Sun Jan 17 6:44pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams runs off the field after an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. The Chiefs won 22-17. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Fans watch from the stands during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne throws a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs safety L'Jarius Sneed (38) after catching a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Mike Pennel talks with teammates on the sideline during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) tries to break a tackle by Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) after catching a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is helped off the field after getting injured during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs had lost Patrick Mahomes to a concussion and were in danger of losing the game.
Then their defense and Chad Henne - their defense and Chad Henne?! - kept their hopes of a Super Bowl repeat alive, holding off the Cleveland Browns 22-17 on Sunday to advance to their third straight AFC championship game.
''(hash)HenneThingIsPossible,'' a sidelined Mahomes wrote on Twitter immediately after the victory.
With their star quarterback reduced to a spectator, the oft-forgotten bunch opposite Mahomes' high-powered offense forced the Browns to punt in the waning minutes. Then, his 35-year-old backup showed some moxie with a long third-down scramble and audacious fourth-down completion to Tyreek Hill - when go-for-broke Andy Reid decided to go for it - that gave the Chiefs a first down with just over a minute left and allowed them to run out the clock.
''That's why we love Big Red. He's always on time,'' Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. ''He's like our spirit warrior out here behind the scenes. He's always trying stuff. We always knew he has one play on the table.''
Mahomes hadn't played in 21 days, since the Chiefs clinched the AFC's top seed in Week 16, but he hardly missed a beat before leaving midway through the third quarter. He finished 21 of 30 for 255 yards and touchdowns passing and running.
Harrison Butker added three field goals for the Chiefs, who nearly blew a 19-3 lead but survived to become the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference title games. They'll face the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.
''It stings,'' Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. ''We came here to win and didn't get the job done. There is a finality to that.''
Baker Mayfield threw for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Browns, who were coming off their first playoff win since the 1994 season. But their inability to drive for the winning touchdown - they punted with 4:23 left in the game - kept them from winning two playoff games in a season for the first time since 1950.
Mahomes completed 11 of his first 12 passes and led the Chiefs to back-to-back touchdowns to start the game. Mahomes ran for the first and let Travis Kelce turn a dump-off into a 20-yard catch for the other, making him the first player since Steve Young in 1995 with three straight playoff games with TDs on the ground and through the air.
In fact, Mahomes was so sharp passing in the first half that he even completed a celebratory heave to a lucky fan in the far reaches of Arrowhead Stadium's upper deck following his touchdown jaunt.
After the teams swapped field goals, with Butker breaking the Chiefs playoff record with a 50-yarder into the wind, the Browns marched for what could have been a momentum-swinging score heading into halftime. But just when wide receiver Rashard Higgins tried to stretch over the goal line for a touchdown, the Chiefs' Daniel Sorensen arrived to deliver a hit, popping the ball loose and into the end zone for a touchback - the call stood after a video review.
Compounding the miscue for Cleveland? The Chiefs had 1:32 left, plenty of time for Mahomes to get them within range of Butker's strong right leg. His chip-shot field goal gave Kansas City a 19-3 halftime lead.
The entire complexion of the game changed early in the third quarter, though.
First, the Browns held the Chiefs when Mayfield threw an interception and Butker missed a field goal off the upright. Then, Mayfield led them briskly the other way, capping a 77-yard drive with a touchdown throw to Jarvis Landry. And finally, roughly 17,000 fans allowed into the stadium because of the pandemic were left sitting in stunned silence when Mahomes was tackled around the head with 7:27 left in the quarter and was left crumpled on the turf near midfield.
Mahomes, already hobbled by a foot injury, stumbled as he tried to get to his feet. He was eventually helped to the blue tent on the sideline, then ran to the locker room, where he was evaluated for a concussion.
''It kind of knocked the wind out of him and everything else,'' Reid said after the game. ''He's doing great right now, which is a real positive as we look at this. He passed all the deals he needed to pass and we'll see where it goes from here.''
The momentum finally turned, the Browns began to lean heavily on their vaunted run game, which had produced just 18 yards in the first half. Chubb converted on fourth down with a hard run, then Hunt followed another fourth-down conversion on the same drive by hitting the end zone against his former team to make it 22-17 with 11:07 to go.
It remained with Cleveland when Karl Joseph picked off Henne in the end zone a few minutes later, but the Chiefs defense stuff Nick Chubb on first down, forced an incompletion and ultimately made Cleveland punt it away.
The Browns never got another chance with the ball.
BACK ON THE FIELD
Stefanski made his playoff head coaching debut after missing last week's game in Pittsburgh because of COVID-19. Pro Bowl OL Joel Bitonio and CBs Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson also were back from their illnesses.
Browns: LT Jedrick Wills Jr. left with an ankle injury on their first offensive play. His backup, Kendall Lamm, left with an elbow injury, forcing Blake Hance to make his second NFL appearance.
Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) was inactive after returning to practice this week for the first time since mid-December. CB Bashaud Breeland left in the fourth quarter with a concussion.
