Boswell boots Steelers past Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo.--The Pittsburgh Steelers did not spend much time in the end zone at Arrowhead Stadium in Sunday night's AFC divisional round game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, it was the home team that scored the game's only touchdowns.

Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hits a second-quarter field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Divisional playoff game Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Jay Biggerstaff / USA TODAY Sports.
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hits a second-quarter field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Divisional playoff game Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Jay Biggerstaff / USA TODAY Sports.

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-The Pittsburgh Steelers did not spend much time in the end zone at Arrowhead Stadium in Sunday night's AFC divisional round game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, it was the home team that scored the game's only touchdowns.

But the Steelers had the strong right leg of kicker Chris Boswell, along with the athletic limbs of running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, and it was enough to beat the Chiefs, 18-16.

The victory sends the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game next Sunday against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium.

Boswell made all six of his field goal attempts, while the Steelers' offense produced a lot of yards, but not a single touchdown. Overall the Steelers had 389 yards on offense, with Bell running for 170 yards and Brown picking up 108 receiving yards.

It will be the 16th time the Steelers have advanced to the AFC Championship Game. They won eight of the previous 15 games, including their most recent appearance in the 2010 season when they beat the New York Jets 24-19 at Heinz Field.


Pittsburgh faced New England twice before in the title game (2001, 2004), losing both times at Heinz Field. Overall they are 2-2 on the road in the AFC's deciding game. This season, the teams met on Oct. 23 in Pittsburgh, with the Patriots grabbing a 27-16 victory.

While the Kansas City defense could not handle Bell and Brown, the Chiefs' offense was out of synch and unable to produce any touchdown opportunities - save their first and last possessions in the game.

Quarterback Alex Smith connected with wide receiver Albert Wilson on a 5-yard pass nine minutes into the game. The Chiefs picked up the game's second touchdown with just 2 minutes, 43 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, when running back Spencer Ware scored on a 1-yard run. They went for two points after the TD, and Smith completed a successful pass to tight end Demetrius Harris. But Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher was called for holding, wiping out the tying score. On their next attempt, Smith's pass sailed incomplete through the end zone. Their only other points came when kicker Cairo Santos made a 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Boswell connected from 22, 38, 36, 45, 43 and 43 yards. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continually led the offense down the field, but could not crack the K.C. end zone. On five different possessions, Pittsburgh moved to the K.C. 20-yard line or closer. The Steelerskicked field goals on four of those, losing another when the Chiefs intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone.

Pittsburgh had the game's first possession and moved the ball briskly down the field but stalled in the scoring zone and the Kansas City defense held them to a 22-yard field goal from Boswell.

When the Chiefs offense got its first crack at the ball, they started in great field position thanks to the Steelers special teams. So concerned was Pittsburgh about K.C. returner Tyreek Hill, that Boswell dribbled a kick down to the 20-yard line. The ball was picked up by tight end Demetrius Harris and his 25-yard return gave KC a drive start at their 45-yard line. It was six plays later when Smith found wide receiver Albert Wilson in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick gave the Chiefs a 7-3 lead.

After that, both offenses struggled to put points on the board. The Steelers added field goals of 38 and 36 yards, as their drives kept stalling out against the Chiefs defense. Kansas City's offense struggled to stay on the field, picking up just one more first down in the initial quarter. Smith was hit on the pass rush from Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree early in the second quarter, and his pass popped into the air and was grabbed by linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers worked it down the field and had first-and-goal at the K.C. 5-yard line, but Roethlisberger's pass was tipped by linebacker Frank Zombo and safety Eric Berry grabbed the interception in the end zone, snuffing another Pittsburgh scoring chance.


Just before halftime, the Steelers took one more crack at the end zone, but settled for a 45-yard field goal from Boswell and a 12-7 lead. The Chiefs tried to put something together with less than a minute to play, but running back Charcandrick West lost a fumble and Pittsburghrecovered. But the Steelers had just three seconds remaining and walked off the field with that five-point intermission lead.

