KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Cleveland Browns appeared destined to avenge an AFC Divisional playoffs loss Sunday on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Nick Chubb-powered offense dominated for most of three-plus quarters, but everything fell apart against the two-time reigning AFC champions in the final 10 minutes.
That's when Mahomes Magic happened in the form of a long touchdown to wide receiver Tyreek Hill, which proved to be the turning point in a scintillating 33-29 victory for the Chiefs.
“We just have a lot of belief on this team,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “We’ve been in those situations before, and we think that we can win no matter what the situation is.”
After Kareem Hunt powered in for a 2-yard touchdown with 10:28 remaining, Cleveland led by nine points and the deck seemed stacked against Kansas City.
It took 14 seconds for the mood in Arrowhead to change as Mahomes scrambled right toward the sideline and heaved a ball more than 45 yards downfield across his body to wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
“That’s Patrick Mahomes being Patrick Mahomes,” Hill said.
Working against safety John Johnson III, Hill adjusted to the underthrown pass, pivoted back toward the Chiefs’ sideline and jogged the final 30 yards to the end zone.
“What a great job he did getting open on that and just coming back to the ball,” said head coach Andy Reid. “Pat, running full speed to make that throw back across him. It’s something. How many times have we seen that? It’s pretty spectacular.”
On both ends, the throw from Mahomes is special, but the adjustment by Hill is nearly impossible to defend.
“John Johnson is a heckuva ball player,” said Hill, who torched the Browns for 197 yards on 11 receptions and a score. “I guess he was thinking Pat was fitting to launch the ball about 80 yards and I was able to adjust to it. That’s really hard for any DB. I don’t care who you are. If I’m running full speed and I stop and catch the ball, it’s going to be hard for any DB.”
On the heels of the 75-yard touchdown from Mahomes and with Arrowhead rocking again, defensive end Chris Jones’ second sack helped force a punt attempt.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen a defensive linemen take over like Chris Jones did that second half,” Reid said. “He was possessed there, an unreal job he did.”
Browns punter Jamie Gillan couldn’t handle the snap, panicked after picking up the ball and tried to run before he was swarmed by the Chiefs’ defense.
Three plays after taking over at the Cleveland 15-yard line, Mahomes darted his third touchdown — and second to tight end Travis Kelce — and Kansas City had its first lead of the game with 7:04 remaining.
Mahomes finished 27 of 36 for 337 yards with four touchdowns, including one on a 5-yard run in the second quarter, improving to 11-0 in the month of September with 35 touchdowns and no interceptions in his NFL career.
But until the final 10 minutes, the Chiefs’ defense struggled.
The Browns methodically marched 75 yards on 13 plays, including a crucial fourth-down conversion on a slant to Austin Hooper, on the game’s opening drive.
Nick Chubb scored a touchdown from 4 yards out before a penalty prompted the Browns to go for two and convert on Kareem Hunt’s vault for an 8-0 lead.
Cleveland strung together two more touchdown drives of at least 70 yards on its next two drives and led 22-10 at halftime behind Chubb, who finished with 101 total yards and two touchdowns.
“Third down was really the hammering point,” Reid said of the defense’s halftime adjustments. “We weren’t doing very well on third down and (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) added a couple little things there.”
Kansas City returned the favor with a fast start to the second half, marching 75 yards on 14 plays before Mahomes hit Kelce for an 11-yard strike that made it a one-score game again.
The Chiefs’ defense finally got a stop on the ensuing Browns drive when safety Juan Thornhill poked the ball away from Chubb and Ben Niemann recovered the fumble to set up a 43-yard Harrison Butker field goal.
The game’s only other turnover came with 1:09 remaining when cornerback Mike Hughes, acquired in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Vikings, intercepted Baker Mayfield along the Cleveland sideline.
“Hughes with the interception — welcome to Kansas City,” Reid said. “That was a beautiful thing.”
Certainly, it was a nice way to cap his first career game with the Chiefs.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to the other 10 guys who did their jobs,” Hughes said. “They flushed him out of the pocket, he made a bad decision and we just capitalized off it. It’s not all about me.”