Patrick Mahomes leads defending champion Kansas City Chiefs back to Super Bowl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After last weekend's playoff win against the Cleveland Browns, safety Tyrann Mathieu stole a look in the Kansas City Chiefs locker room at injured quarterback Patrick Mahomes. That quick peek told him Mahomes would not only return to play in Sunday night's AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills, but he would play well.

"He was in the locker room and he had that look in his eye like, 'Don't forget about me,''' Mathieu said after Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 38-24 victory over Buffalo and a berth in Super Bowl LV against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Just watching him work throughout the week, he was the same old Pat, the same teammate, the same leader, moving around, trying to extend plays.

"On top of that, he's a gamer. It doesn't necessarily matter the situation or the circumstances. He tends to rise above all that.''

Mahomes, who was knocked out of last week's divisional-round victory over the Browns with symptoms of a concussion, wasn't cleared from the NFL's protocol until Friday. He also was dealing with a turf toe injury that limited him against Cleveland.

Mahomes played through it all Sunday night, going 29-of-38 passing for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

"From the warm-ups on,'' Mahomes said when asked when he first knew he would play well. "We did a good job as far as rehabbing, getting myself ready to go. I felt like I was myself out there, and we were able to go out there and score points against a really good football team.''

Mahomes was able to practice all week and even took most of the snaps.

"I know he had to go through protocols and all that, but he never seemed like he wasn't himself,'' said tight end Travis Kelce, who caught two of Mahomes' touchdown passes versus the Bills. "He never seemed like there was a doubt in his mind that he was going to play in this game.

"He was out there, dialed in, throwing the ball all over the field and making the right decisions. Sure enough, today he played his A-game and led us to the Super Bowl.''

The Chiefs fell behind 9-0 early on Sunday but scored 21 straight points to take a lead they never relinquished. The Chiefs have scored at least 21 consecutive points in four of their past five playoff games, including their Super Bowl LIV victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

This comeback was among the most impressive. The Bills had won eight straight games, including seven by at least 10 points.

But Kansas City's response included two of its longest plays of the season, one being a 71-yard pass from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill.

Two key Chiefs players suffered injuries that could be a problem for them in the Super Bowl, however. Left tackle Eric Fisher injured his Achilles tendon, and coach Andy Reid said after the game it did not look good. Cornerback L'Jarius Sneed also entered the concussion protocol.