Stage is set: Chiefs, Titans to battle for AFC Championship

The Big Game

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Now that the Kansas City Chiefs are in their second straight AFC title game, they face a nemesis in the Tennessee Titans.

The Chiefs secured their place Sunday by storming back from a 24-0 hole by getting four touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes in the second quarter. That sparked a 51-31 victory over the Houston Texans in as wild an NFL game as anyone will see.

Mahomes threw for five scores, three to star tight end Travis Kelce.Damien Williams also scored three times and second-seeded KC (13-4) never was challenged after taking the lead at halftime.

“I mean, it was an amazing thing. Everything was working,” Mahomes said. “The play calls were open, everybody was getting open against man-coverage which we’ve been preaching all season long, and guys were making plays.”

So now it’s on to hosting the AFC championship contest again; the Chiefs lost in overtime to the Patriots a year ago.

The last time Kansas City and Tennessee met was also the last time the Chiefs were beaten, 35-32 in Nashville on Nov. 10. Ryan Tannehill threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Adam Humphries with 23 seconds left, and Joshua Kalu blocked a last-second field goal attempt.

The Titans also beat the Chiefs 22-21 in Kansas City in a 2017 wild-card game.

“We’ve already played them and we know they’re a tough team,” Mahomes said. “They’re a team that battles all the way until the end. They’re a team that’s really hot, playing really good football right now, so we know it’s going to take our best effort. And, whatever way, we’ve got to find a way to win. That’s the biggest thing you saw here today was we’ve just got to find a way no matter what.”

No. 6 seed Tennessee (11-7) won its second straight road playoff game with a similar approach: feed Derrick Henry. The standout running back dominated in New England in the wild-card round and was again unstoppable at Baltimore. Henry is the first player with two games of 175 rushing yards or more in the same postseason. He has set the postseason single-game rushing record for the Titans in consecutive weeks.

He also has the most yards rushing through his first four postseason games at 561.

And, get this, he threw a 3-yard touchdown jump pass at Baltimore — the first by a running back in the playoffs since 1987, when Allen Rice of Minnesota managed it.

“It’s going to be grind, grind, grind and then he’s going to bust one,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.

Tennessee’s defense isn’t likely to collapse the way Houston’s did, and the Titans almost certainly will stick with their so-far highly successful game plan of controlling matters on the ground.

Later Sunday, fifth-seeded Seattle (12-5) was at No. 2 Green Bay (13-3). The winner travels to San Francisco (14-3) next Sunday for the NFC championship game.

The 49ers romped past Minnesota 27-10 with a balanced performance. They set a franchise playoff record by allowing only 147 yards to the Vikings.

Jimmy Garoppolo threw a TD pass on his opening drive as a playoff starter and then mostly watched his defense and running game (186 yards) take over. Two turnovers also hurt Minnesota, and Tevin Coleman rushed for 105 yards and two scores.

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