Backup quarterback Chad Henne gained 13 yards on a scramble, then threw a stunning fourth-and-inches completion to Tyreek Hill with just over a minute remaining Sunday as the host Kansas City Chiefs finished off the Cleveland Browns 22-17 to reach the AFC Championship Game.
Henne replaced PatrickMahomes, who left the game with a concussion midway through the third quarter after he was tackled by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson on an option keeper.
Mahomes, who will have to go through concussion protocol to determine his availability for the AFC title game, passed for 255 yards and one touchdown before midway in the third quarter and the Chiefs leading 19-10. They would eventually get a field goal on that drive, but Kansas City didn't score after that -- leaving the outcome very much in doubt.
The defending Super Bowl champions became the first AFC team to play host to a conference championship for a third consecutive season. They will face the Buffalo Bills, a team Kansas City defeated 26-17 on Oct. 19.
After Harrison Butker's third field goal made the Chiefs lead 22-10, Baker Mayfield led the Browns on an 18-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that consumed 8:17 of the clock and brought Cleveland to within one score for the first time since early in the game. The drive included two fourth-down conversions and the touchdown came on a run by Kareem Hunt on third-and-goal situation, closing the score to 22-17 with 11:07 remaining.
Henne started the last regular-season game when Mahomes and several Kansas City starters rested after clinching the No. 1 seed. He relieved Mahomes on Sunday and completed two passes of 23 yards to Hill and 24 yards to Travis Kelce to get the Chiefs into field-goal range.
However, he was intercepted by Cleveland's Karl Joseph in the end zone with 8:10 remaining, giving the Browns a chance for a go-ahead score.
But the Chiefs defense stymied Cleveland's offense, and the Browns punted from their 32-yard line with 4:19 remaining. The Chiefs ran out the final 4:09, but not without plenty of drama, with Henne at the center of three key plays down the stretch.
Just before the two-minute warning, Henne was sacked for a 6-yard loss by Myles Garrett, leaving Kansas City with a third-and-14 at the Kansas City 35.
Yet, the 35-year-old backup scrambled for 13 yards, setting up the fourth-down moment.
With 1:14 remaining, it appeared that the Chiefs were just trying to run the clock down before punting. But ever the creative offensive coach, Andy Reid instead had Henne roll to his right and lob a pass to the open Hill for a 5-yard gain and the first down, icing the victory.
"That's why we love Big Red. He's always on time," Chiefs cornerback Tyrann Mathieu said of Reid in a post-game interview on NBC. "We're a team, we're one heartbeat. We play for one another."
Hill and Kelce each had eight receptions for 110 and 109 yards, respectively. Darrel Williams added 78 yards on 13 carries and had four receptions.
Mayfield passed for 204 yards and one touchdown. Cleveland running back Nick Chubb added 69 yards on the ground.
The Chiefs scored on each of their four first-half possessions while generating 293 yards to build a 19-3 halftime margin.
Mahomes, who completed 19 of 25 passes for 233 first-half yards, rushed for a 1-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game and hit Kelce for a 20-yard score early in the second quarter. Butker kicked field goals of 50 and 28 yards in the second quarter after missing his first PAT attempt.
Cody Parkey booted a 46-yard field goal to cap the Browns' first drive, but a costly fumble at the goal line by Rashard Higgins kept them from scoring a touchdown late in the first half.
Higgins caught a pass along the sideline from Mayfield and stretched the ball to the front of the end zone, but the Chiefs' Daniel Sorensen caused the fumble that rolled outside of the end zone for a touchback.
Kansas City took over with 1:34 left and Mahomes drove the Chiefs 70 yards for Butker's chip shot with 2 seconds left.
--Field Level Media