NOTES: The change of kickoff time made by the NFL was a first in the league's postseason history. ... Sunday's game came 50 years to the date of the first championship game that would eventually be named the Super Bowl. On Jan.15, 1967, Green Bay beat Kansas City 35-10 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. ... NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in the house for the game. ... At the opening kickoff, the Steelers had just two of their 46 available players appearing in their first postseason game. The Chiefs had 16 first-timers active.

Patriots dismiss Texans

Most teams advancing to the conference championship game would be ecstatic, almost regardless of how they got the job done.

Bill Belichick's championship-driven Patriots are not most teams.

New England advanced to its NFL-record sixth straight AFC title game with Saturday night's 34-18 dismissal of the dismal Texans at Gillette Stadium.

What looked on the final scoreboard as a comfortable victory was far from it. And that left Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the members of AFC's No. 1 seed focused on improvement rather than celebration in the postgame locker room.

"We ended up making enough plays to win," Belichick said, praising the fight put up by Bill O'Brien's Texans while focusing on the litany of mistakes made by his own team.


Brady, who threw just two interceptions in 12 regular season contents, threw a pair of interceptions against Houston as the No. 4-ranked New England passing attack never got going with much consistency against the NFL's No. 1 defense in terms of yards allowed.

Dion Lewis was the playmaking star. The passing back became the first player in postseason history, and just the third player overall, to record rushing, receiving and return touchdowns in a single game. But, Lewis also had a costly fumble on a kickoff return to set up a Houston short-field score that had New England clinging to a 14-13 lead in the second quarter.

Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and the Texans front gave the Patriots offensive line fits and hit Brady with alarming frequency and physicality. As such, New England held just a one score lead early in the fourth quarter of what many expected to be an easy blowout.

"They played well. They did a great job defensively. They knocked the ball off of us. We fumbled, they intercepted us, we had too many balls out and we're lucky we didn't lose more than we did," Belichick said, noting that even the success in the passing game even came in part to a "few prayers" Brady completed.

Brady's interceptions have him now tied with Brett Favre (30) for most in NFL postseason history and his 68.6 rating for the game was barely half of his 112.2 rating during the 2016 regular season.

"They had some good scheme stuff that worked. They have good rushers and they had some good guys in coverage, so they had a pretty good scheme. It was a lot of things, and then when you add our poor execution on top of that, then you add our turnovers on top of that, it doesn't feel great because we worked pretty hard to play a lot better than we played. I give them a lot of credit, but we're going to have to play better on offense," Brady said.

Belichick made it clear the room for improvement is widespread for the Patriots this week as they prepare for next Sunday evening's AFC title game at Gillette Stadium against either the Chiefs or Steelers.

"We're going to have to play better, coach better," Belichick concluded. "I don't think the coaching was all that good tonight, either. We have to play better, we have to coach better than we did tonight, or there won't be much left in our season. Hopefully we can do that and up our level of performance next week."


"Whoever we play next week is going to be a great football team and we're going to have to play better than we played tonight on offense," Brady agreed, far from celebrating his 23rd career postseason win as he advances to the AFC championship for the 11th time in his career.

"Pretty cool, pretty cool. Let's go win the AFC Championship Game. That would be very cool. That's what we've got to do."

Ryan lead Falcons over Seahawks

ATLANTA-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan may be 0-4 in the playoffs against all other teams, but he is 2-0 versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Ryan, building off a spectacular regular season, threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns and the Falcons lived up to their billing as the highest-scoring team in the NFL with a 36-20 victory Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Ryan completed 25 of 36 passes in the divisional round game and went without an interception for the fifth straight contest while directing Atlanta to points on five of its first six possessions.

"He was on it like he has been all year," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of his quarterback.

The sellout crowd chanted "MVP! ... MVP! ... MVP!" as Ryan put the game out of reach with completion after completion.


"It was pretty cool, especially considering the circumstances with the game in hand," Ryan said. "I appreciate our fans. They're the best. ... The Dome was really rocking."

