Notebook: Gutsy Fourth-Down Call Sends Chiefs to AFC Championship Game vs. Buffalo

The most pivotal moment in Kansas City’s 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Sunday’s AFC Divisional Round playoff didn’t take occur during the game.

It happened Saturday night when the team’s coaches and quarterbacks discussed the game plan, deciding what they liked for certain game situations, such as needing a fourth-and-inches conversion near midfield with 1:14 left to play to put the victory on ice. Backup quarterback Chad Henne, filling in for the injured Patrick Mahomes, knew the play to run.

“For that last play, we knew – not that we knew – but film study showed that they were going to be in man coverage and we had the play,” Henne said. “We talked about the play Saturday night, Patrick and I and the coaching staff going over the plays that we like.”

What’s not to like? Tyreek Hill lined up in the slot on the right side, running back Darrel Williams split outside left before motioning into the backfield alongside Henne in the shotgun. Surely the Chiefs planned to run the play clock to zero in enticing the Browns to jump offside.

With 5 seconds left on the play clock, however, center Austin Reiter snapped the ball to Henne. Hill stutter-stepped forward before breaking to his right. Henne rolled that direction and delivered a quick out to Hill, who caught the ball for a first down and slid to the ground to put the game out of reach from the Browns.

“When I came to the sideline it was one of the plays that we picked,” Henne said. “We felt confident in that play, and one-on-one matchup with Tyreek Hill a majority of the time he’s going to win. He did a great route and I just had to put the ball where it needed to be.”

Head coach Andy Reid said from offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka on the sidelines to passing game analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach Joe Bleymaier in the booth upstairs, everyone agreed on the call.

“We didn’t think it would be with Chad running, but there was a chance where short-yardage, ‘Coach, you’ve got to make a decision.'” Reid said. “But there was no doubt with anybody. For Joe to think that, for Mike and EB to say what they said, to have a play ready to go that everybody liked—there was no flinch on the play. It was, ‘This is what it is. Here we go, Chad.’ We all knew it, let’s go.”

After the game, even Mahomes took to social media to celebrate his backup’s big moment with the #HenneThingIsPossible hashtag. Chances are Henne won’t see it, however, since he says he only has one social media account — on LinkedIn.

“I don’t think hashtag HenneGivenSunday or HenneThingPossible is going to show up on LinkedIn,” Henne said.

Injury report

Chiefs fans held their collective breaths midway through the third quarter when Mahomes took a hard hit on a quarterback run and appeared wobbly as he rose from the ground.

The club initially stated Mahomes exited for evaluation for a concussion. Reid after the game indicated Mahomes passed the initial baseline examination for a concussion. He’s expected to undergo further tests on Monday, and it’s not immediately known what his availability will be for next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills.

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland also exited the game for a concussion evaluation. Reid said he expected to know more about Breeland’s injury later.

The Chiefs got a scare before the game when right tackle Mike Remmers was added to the injury report as questionable with a non-COVID-19 illness. Remmers started the game and played all offensive snaps.

Hill, Lewis on the sideline

Television cameras caught an exchange between Tyreek Hill and receivers coach Greg Lewis with 4:24 left in the third quarter that raised plenty of questions but generated a short answer from Hill.

An animated Hill appeared to shove Lewis with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter after the Chiefs settled for a 33-yeard field goal to boost their lead to 22-10.

No context is known for the interaction but Hill responded to the incident on Twitter.

“Yes man love him like a uncle,” Hill tweeted.

In other words: nothing to see here.

By the numbers
  • Arrowhead Stadium will host the AFC Championship for the third-straight season on Sunday, marking the first time a stadium has hosted three AFC title games in a row. The Philadelphia Eagles (2002-04) are the only team to pull off that feat in the NFC when Reid also served as their head coach.
  • Mahomes is now the most-prolific postseason passer in Chiefs’ franchise history with 1,729 passing yards in six career playoff games. Hall of Famer Len Dawson previously held the mark with 1,497 yards in eight games.
  • With his 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Mahomes joins Steve Young as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to rush for a touchdown in three-consecutive postseason games, according to NFL Research.
  • Reid won his 16th postseason game as head coach, trying with Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll for fifth place in the league’s record book. Only Bill Belichick (31), Tom Landy (20), Don Shula (19) and Joe Gibbs (17) have more wins than Reid.
  • Hill (110) and Travis Kelce (109) each topped the 100-yard receiving mark, making it the second time in franchise history with two 100-yard receivers in a postseason game. Ed Podolak (110) and Elmo Wright (104) pulled off that feat on Dec. 25, 1971, in a Divisional Round loss to Miami.
  • Darrel Williams made the first start of his NFL career on Sunday in place of injured running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and set a new career-high with 78 rushing yards. His previous best of 62 yards came in last season’s 33-28 win over Baltimore.
  • The Chief didn’t settle for a punt in eight drives on Sunday, making it only the second time in franchise history the team didn’t punt in a postseason game. The only other occurrence came in the Divisional Round on Jan. 11, 2004, in a 38-31 loss to Indianapolis.
What’s Next?

The Chiefs will host the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game next Sunday, Jan. 24 with kickoff set for 5:40 p.m. central time on CBS (KCTV-5 in Kansas City). Team facilities have typically been closed on Monday and Tuesday due to league COVID-19 protocols except for certain personnel and injured players. Mahomes expects to undergo further evaluation at the team’s training complex on Monday.

The team begins practice for next week’s championship game on Wednesday.