Quarterback Patrick Mahomes overcame an ankle injury as the Kansas City Chiefs held off the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday, reaching their fifth straight AFC Championship game with a 27-20 win, while the Philadelphia Eagles enjoyed a comfortable 38-7 win over the New York Giants in the NFC.
Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce delivered a game-winning performance with 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns as a hobbling Mahomes saw his team to within one win of a third Super Bowl appearance in four years.
At a cold, wet but rocking Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs took the lead with their first drive of the game in familiar fashion as Mahomes found Kelce with a short pass and the tight-end turned and dashed into the end-zone.
Jacksonville responded immediately, however, with Trevor Lawrence connecting with Christian Kirk on a ten-yard touchdown pass.
But Mahomes was hurt when Jaguars linebacker Arden Key landed on him while he was going down under a tackle.
Mahomes remained in the game for the rest of the drive, which ended in a Chiefs field goal, but then went to the locker-room and did not return for the rest of the half.
Back-up quarterback Chad Henne, a former Jaguar, took over and he led the Chiefs to a 17-7 lead with a one-yard pass to Kelce.
The Jags reduced the deficit before half-time with a field goal, but there was a major boost for Kansas City when Mahomes returned for the second half, albeit with a heavily strapped right ankle.
A 50-yard field goal from Harrison Butker made it 20-10 but Jacksonville, who last week came from 27 points down to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers in the first round of the NFL playoffs, were never going to roll over.
Travis Etienne ran in from four yards for a Jaguars touchdown but despite Mahomes still looking far from comfortable, the quarterback found Marquez Valdes-Scantling with a six yard pass to restore the ten-point advantage.
- Costly Jags turnovers -
Lawrence then showed his running ability as he burst 12 yards for a first down at the Kansas City nine yard line.
But with Jacksonville closing in on a touchdown with less than six minutes to go, Jamal Agnew fumbled the ball after catching a Lawrence pass and the Chiefs recovered.
It was a turnover that could have been even more costly, but the Jaguars defense made a crucial stop, forcing the Chiefs to punt, only for Lawrence to throw an interception on the next drive with Jaylen Watson making a superb one-hand grab.
Riley Patterson's 48-yard field goal gave Jacksonville the opportunity of an on-sides kick, but the Chiefs recovered the ball to secure the win.
"Credit to the team, the offensive line did a great job in the second half protecting me, I got the ball in my hands quickly and guys made plays. It is a team sport for a reason and the guys stepped up around me," Mahomes said.
The Chiefs will face the winners of Sunday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills.
After the Giants upset the Minnesota Vikings last week, they had hopes of another upset in Philadelphia but Jalen Hurts and the Eagles proved to be a step too far.
The Eagles set the tone from the first drive with Hurts taking them 75 yards on an eight-play drive that ended with a pass to Dallas Goedert who made a one-handed catch before riding a Julian Love tackle as he burst into the end-zone.
Hurts then found DeVonta Smith with a nine yeard pass and in the second quarter, Boston Scott and Hurts himself ran in touchdowns as the Eagles went in 28-0 up at the break.
Even though the Giants got on the scoreboard with Matt Breida's eight yard rush, the Eagles never looked in danger and a 30-yard Jake Elliott field goal and a 35-yard rushing touchdown from Kenneth Gainwell wrapped up a convincing win for the NFC's top seed.
The Eagles will face the winner of Sunday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.