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Chiefs storm past Titans, win AFC for first time in 50 years

Patrick Mahomes. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

For the first time in franchise history, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC Championship Trophy named after their founding owner in 1984.

The Lamar Hunt Trophy is officially home as the Chiefs’ 35-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans punched the franchise’s first ticket to the Super Bowl since 1970.

For a second-straight week, the Chiefs had to stay alive in comeback fashion, outscoring the Titans 28-14 down the stretch which included 28-unanswered points.

Patrick Mahomes was his talismanic self on Sunday afternoon, passing for 294 yards with three passing touchdowns and an additional rushing score.

While wide receiver Tyreek Hill posted a pair of touchdowns, Sammy Watkins — who had an inconsistent 2019 season — led all pass catchers with seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.

More impressively, the Chiefs managed to stymie Titans All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to just 69 yards on 19 carries.

While it isn’t a minuscule number, Henry entered the AFC Championship Game with an NFL record of three-straight games with at least 180 rushing yards.

It forced veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill to try and become the big-time playmaker rather than the game manager he thrived as in previous weeks.

He completed 21-of-31 passes for 209 yards and two scores as playing from behind saw the Titans move away from an identity that made them the NFL’s Cinderella story over the past three weeks.

Similarly to the Divisional Round, the Chiefs got off to an alarmingly slow start that muted the usually-deafening Arrowhead Stadium.

A Greg Joseph field goal on Tennessee’s opening drive was followed up by a four-yard touchdown rush by Henry to give the Titans a 10-0 advantage with 5:56 to go in the opening quarter.

The Chiefs woke up earlier than their furious comeback over the Texans, however, getting on the board with 46 seconds left in the first when Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill for an eight-yard touchdown pass that capped off a 10-play, 74-yard drive.

Tennessee would come up with an even more methodical reply, reeling off a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ate up over nine minutes of play. The big drive was finished off with a big man touchdown as Tannehill hit offensive lineman Dennis Kelly with a one-yard pass to go up 17-7 with 6:39 to go in the half.

As has been the case for much of the season, the Chiefs showed their quick-striking ability to close out the second quarter, putting up a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes of the quarter.

Hill nabbed his second touchdown of the day by hauling in a 20-yard pass from Mahomes before the Chiefs quarterback ended the half with a flourish — scrambling 27 yards down the left sideline to put the hosts up 21-17 heading into the locker room.

Damien Williams extended Kansas City’s lead to 11 10 seconds into the fourth quarter with a three-yard rush after a rare, scoreless third.

Granted, the Chiefs’ drive took over seven minutes to go 73 yards on 13 plays.

They didn’t take nearly as long to provide the dagger seven minutes later when Mahomes hit Sammy Watkins for a 60-yard score to put the Chiefs up 35-17.

Tennessee pulled one back with 4:18 to go to end Kansas City’s run when Tannehill hit Anthony Firkser for a 22-yard score.

With the win, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid became the seventh head coach in NFL history to lead two teams to the Super Bowl (his first came with the Eagles in 2005).

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