NFL Playoffs divisional round reaction: Chiefs advance, Patrick Mahomes' status looms large
The Kansas City Chiefs were double-digit favorites over the Cleveland Browns, but the AFC divisional round game ended up coming down to the wire. Kansas City escaped with a 22-17 win, but Chiefs fans will be holding their breath all week after Patrick Mahomes had to leave the game early with a concussion.
The Browns put up an admirable fight and didn’t roll over when the game was 19-3 at halftime like many teams would have. Sunday represented the end of their magical run, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in Cleveland. Let’s break down the biggest takeaways from the game:
All eyes on Mahomes
It feels funny to say, but the biggest story for the Chiefs right now isn’t the win that just sent them to the AFC Championship Game, it’s the status of Mahomes. The star quarterback was unfortunately forced to leave the game early with a concussion, and it’ll now be a race against the clock to get him cleared in time for next Sunday.
Every concussion is different, and it’s impossible to say how Mahomes will progress. Needless to say, it’s essential for their chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions that he’s able to play. Chad Henne may have come in cold off the bench and iced the game with a couple of late clutch plays, but he looked terrible right before that.
Henne threw a horrendous interception that helped give the Browns new life in the fourth quarter, and the scale of the downgrade from Mahomes to Henne is almost indescribable. They’ve got a tough matchup with the Bills waiting, and it’s hard to see them keeping up offensively without Mahomes under center.
That being said, Kansas City’s defense played great, routinely making big plays when they needed to, so maybe they could survive another game without Mahomes. This situation will need to be closely monitored.
ANDY REID FIRST DOWN
THE CHIEFS ARE GOING TO THE AFC TITLE GAME 💰
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) January 17, 2021
Browns can hold their heads high
They came up short, but it was still a fairytale season for the Browns. First, they ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought of nearly 20 years. Then they went on the road and improbably knocked off the division-rival Steelers in the first round despite being decimated by COVID-19 and being counted out by just about everybody.
Cleveland has a great young core to build on, and Baker Mayfield silenced most of the doubters this season while solidifying himself as the guy moving forward. Kevin Stefanski is favored by many to be the Coach of the Year, and he’s turned a perennial doormat into a winner in just one year.
He’s completely turned around the culture in record time, and that was on full display on Sunday. Browns teams of years past wouldn’t have come close to rallying after falling behind that big. They overcame a ton of adversity and will enter the 2021 season feeling like they’ve got something real to build on for the first time in a while.