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How the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cleveland Browns and reached the A.F.C. championship game.

  • January 18, 2021

It was a triumphant moment for Henne, who had thrown only nine passes over his three seasons with Kansas City until Week 17, with the Chiefs resting Mahomes and several starters against the Los Angeles Chargers. He played the entire game in that one. Mathieu, who had the Chiefs’ lone interception, praised his professionalism after Sunday’s game, saying that Henne always prepares as if he is going to be playing that week.

“There’s a lot of great players around me that made me feel confident,” Henne said.

The Chiefs, after not playing for two weeks, did not overpower the Browns early so much as play smarter. Mahomes, before exiting, completed 21 of 30 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran for a score. Kansas City scored on its first four possessions, including a field goal in the waning seconds before halftime that followed a play that will live in Cleveland sports infamy.

It might not approach the renown of the Fumble or the Drive, but Rashard Higgins’s fumbling the ball out of the end zone cost the Browns a potential touchdown. As he neared the goal line and extended the ball toward the right pylon, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorenson swooped in, and his hit jarred the ball free. Instead of scoring a touchdown that would have cut the deficit to 16-9, pending the extra point, the Chiefs assumed possession on their 20. Deflating the Browns even more, Sorensen should have been penalized for his helmet-to-helmet hit, but officials missed it, and such a play is not reviewable.

That was of little solace to Browns fans, who have a long history with unfortunate postseason plays. The Chiefs did, too. Until Mahomes came along. And, at least on Sunday, until Henne came along, too.

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