The victory, which moved the Falcons into the NFC Championship Game for just the fourth time in franchise history, matched a home divisional victory over the Seahawks in the 2012 season that had been Ryan's only previous postseason success.

The Falcons, who had lost 28-26 at Seattle in the regular season, will play either Dallas or Green Bay on Jan. 22 for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

Eight Falcons caught passes from Ryan, with Julio Jones grabbing six for 67 yards and a touchdown before sitting out most of the fourth quarter after tweaking the foot that has bothered him most of the season.

"They do a lot of things well," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said of a Falcons offense the Seahawks couldn't stop. "The quarterback gets the ball out quick and he doesn't turn it over. That will do it."

Said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: "This is what they've looked like the last four weeks and they carried it over."

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 17 of 30 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked three times and intercepted twice. The Seahawks also failed to establish a running game, with Thomas Rawls gaining just 34 yards after going for 161 against Detroit a week earlier.

Atlanta, already having seized momentum in the second quarter, went 75 yards in 13 plays to start the second half, with Devonta Freeman scoring from a yard out.


Seattle's Steven Hauschka kicked a 26-yard field goal later in the third quarter, but Matt Bryant pushed the lead back to 16 points when he connected from 31 yards to start the fourth quarter.

Ryan's 3-yard TD pass to Mohamed Sanu following an interception by Ricardo Allen clinched the victory with less than four minutes remaining.

"Everybody was tuned in, locked in," Sanu said. "We were just being us. We've been playing well for awhile. It was more of the same."

Wilson threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, but then was picked off by Deion Jones and the Falcons took a knee at the 1-yard line to end the game.

The Falcons led 19-10 at halftime after Ryan connected with Tevin Coleman for a 14-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining to cap a 99-yard drive.

The game shifted the Falcons' way when a holding penalty wiped out an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester and left Seattle, leading 10-7 after a 33-yard field goal by Hauschka, deep in its own territory.

Wilson stumbled pulling away from center on second down from the 4-yard line and was covered in the end zone by the Falcons' Ben Garland for a safety.

"It was a huge turnaround. It was an 80-yard penalty," Carroll said.

Bryant kicked a 35-yard field goal after the ensuing free kick to put the Falcons ahead before Ryan led Atlanta the length of the field in less than three minutes, climaxing the drive with his second TD pass.

"The game hinged there," Carroll said. "We weren't able to get back on top. That was the time to take control of the game and go up 17-7 and make them have to fight their way back. Instead it turned around."

The first 16 minutes of the game featured matching touchdowns drives. The Seahawks went 89 yards on 14 plays to start the game and the Falcons matched the touchdown by going 75 yards in 13 plays.

The TD on a 7-yard pass from Wilson to Jimmy Graham was the first opening-quarter points for the Seahawks in a road playoff game under Carroll.

"Our guys came ready to go. I was really fired up today when they came out smoking," Carroll said. "It's hard to end it like this."

The 7-yard TD pass from Ryan to Jones at the start of the second quarter marked the seventh straight game that the Falcons had scored on their opening possession.

"It feels awesome," said Sanu when asked how it felt to be a win away from a potential Super Bowl berth. "But we can't look ahead. All we're thinking about is next week."

NOTES: Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn suffered a biceps injury in the first quarter and didn't return. ... Starting RG Germain Ifedi limped off with an ankle injury on Seattle's opening drive and was replaced by G Rees Odhiambo, also a rookie. ... Seattle TE Luke Willson was evaluated for a head injury in the third quarter and TE Brandon Williams was ruled out after suffering a concussion in the first half. ... Rookie RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) took part in early drills for the Seahawks, but was declared inactive. ... Commissioner Roger Goodell was part of an NFL contingent in attendance and spent time with Falcons owner Arthur Blank on the field before the game. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, being completed next door to the Georgia Dome, will host the 2019 Super Bowl. ... Atlanta rapper Ludacris performed at halftime.

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