Just when these NFL playoffs were beginning to settle down, the sleek Chiefs bungled what should have been a half-ending field goal. This gave their opponents, who’ve been known as the Bungles for much of their unassuming history, a lift they didn’t deserve. But, to borrow from “Unforgiven” and the gunfighter Will Munny, “ ‘Deserve’s’ got nothing to do with it.”
After a quarterfinal weekend that defied credulity, semifinal Sunday began in predictable fashion. The raging Chiefs hurtled to a 21-3 lead. Owing to Patrick Mahomes’ unfortunate decision not to throw into the end zone from the Bengals’ 1, the half ended with Kansas City’s lead sliced to 11 points. Still, you figured Mahomes would throw three more touchdown passes in the third quarter and that’d be that.
What happened wasn’t that. A Bengals’ defense that ranked 18th-best in a 32-team league held the Chiefs to three second-half points, those coming at the end of regulation to force overtime. In OT, a deflected Mahomes pass became an interception. The Bengals – who entered this postseason having last won a playoff game on Jan. 6, 1991 – drove for the winning field goal, which means they now get to fly to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl.