Best NFL Game Of All Time?

This was supposed to be a look ahead, not a look back.

These words were supposed to take whatever happened in the AFC divisional-round clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills and make some sense of how it pertains to next week’s AFC Championship.

It was supposed to evaluate where the winner is situated in terms of the race to win Super Bowl LVI and analyze where one of the NFL’s most compelling modern rivalries is now positioned.

It’s not going to be that. It can’t be.
For when something truly spectacular takes place — not just spectacular but so darn impossibly jaw-dropping that it makes you wonder if it really happened — you can’t look ahead until you’ve unpacked everything that just went down.

On that front, where to start? A few superlatives, perhaps?

How about that the Chiefs’ eventual 42-36 victory was as extraordinary a postseason game of football as you’re ever likely to see, a flip-flopping battle in which the sheer brilliance of both quarterbacks became guaranteed, yet everything else was up in the air.

It was a barn-burner in which everything we thought we knew was called into question, such truths as that defense wins championships, that it takes a perfect performance to beat the Chiefs when they’re rolling, that a weekend on which the visiting underdog kept prevailing would end up the same way and that 13 seconds isn’t nearly enough time to go down the field and tie a game.

Bills QB Josh Allen did everything, absolutely everything asked of him, producing the drive of his career and then reeling off an even better one 58 seconds of game time later. Perfection it was, but this time, perfection wasn’t enough.
Elite defense counted for nothing. The Bills were the best in the league in that regard, yet they were powerless to stop Patrick Mahomes’ rapid-fire assaults in the waning moments of regulation and when he delivered the dagger in overtime.

As for those 13 seconds, there will be some recrimination about why Buffalo didn’t kick off within the field of play to eat up some precious time, but come on, it was 13 ticks of the clock. Remember when Aaron Rodgers needed 37 seconds to overtake the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3, and how it was held up as a sign of his immortal greatness?

This was one-third of that time. It wasn’t just logic that said it was enough. It was decades of football history. But … Mahomes.

The final two minutes of regulation generated 25 points, three lead changes and a tie, a trio of touchdowns — Allen to Gabriel Davis, Mahomes to Tyreek Hill, Allen to Davis again — and 221 yards of combined passing offense.
If you missed it, sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. You might never get the chance to see anything quite as good again.

If we have to look forward, let’s do so in the context of this battle and hope there are more to come between these Chiefs and Bills — and these quarterbacks with a combined age of 51. It is hard for the heart not to bleed a little for Allen, wherever your allegiance lies, for he was calm and masterful and, most importantly, immensely brave and nerveless when it counted.

If there is an argument within the NFL hierarchy about whether the overtime rules in the postseason should be amended, this game will be held up as incontrovertible evidence that they should. For Allen deserved better than to be left sitting powerlessly on the sideline, without a chance to rebut Kansas City’s clinching touchdown — Mahomes to Travis Kelce, of course — in overtime.
Allen gave his team a three-point lead with a drive of pure brilliance, with only the amount of time it will take you to read this paragraph aloud remaining on the clock. He never touched the ball again.

It was the most twisting dose of drama at the end of a weekend fully stocked with it, with each of the four games thrilling in its own right and separated by tiny margins.

We come away from it with some new realities: that playoff football is the ultimate choreographer of our nerves and emotions, that the Chiefs are now overwhelming favorites to both reach a third straight Super Bowl and win it all (+125 with FOX Bet) and that the future of pro football quarterbacking is in resoundingly safe hands, wherever Rodgers goes or whatever Tom Brady does.

It was a great game that will only grow in its legend with the passage of time, an instant classic to stand above others with the same description. It also provided the feeling that while the Super Bowl is still three weeks away, a game well worthy of being one is already in the books.