(Reuters) – The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday to reach the AFC Championship, but it may have come at a cost as Patrick Mahomes was knocked out of the game during the third quarter due to a concussion.
With the winner of next week’s game between the Chiefs and visiting Buffalo Bills moving onto the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, all eyes will turn to Kansas City to see if quarterback Mahomes will be healthy enough to compete.
Mahomes, who was named the Most Valuable Player of last year’s Super Bowl, appeared dazed after he got up from a hit midway through the third quarter before eventually jogging to the Chiefs’ locker room where he was further evaluated.
On the play, with the Chiefs facing a third-and-one, Mahomes went for the first down but was denied by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson and the front of his helmet slammed into the ground.
Prior to leaving the game, Mahomes had completed 21-of-30 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.
The quarterback’s availability for the AFC Championship will depend on his progress through the NFL’s concussion protocol in the week ahead.
The top-seeded Chiefs led 19-10 when Mahomes went down and then, with the help of backup quarterback Chad Henne, held on to secure a 22-17 win and keep alive their hopes of a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.
In the closing minutes, Henne made a pair of big plays to secure the win. Henne broke free for a 13-yard run to set up a fourth-and-one and then connected with receiver Tyreek Hill on a five-yard pass for a first down before they ran out the clock.
Mahomes was paying close attention and saluted his backup as he tweeted “#HenneThingIsPossible” moments after Henne secured the win.
After the game, Cleveland’s Wilson also tweeted that he hoped Mahomes will be able to return next week, to which the Chiefs quarterback replied “All good brother!” along with a flexed bicep emoji.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris and Himani Sarkar)