest play came in the form of a sack unblocked off the edge, but the Browns were able to have some success targeting Sneed in coverage. Pending review, Sneed’s 49 receiving yards allowed would be his second-highest total of the season.
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