Through the first 29 and a half minutes of the 2021 AFC Championship Game, it looked like the Kansas City Chiefs would cruise to their third straight Super Bowl appearance. Up 21-3 over the Cincinnati Bengals, Patrick Mahomes had the offense less than 10 yards from the end zone. At worst, the Chiefs looked like they'd set themselves up for a 24-3 halftime lead. At best, it's 28-3 and KC gets the ball after the half.
But then Mahomes had a brain fart. Or Andy Reid. Or Tyreek Hill. Or all three. One way or another, a mistake was made as Mahomes threw a swing pass to Hill with only seconds remaining in the half and no timeouts. Hill was tackled short of the goal line, the clock ran out as Mahomes tried to signal for a timeout the Chiefs didn't have, and the half was over. Kansas City just cost themselves at least three points and as many as seven with a bizarre playcall that failed.
Everything snowballed from there for Kansas City. An offense that had dominated for 10 quarters suddenly fell apart. The Chiefs punted on their first two possessions of the third quarter before Mahomes threw a boneheaded pick to a defensive lineman.
The Bengals quickly scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game up. The Chiefs' answer to that turn of events was a three-and-out that gained a total of negative-two net yards. The defense finally stepped up for Kansas City, though, and intercepted Joe Burrow. But Mahomes, in a tied playoff game, couldn't do anything and the Chiefs punted again.
Cincy picked apart a rapidly collapsing defense and kicked a field goal to take the lead with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Mahomes led the offense quickly down the field and the Chiefs were in perfect position to take the lead, with the ball on the Bengals' five-yard line with 1:30 on the clock. But Reid only ran the ball once before calling two pass plays that both ended in Mahomes sacks. Mahomes nearly fumbled on the last sack.
Despite all their mistakes, Kansas City still could've won the game. They won the overtime coin toss, just like they did against the Bills, and took the field against an exhausted Bengals defense. But Mahomes then proceeded to overthrow one receiver, threw behind a second receiver and nearly threw a pick-six, then launched a pass into double coverage that was intercepted.
The Bengals gained 42 yards in short order and kicked the field goal to win it, booking themselves a trip to Los Angeles while the Chiefs are left at home.
It was an all-time choke job by Kansas City. They were up by 18 points, at home, in the first half. Their offense was utterly unstoppable. And everything just... fell apart. Mahomes took unnecessary sacks and threw bad, bad passes. Reid's goal-line playcalling cost his team the game. And nobody expected much from the KC defense but they just rolled over in the second half.
This time last week, we were all wondering how anybody would ever stand up to Mahomes and the Chiefs. Now he and Reid will have to own one of the biggest playoff meltdowns in NFL history.