Patrick Mahomes broke away from the mass of Kansas City Chiefs celebrating in the end zone and jogged toward midfield, searching for his counterpart in blue and white.
He found Josh Allen standing near the 45-yard line. The two quarterbacks who had given football one of its greatest games shared a long embrace before parting ways, both fully aware they had just completed one more battle in what could be a war that spans an NFL generation.
"We're gonna play this team a lot," Mahomes told reporters afterward.
And why not? Yes, the Buffalo Bills' 42-36 loss inside Arrowhead Stadium was painful in its nature – defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in a span of 13 seconds. But their quarterback's performance was enough to inspire hope that an era of football in Buffalo is still only beginning.
Allen commanded a 17-play drive that chewed up seven minutes of game clock to put the Bills ahead with 1:54 to play in regulation. He danced in the pocket before delivering the exclamation point, a fourth-and-13 strike to Gabriel Davis in the end zone.
Mahomes and the Chiefs punched back with a quick score of their own, sending Allen back onto the field down four with 1:02 remaining. He completed five straight passes, including a 19-yard bullet to Davis in the middle of the end zone for the go-ahead score with 13 seconds to play.
The Chiefs slowed Allen only by keeping the ball out of his hands. Mahomes marched them into field goal range to force overtime, won the ensuing coin toss and ended the game on their first possession.
"Josh is a remarkable competitor," Mitch Morse said. "He willed us on a few of those fourth downs and extended those drives to even put us in a position. We're not the same team without Josh Allen and it's not even close.
"I wish you guys (in the media) could have been in that fourth down, I think it was the first fourth down conversion with a minute and change. It was just a lot of love. Guys saying they loved each other, 'Let's execute, let's do this for each other.' It was Josh at the helm."
Allen completed 27 of 39 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He rushed for 68 yards on 11 attempts, including a fourth-down scurry up the sideline that extended Buffalo's first go-ahead scoring drive.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, it was the first playoff game in NFL history in which opposing quarterbacks passed for 300 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. It was also the first playoff game in which opposing quarterbacks each completed 70 percent of their passes (minimum 35 attempts).
It was the second playoff game since 1950 to feature two quarterbacks who led their teams in rushing.
"Tremendous effort by Josh," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "They made a couple more plays than we did obviously down the stretch there, but a tremendous job by Josh."
One could argue it was a once-in-a-lifetime performance, had Allen not put up even better numbers just last week. He became the first player in NFL history to pass for nine touchdowns and no interceptions in two consecutive playoff games. He completed 77 percent of his passes and amassed 771 total yards.
"He's the best quarterback in the NFL," Davis said. "And I stand by that."
Allen tried to maintain an optimistic outlook for the future during his postgame press conference, difficult in the wake of defeat but warranted given the pieces around him. Davis, 22, became the first player in NFL history to catch four touchdowns in a playoff game. Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary – both 2019 draft picks – had career years. Stefon Diggs will still be 28 when next season begins.
The Buffalo defense ranked No. 1 in total yards and points allowed during the regular season despite the absence of All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White.
"You can say it's gonna be better, we're gonna learn from this, and it's very cliche, and nobody wants to hear that," Allen said. "But I truly believe that this unit will learn from this. We've got a pretty young squad, a lot of guys coming back next year. And again, we've just got to use this as fuel."
Following his embrace with Mahomes, Allen – helmet on, ready to lead the overtime drive that never was – surveyed his surroundings as he walked off the field at Arrowhead.
"Taking it all in and holding onto that feeling and making sure that we don't feel like this again," he said.
"Like I said, back-to-back years in the same spot, it's tough to take in but it was part of the game, it's part of the learning process. Again, we've got to use this and figure out how we can be better and how we can accomplish what we want to accomplish."