The Chiefs begin preparing for the Bills next Sunday. They beat them 26-17 in Buffalo in Week 6.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb turned in a quiet performance in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Chubb carried the ball 13 times for 69 yards and added four yards on two receptions. He left several plays on the field in the passing game as he dropped consecutive catchable passes on a drive, the second of which would have gone for a long gain. Despite the disappointing playoff outing, Chubb is locked in as an RB1 in fantasy in the 2021 season as he runs behind one of the better offensive lines in the league and is part of a run-heavy Cleveland offense that should be even better in the second year of the Kevin Stefanski era. Chubb should go off draft boards in the late first or early-second round this summer.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield turned in a steady performance in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Mayfield completed 23 of 37 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the loss while adding 11 yards on three carries. The interception was just Mayfield's second in his past 11 games while his touchdown went to wideout Jarvis Landry. After an up-and-down 2020 campaign, the veteran quarterback should improve in 2021 with another year in the Kevin Stefanski offense under his belt and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. to full health. Mayfield is looking like a mid-range QB2 with upside heading into the 2021 fantasy season.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) has been ruled out for the rest of Sunday's Divisional Round game versus Cleveland. Mahomes departed in the third quarter after coming up wobbly following a tackle on a QB scramble. The team took Mahomes into the tent on the sidelines, before he was able to run into the locker room to undergo further evaluation. Upon additional testing, he has been diagnosed with a concussion, which means that Chad Henne will assume QB duties for the rest of the game. The next chance that Mahomes would have to suit up comes next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game versus Buffalo if Kansas City can close out the Browns, although Mahomes will still need to clear concussion protocol for that to happen.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield is shaping up to feature Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and LeSean McCoy for Sunday's Divisional Round showdown with the Saints. Head coach Bruce Arians is set to stick with Fournette as the starter, with Jones planned to be rotated in; that leaves McCoy as the team's third RB option, one that cannot be relied upon for DFS purposes. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has been utilized in bunches this year, including receiving five carries during the Wild Card round, although his lost fumble likely has an impact on his inactive status Sunday. The Bucs' backfield rotation will continue to be a point of focus should the team advance to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday versus the Packers, but for this week, it'll likely be a Fournette/Jones split with a dash of McCoy, if necessary.
The New Orleans Saints will be without running back Latavius Murray (quad) and tight end/quarterback Taysom Hill (knee) for Sunday's Divisional Round matchup versus the Buccaneers. Murray's absence means that Alvin Kamara will be in line for a whopping workload as the Saints' RB1, while Hill's means that Jameis Winston will be the team's unquestioned backup QB should Drew Brees need to depart for any reason. Murray will miss his first game of the year due to injury, having been ruled out in Week 17 due to COVID-19 contact concerns. The next chance that either Murray or Hill will have at taking the field comes next Sunday if the team were to advance to the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes exited Sunday's contest versus Cleveland after coming up wobbly following a scramble during the third quarter. Mahomes needed to be helped to the sidelines before entering the medical tent, but he was able to run to the locker room. Chad Henne took over to complete the drive, which ended with a Chiefs field goal. Mahomes is likely to be tested for a concussion, but he was also dealing with a left big toe ailment that limited his mobility earlier in the game. Check back for the latest updates on Mahomes as they become available.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (quad/finger) has been given the thumbs up to take the field for Sunday's game versus New Orleans, marking his return following a one-game absence. Leonard Fournette served as Tampa's top back during the Wild Card round, but he is likely to see a decreased role with Jones cleared to suit up. Despite being banged up late in the season, Jones came just 22 rushing yards shy of 1,000 on the season, adding seven rushing scores, including one in each of his last two appearances. The Saints Defense has been among the game's elite this year, but for those fantasy managers who are committed to rostering a Bucs running back, Jones is the more coveted option.
Cleveland Browns left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) played all of one snap in Sunday's game versus Kansas City before departing due to an ankle injury. At halftime, the team announced that Willis would not return to action. The Browns have moved Blake Hance -- who was signed off of the Jets' practice squad just over a week ago -- over to LT to fill the gap for Wills. Cleveland used the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Wills, who started 15 games as Baker Mayfield's blindside blocker this season. The next opportunity that Wills will have to suit up would be in the AFC Championship Game if the Browns can advance with a second half comeback over the Chiefs.
