The Browns took the reigning Super Bowl champs down to the final minute at Arrowhead Stadium but couldn't get any closer.
The Browns spent the last 8 minutes within five points of knocking off the AFC's top-seeded team, but in the end, the Chiefs found a way to hang on for a 22-17 win in the Divisional Playoff Round.
Here were the game-changing plays that decided the Browns' final game of the season:
1. Chiefs find end zone on methodical opening drive
The Browns expected the Chiefs offense to come out fast early. It's what they've done all season in big games, and the defense needed to be ready for different looks and new plays.
That's exactly what Kansas City deployed on drive No. 1 of the game. The Chiefs used a few run plays from speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who also caught a 26-yard reception for the biggest play of the drive, to break into the red zone. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished off the 10-play drive with a keeper play to the right side. No defenders could stop him.
Kansas City took an early six-point lead — and the PAT was unsuccessful.
But the Browns defense took its first punch and needed to respond.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Kansas City Chiefs
2. Kelce scores 2nd Chiefs TD
Travis Kelce was nearly impossible to stop in 2020.
Kelce, who caught 11 touchdowns and 1,416 receiving yards — both career highs — in the regular season, is 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds of fearless mass. He can power his way through any defender, and the Browns needed to keep a tight watch on Kelce for any shot of slowing down the Chiefs' offense. But their plan broke down on the final play of the Chiefs' second drive.
On second-and-19 from the Browns' 20, Mahomes hit Kelce for a completion a few yards short of the end zone. Kelce spun around, churned forward to the goal line and dove ahead for the touchdown.
The Chiefs offense was moving in full force, and the Browns, down 13-3, needed a big play to keep up.
3. Higgins fumbles in the end zone for touchback
One of the oddest and rarest rules in football bit the Browns at one of the worst times.
Cleveland was in the middle of its two-minute offense on first-and-10 from Kansas City's 26. The offense, which only mustered three points until the drive, was in prime position to score a touchdown with 1:42 left in the half.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield found Rashard Higgins, who streaked to the right and found ample space to make a play for a 23-yard catch.
Higgins raced to the right pylon and attempted to push through a diving tackle from safety Daniel Sorensen. The hit, however, sprung the ball from Higgins' grasp before he crossed the plane, and it rolled into the white out-of-bounds paint in the end zone.
Touchback. Yep, that's the rule. No touchdown, no possession.
The ball went back to Kansas City and resulted in an empty Browns drive. With 1:34 left in the half, the Chiefs drove back into Browns territory in time to kick another field goal and extend their lead to 19-3.
4. Mayfield throws to Landry for first Browns TD
An interception to open the second half didn't stop Mayfield from trusting his reads and delivering spot-on throws.
He would've loved to have taken back the interception, thrown to Tyrann Mathieu just 9 seconds into the third quarter. But after the Chiefs missed a field goal on the next drive, and the Browns offense came back on the field practically unscathed from the throwing error.
So Mayfield continued to roll. The drive started with two big runs of 23 and 18 yards from Nick Chubb, and then Mayfield went to work with an 18-yard reception to Higgins to put the Browns into the red zone.
Four plays later, Mayfield threw another 4-yard strike to wide receiver Jarvis Landry near the right pylon.
The catch was made, and the Browns' deficit was cut to 19-10.
5. Kareem Hunt puts Browns within one possession with TD run
Down five points. 11 minutes to go. The opponent: the reigning Super Bowl Champs. The setting: the playoffs.
That scenario is what the Browns have strived to be in all season, and they got there in the fourth quarter with a big run from running back Kareem Hunt.
The Chiefs defense couldn't stop him when he took a handoff at the 3 and pushed through for the touchdown. That play capped off an 18-play, 75-yard drive that knocked over 8 minutes off the clock.
Important news also dropped in the middle of the drive: Mahomes, who left the game to be evaluated for a concussion in the third quarter, was ruled out. Backup quarterback Chad Henne entered, but the Browns still needed more game-changing plays to fall in their favor.
6. Chiefs convert on fourth-and-short
No one on the Browns knew if the Chiefs were going to actually snap the football on fourth-and-inches with 74 seconds left.
Kansas City could've called a timeout as the clock ran down before the snap. Henne lined up in the shotgun — a rarity for a quarterback on fourth-and-short — and it appeared as though the Chiefs were going to attempt to draw the Browns offsides.
Then, they snapped it.
The Browns defense still covered their assignments. They still attempted to bring pressure to Henne. No one appeared to be caught off guard.
But Henne still got the ball out in time.
Hill was the receiver, and he caught the ball and dashed across the first-down line to allow the Chiefs to drain the clock and seal the final result.
22-17, Kansas City.