AFC Championship Game report card vs. Ravens: Chiefs are conference champs again

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Charles Omenihu (90) celebrates forcing fumble out of the hands of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) in the second quarter Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, during the AFC Championship Game in Baltimore.
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The Chiefs are headed to Super Bow LVIII after a 17-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.

It was a defensive masterpiece for Kansas City, which threw a blanket over Lamar Jackson, who likely will be named the NFL’s MVP, and the Ravens’ offense.

The Chiefs, who never trailed, will play in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years.

KC STAR OF THE GAME

Tough to do better than Travis Kelce. Mahomes targeted him 11 times and Kelce finished with 11 receptions for 116 yards.

His 19-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring was a beautiful adjustment and effort. Kelce has taken his game to another level in the playoffs. He’s now the NFL’s all-time leader in career receptions with 156.

Next: The Chiefs are Super Bowl bound. Again. They will play for the NFL championship for the fourth time in five years against the NFC champion. Super Bowl LVIII will be played on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

REPORT CARD

Passing offense: A

Unlike last week against the Buffalo, the Chiefs kept things short. Quick wide receiver screens worked early. Kelce was a ball magnet, catching everything thrown his way, including the 19-yard touchdown to open the scoring.

Mahomes completed his first 11 pass attempts. By halftime, he had completed 20 of 25. And the Chiefs went 81 and 75 yards on their first two possessions.

Mahomes’ final pass was the Chiefs’ longest play of the game and clinched the title. On third-and-9 from midfield, the Chiefs needed a first down to run out the clock. Mahomes went up top to Marquez Valdes-Scanting for 32 yards. Big time play from a big time quarterback — and a nod to MVS, who has been strong this postseason.

For the game, Mahomes completed 30 of 39 attempts for 241 yards. Protection held up well. Mahomes was sacked twice when the Ravens started bringing more pressure in the second half. It was the first time he’d been sacked in the playoffs.

Rushing offense: B

Running back Isiah Pacheco, on the injury list this week and listed as questionable with a toe injury, was his usual hard-charging self, and there was no stopping him on his 2-yard touchdown burst. Pacheco finished with 68 yards on 24 attempts. Nick Allegretti stepped in for guard Joe Thuney and held his own.

Passing defense: A

An end zone interception by Deon Bush with 6:45 remaining was the Chiefs’ third takeaway, a season high.

The second one also came in the end zone, and it started with Baltimore biggest play of the game, a 54-yard completion to Zay Flowers, No one was within 15 yards of Flowers.. But the Chiefs avenged the mistake when a few plays later, Sneed and Trent McDuffie teammed up to forced a fumble as Flowers was headed into the end zone. A touchdown there would have cut the Chiefs lead to three early in the fourth quarter.

Charles Omenihu’s strip sack and George Karlaftis recovery was the defensive highlight of the first half b.yt the Chiefs didn’t get points when Pacheco was stopped on fourth-and-1. The Chiefs showed why the lead the league in batted passes. Omenihu, Karlaftis and Chris Jones each got one before halftime. One of those batted passes wound up in the hands of Jackson, an amazing play for a 13-yard gain. Omenihu left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return.

Rushing defense: A

Jackson got loose on occasion but the NFL’s top rushing team was held in check by Steve Spagnuolo’s game plan. The Ravens finished with 46 rushing yards in the first half and fell behind 17-7. The Ravens put up 32 yards the rest of the half after their 75-yard touchdown drive.

The Ravens finished with 81 rushing yards after averaging 156.5 on the season.

Special teams: A

Andy Reid passed up sure points in the second quarter, passing on a short field goal attempt, and fell short on a fourth-and-one. But when Harrison Butker got the call later in the quarter he delivered a 52-yarder, tying his record for the longest field goal in a Chiefs playoff game, to give KC a 10-point halftime lead.

Tommy Townsend strugged with net yards until he boomed a 53-yarder late in the third quarter.