By the length of Antonio Brown’s outstretched arm, the Chiefs clinched a playoff spot for the third time in four seasons under Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey.
The Chiefs were assured postseason when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 31-27 on Sunday.
The Steelers scored the game-winning touchdown on Ben Rothlisberger’s pass to Brown, who was stopped short of the goal line, but fought through Ravens defenders as he stretched the ball past the plane with 9 seconds remaining.
The outcome clinched the AFC North championship for the Steelers, who cannot become one of the top two seeds in the playoffs.
Turned out, the Chiefs didn’t need help. They beat the Denver Broncos 33-10 at Arrowhead Stadium. Either outcome – victory by the Steelers or Chiefs – got Kansas City into the postseason.
However the Chiefs got there, Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt took a moment in the jubilant locker room to appreciate the moment.
“When (Reid and Dorsey) joined us four years ago, we had high hopes,” Hunt said. “Andy was somebody who over his years in Philadelphia had demonstrated that he could make the playoffs a lot. Certainly, he’s lived up to all those expectations.”
The Chiefs’ victory also means the Broncos won’t defend their Super Bowl championship. Denver needed a victory Sunday to stay alive.
The AFC field is set. The Patriots (13-2) will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
The only other teams that can be one of the top two seeds are the Raiders and Chiefs.
For the Chiefs to get there, they have to win at San Diego and the Raiders must lose at Denver next weekend.
In that scenario, the Chiefs and Raiders will both own 12-4 records, but the Chiefs will have the tie-breaker advantage based on the regular-season sweep of Oakland. The Chiefs would be the No. 2 seed and not play on the first weekend of the playoffs.
That’s the objective.
“This feels great,” said Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill, who finished with 95 rushing yards. “But we’re going for the No. 2 seed. We just need to keep fighting and keep winning.”
The Raiders will play without starting quarterback Derek Carr, who suffered a broken fibula in his right leg. Matt McGloin finished up the Raiders’ 33-25 victory over the Colts on Saturday and will become the starter.
The Texans also have clinched a playoff spot as the AFC South winner and will host a wild-card game. The Steelers will host the other wild-card game.
The Miami Dolphins also clinched a playoff spot on Sunday.
The Chiefs stretch of playoff appearances is the best for the franchise since making the postseason in three of four years from 1994-97. The Chiefs went the playoffs seven times in the 1990s, including six straight years starting in 1990.
It’s their first back-to-back playoff seasons since 1994-95. Also, the Chiefs have won at least 11 games in the regular season for the first time since 1968-69.
Before Reid was hired for the 2013 season, the Chiefs had been to the playoffs three times in the previous 15 years.
A division title is the next objective. The Chiefs last won the AFC West in 2010, and in their history have finished first nine times, including once as the Dallas Texans.