Patrick Mahomes on Sunday rallied the Kansas City Chiefs over the Atlanta Falcons 17-14 to give the reigning Super Bowl champions a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFL playoffs.
Mahomes completed 24 of 44 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, his second scoring toss a 25-yarder to Demarcus Robinson with 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining to lift the Chiefs ahead to stay.
“It’s that championship swagger of knowing how to win the game even when you’re not playing well,” Mahomes said.
There was also plenty of heartache in the season’s penultimate weekend as losses jeopardized the playoff hopes of Indianapolis, Washington, the Los Angeles Rams and a Cleveland squad missing key players due to COVID-19.
Hosts Pittsburgh rallied late to edge Indianapolis 28-24 and secure the American Football Conference North title, while the New York Jets (2-13) beat Cleveland 23-16, ensuring league-worst Jacksonville (1-14) have the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Seattle defeated the Rams 20-9 to secure the National Football Conference West title, while Washington lost 20-13 to Carolina and failed to claim the National Football Conference East crown.
Half the NFL’s 14 playoff spots are still to be settled on Sunday.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said that his team must improve to repeat as champions.
“We just weren’t as sharp as we need to be,” Reid said.
Mahomes said that he needs to play better.
“The defense played their tail off to keep us in the game and give us a chance,” Mahomes said. “The offense found a way to score a touchdown when we needed to.”
A 39-yard field-goal attempt by South Korean kicker Koo Young-hoe was wide right for Atlanta in the dying seconds to seal the Chiefs’ bye as American Football Conference top seeds.
“When you look at the history of the bye week, usually it’s a good thing for a team trying to make a championship run,” Mahomes said.
Mahomes also threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce, whose seven catches for 98 yards gave him an NFL one-season tight end record of 1,416 reception yards this year.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger completed 34 of 49 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns as the Steelers snapped a three-game losing skid.
Indianapolis led 24-7 before “Big Ben” hit scoring throws of 39 yards to Diontae Johnson, five yards to Eric Ebron and 25 yards to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The Colts fell level with Cleveland, Baltimore, Tennessee and Miami at 10-5 in a fight for the final three American Football Conference playoff spots, but would need help in the final week to advance.
At cold and snowy Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes as the Packers (12-3) beat Tennessee 40-14 to stay atop the fight for the National Football Conference top seeding, while keeping the Titans from clinching the American Football Conference South title and a playoff berth.
Lamar Jackson threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 13 times for 80 yards to spark the Baltimore Ravens over the visiting New York Giants 27-13.
The Giants (5-10) stayed in playoff contention when Washington (6-9) lost to Carolina.
Dallas (6-9) ripped Philadelphia 37-17 to end the Eagles’ playoff hopes.
If Washington lose at Philadelphia next week, the winner of the Cowboys’ clash with the Giants would capture the National Football Conference East, the NFL’s weakest division, and host a playoff game.
The Bears (8-7) overpowered Jacksonville 41-17, while the Bengals beat the Texans 37-31.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert broke Baker Mayfield’s NFL one-season rookie touchdown pass record with his 28th of the campaign in a 19-16 victory over Denver.
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