The Jacksonville Jaguars brought in recent Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris for a head-coaching interview earlier this off-season before deciding to hire long-time college coach Urban Meyer to fill that role. Now? Meyer has reached out to Morris to potentially become his defensive coordinator, a role that he had filled for Atlanta prior to being elevated. Morris has had extensive NFL experience, albeit primarily as a defensive backs coach. Should he take the role overseeing the Jaguars Defense, he'd face an uphill task to correct a group that allowed the second-most points (30.8) and total yards (417.7) per game during the 2020 regular season. Morris is set to head to Florida in the coming days, so check back for the latest updates as they become available.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has faced turmoil from all sides as it comes to his role as the team's starting QB in the past 12 months, and that shows no signs of slowing as 2021 kicks off. But it appears that new head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur see their signal caller as having "untapped potential," after watching extensive tape. Darnold has primarily had to battle the possibility of New York drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, but with Texans QB Deshaun Watson now reportedly available in a deal, Darnold may have a new wrinkle in his path to remaining the starter for the Jets. It's well within the realm that New York tabs Darnold under center in less than eight months time when the new year begins, as a full off-season with LaFleur may be just the ticket his future needs.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (hamstring), middle linebacker B.J. Goodson (shoulder), and right tackle Jack Conklin (knee/hamstring) have all been given the thumbs up to take the field Sunday versus Kansas City with a shot at the AFC Championship on the line. The trio had all picked up questionable tags earlier in the week but will get their opportunity to suit up. Goodson made a season-high 10 tackles last week versus the Steelers despite playing fewer than 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps for the first time all year. Njoku made just one catch (and received one target) during his time on the field, making him a non-entity in DFS contests for the Divisional Round.
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox did his job, but didn't have a huge impact during Saturday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. He hauled in both of his targets for 18 yards in the win. Knox has played well in the second half of the season, but the Bills are just too stacked on offense. The rookie tight end is basically the No. 4 or No. 5 option on this offense. It's unlikely that he has much value heading into the next round.
The Detroit Lions are set to usher in their next head coach, Dan Campbell, following the New Orleans Saints' elimination from the 2020 postseason. Campbell currently serves as the Saints' assistant head coach and tight ends coach, a gig that he has reprised since 2016. A former member of the Lions, who was on the infamous 0-16 team in 2008, Campbell has head coaching experience from a '15 stint with the Dolphins where he went 5-7 as the interim HC. Arguably the biggest decision on Campbell and his staff's slate will be whether or not quarterback Matthew Stafford is back under center in '21. Having drawn rave reviews from media prognosticators for the staff that he could assemble, check back once Campbell begins to fill out coordinator gigs.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis (leg) didn't make much of an impact during Saturday's win over the Baltimore Ravens. He failed to haul in any of his four targets during this contest. To be fair, Davis landed awkwardly on his leg and it seemed to bother him the rest of the game. It's worth keeping an eye on his status going forward. However, he should bounce back next week, assuming he's healthy.
The Philadelphia Eagles have added two new candidates to their list for potential head coach, as Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was brought in for an interview Sunday, while a request has been made to speak with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. McDaniels has been through the rigor of interviewing for multiple franchises' head coach gigs since returning as New England's OC back in 2012. With Bieniemy also on the Eagles' list, it would appear that a move of officially having a new HC is at least a few days off. One of the biggest factors is likely how prospective coaches would handle the Carson Wentz/Jalen Hurts situation at QB, as the Philadelphia brass appears to be leaning toward keeping Wentz in the mix come '21.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (knee) was surprisingly unable to make an impact against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday. Beasley failed to haul in either of his two targets in the win over Baltimore. To be fair, Beasley was matched up with elite defensive back Marlon Humphrey for a majority of the game. Possibly, Beasley wasn't at 100 percent because of his nagging knee issue. Expect Beasley to bounce back during the next round of the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from retirement to join long-time teammate Tom Brady for the 2020 year. With Brady not planning on hanging up his cleats anytime soon, it appears that Gronkowski wants to continue his career as well, saying that he could see himself in the mix again next season, helping to push the team toward success. During the regular season, Gronkowski compiled 623 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, having made himself into a consistent TE fantasy commodity. Considering his All-Pro pedigree and the fact that would play the '21 season as a 32-year-old, Gronkowski can be relied upon to be in the mix in season-long formats of all sizes next year.
The Houston Texans are meeting with Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Sunday as the team continues it's search for its next head coach. Frazier advanced to the AFC Championship Game on Saturday, with his defense holding Lamar Jackson and the Ravens without a touchdown. Frazier's only prior head coaching gig came with the Vikings from 2010-13, where he led the team to one playoff appearance and a combined 21-32-1 regular-season record. The decision to hire a defensive-minded coach would be a pivot from where many have expected Houston to focus with quarterback Deshaun Watson apparently being consulted in the decision-making process. Stay tuned for updates on the organization's decision in the coming days.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been basically impossible to stop over the second half of the season. He seemingly had no issues versus the Baltimore Ravens during their playoff matchup on Saturday. Diggs hauled in eight of his 11 targets for 106 yards and one touchdown in the win. It doesn't seem that any defense has an answer for Diggs right now. He'll continue to be a must-have DFS option throughout the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown was held catchless during the playoff matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. However, Brown was on a mission to prove that it was a fluke performance. On Saturday, Brown hauled in eight of his 11 targets for 62 yards in the victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Brown has played well when healthy this season, but getting him healthy and on the field has been an issue. He'll be a decent DFS option heading into the next round.