The leaders advance to the AFC Championship Game with the Jaguars win

The leaders advance to the AFC Championship Game with the Jaguars win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs probably don’t want to do this, but they won Saturday’s playoff game with Patrick Mahomes on the bench for a significant amount of time because of a right ankle injury.

Chad Henne had only one possession in the reserve, not counting him kneeling at the end of the first half. He made it count, leading a franchise playoff record 98-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that helped the Chiefs hold on to an eventual 27-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round.

Mahomes returned to the game in the second half and was effective, so he is expected to be available to play in next week’s AFC Championship Game against Buffalo or Cincinnati. But the Taoiseach have reason to believe that they would work effectively if Henne has to play.

Kansas City Chiefs

Describe the game in two words: A tough break. It’s not a literal break, but Mahomes’ injury came at the worst possible moment for the Chiefs, under the circumstances.

Critical play: Isiah Pacheco’s 39-yard run in the second quarter with Henne in the game and Mahomes on the sideline was the big play on the 98-yard touchdown drive led by the backup quarterback. The play led to the score that put the Chiefs ahead 17-7.

Next Gen public eye stat: Pacheco had a top speed of 20.97 mph on his 39-yard run, the top speed of his career according to NFL Next Gen stats. The 39-yard gain was 36 yards beyond expectations.

Under the radar stat that matters: Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker was just 3-of-7 during the regular season on field goals of 50 yards or more. But he did two of 50 yards against the Jaguars. – Adam Teicher

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t ready to compete with the AFC’s elite teams — yet. But they are closer than they have been in five years. Winning the AFC South in Week 18 was a surprise — helped a lot by the Tennessee Titans’ late-season swoon — and put the Jaguars in the playoffs a year or two earlier than expected. But Saturday night’s loss in Kansas City highlighted the weaknesses the Jaguars must address before they can consistently compete with — and beat — the Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals for supremacy in the AFC.

​​​​​​The Jaguars got some key defensive stops and big plays during the second half of the season, such as Rayshawn Jenkins’ interception return for a touchdown against Dallas and Jenkins’ strip sack and Josh Allen’s fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Titans , but the Jaguars could not come up with one against the Taoiseach. They pressured Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first half but couldn’t get him in the second half when he was clearly playing. They also allowed Travis Kelce to run untouched down the field until he caught a pass.



Chiefs D stops Jags drive with red zone fumble recovery

The Chiefs recover a Jamal Agnew fumble near the goal line to thwart the Jaguars’ drive.

Describe the game in two words: Missed opportunities. All week the Jaguars talked about taking advantage of opportunities because they did not do that in the first meeting against the Taoiseach. There was no more opportunity Saturday than Mahomes hanging around for the entire second half, but the defense gave up a 98-yard touchdown drive to backup QB Chad Henne and couldn’t force Mahomes into a turnover. The Jaguars also missed three crucial plays in the first half, all of which could have resulted in points.

Linebacker Foye Oluokun couldn’t deflect a ball by catching defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton inside the Kansas City 30-yard line, running back JaMycal Hasty dropped a third-down pass that could have set the Jaguars up for a touchdown. long range target and receiver. Christian Kirk dropped a deep throw that would have given the Jaguars the ball inside the Kansas City 15 yard line. The Jaguars ended up getting a field goal on the drive when Kirk dropped the pass, but that’s another 10 potential points (at least) they left on the field.

Critical play: The Jaguars committed two fourth quarter turnovers that doomed their comeback attempt. Jamal Agnew fumbled after being tackled at the 3-yard line and quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw a pass to Zay Jones that was intercepted. Agnew’s fumble was the team’s first red-zone turnover since Week 8. The Jaguars trailed by 10 points each time they turned it over and ran out of time to complete their eighth win of the season.

Silver lining: The Jaguars offense finished 10th in yards and points per game in 2022, and there is hope that things could be even better next season with the arrival of receiver Calvin Ridley, especially if the team re-signs tight end Evan Engram . The Jaguars traded for Ridley in November and if he is cleared of his gambling suspension in February he can be on the team when the offseason program begins in April. Ridley will be the No. 1 receiver. 1 for the Jaguars to pair with Christian Kirk, who is one of the best slot receivers in the league, and Zay Jones. — Michael DiRocco

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