KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perhaps the officiating member introducing the overtime coin flip said it best.
“Gentlemen,” he began before the Chiefs won the toss, “great job so far.”
Indeed, the Bills and Chiefs each treated fans to brilliant football Sunday afternoon before the Chiefs ultimately advanced to their fourth straight AFC championship game. Patrick Mahomes sailed a back-shoulder fade to tight end Travis Kelce for an 8-yard touchdown to cap off a methodical overtime drive that lifted the Chiefs to a 42-36 victory. The Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
But could playoff get much more exciting than the duel at Arrowhead Stadium this week? After a trio of older quarterbacks were upset at home, the Chiefs and Bills demonstrated how powerful young, dual-threat signal-callers can be.
The game’s energy matched a rowdy Arrowhead Stadium crowd from the beginning. Fourth-down attempts? The Bills won both on their first drive, including Devin Singletary’s left end-around touchdown on fourth-and-1.
Quarterbacks with wheels? Mahomes scrambled three times in his initial drive for 49 yards including Kansas City’s first touchdown, each runaway not simply a design but a calculated read of his targets’ coverage and elusion of Bills defenders across the field.
Mahomes and Allen each continued to answer on a night in which they rushed for 69 and 68 yards respectively and threw six combined touchdowns by air. They traded scores before halftime and tortured defenders whose tackles each quarterback repeatedly eluded.
But it must be said: Excitement permeated the final 2 minutes of regulation.
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When a fan ran on the field at the two-minute warning, the Bills trailed 26-21. They faced fourth-and-13. Allen and wide receiver Gabriel Davis, his undeniably favorite target of the day, did not care.
Davis had already caught two touchdowns from Allen when the quarterback threaded the 27-yard touchdown his way with 1:57 to go. Mahomes responded with a dart to speedy receiver Tyreek Hill, who turned on the jets to the tune of 50 yards after the catch as the Chiefs nailed a go-ahead, 64-yard score.
But then Davis slipped between defenders in the middle of the end zone yet again, the second-year receiver’s fourth touchdown of a memorable night. The heroics were still insufficient: With 13 seconds to play, Mahomes positioned kicker Harrison Butker—who had missed a 50-yard field goal and extra point in the contest – to attempt from 49. This time, Butker was good. An explosive game with 25 points in the final 2 minutes was headed to overtime.
The Chiefs won the toss. They had been here before, losing to the Patriots in overtime of the first of this four AFC title game stretch. Mahomes spoke after that game to then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who encouraged him that these chances would return and that Mahomes’ talent and work ethic would pay off.
Three years later, they did. Mahomes never let the Bills hold the ball. He completed all six pass attempts for 69 total yards and a seamless touchdown to Kelce.
Allen finished the day of 27-of-37 for 329 yards and four passing touchdowns, also leading the Bills with 68 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Mahomes completed 33-of-44 attempts for 378 yards and three touchdowns, also leading his team with 69 rushing yards on seven carries including a touchdown.
Davis led all receivers with 201 yards and four touchdowns on eight catches. Hill topped Chiefs targets with 150 receiving yards and a touchdown on 11 catches.
“Keep rolling,” Mahomes said in his postgame interview on field with CBS.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.