Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes experienced a couple of firsts in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.
And not the good kind.
Playing in his fourth consecutive AFC title game, Mahomes threw two costly interceptions as the Cincinnati Bengals stormed back from an 18-point deficit to upset the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime.
The Bengals, who once trailed 21-3 late in the first half, made it a 21-13 game on a 31-yard Evan McPherson field goal with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Mahomes was picked off by defensive tackle B.J. Hill.
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It was the first time Mahomes had thrown an interception in an AFC title game. He entered Sunday's matchup with a combined nine passing TDs and zero picks in his three prior conference championship appearances.
Cincinnati capitalized on the rare interception as well, with quarterback Joe Burrow finding wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase for a two-yard score. Burrow then hit wideout Trent Taylor on the two-point conversion to tie the game up inside the final 15 seconds of the third.
Mahomes' second interception was even more crushing. After the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss, Mahomes threw a pass deep on a third-and-10 intended for wideout Tyreek Hill, but the pass was broken up by safety Jessie Bates III and intercepted by fellow safety Von Bell.
Starting at their own 45-yard line, the Bengals easily moved into field goal range and set up McPherson's 31-yard game-winner.
Mahomes was blazing hot in the first half, going 18 of 21 through the air for 220 yards and three touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 149.9. But his play dropped off dramatically after halftime, with the Bengals holding him to 55 yards passing, two interceptions and a QB rating of 12.3.
“They just had a spy on me, for the most part, and I’ve usually done a good job getting around that guy, but they had a good game plan,” Mahomes told reporters postgame, via The Athletic. “They were doing a lot of similar stuff in the first half, we were just executing at a higher level. They stayed with it. But, I mean, I gotta be better. I mean, when you’re up 21-3 at one point in the game, you can’t lose it, and I put that on myself.”
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Another first on Sunday for Mahomes: the overtime defeat to the Bengals was the first time he lost to a quarterback other than Tom Brady in the postseason. Mahomes entered Sunday 8-2 in the postseason, with losses to Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2018 AFC title game and to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
But Burrow and Co. handed Mahomes his third career playoff loss and prevented the Chiefs from reaching a third straight Super Bowl.
“It’s definitely disappointing," Mahomes said. "Here, with this group of guys that we have, we expect to be in [the Super Bowl] and to win that game. And anything less than that is not success.
“The leaders on this team know that this isn't our standard. We want to win the Super Bowl. Whenever you taste winning the Super Bowl, nothing less than that is success. We have the core group of guys that it takes to win. So we have to go back, learn from this and try to be better next year."