The Kansas City Chiefs had just defeated the Oakland Raiders 35-3 to conclude the season, wrapping up the AFC West championship and home-field advantage in the playoffs. The M-V-P chants from the fourth quarter were still echoing across the parking lots and inside the halls of Arrowhead Stadium as Chiefs coaches and players took their turns speaking to the media.
As always, head coach Andy Reid addressed injuries first.
“As far as injuries go, Derrick Nadi, he had a concussion,” Reid said. “That would be one, and then Jordan Lucas had a stinger, and they came out of the game. Other than that, I think we are going to be pretty healthy there and I think they will bounce back pretty quick.”
Reid was also asked whether he felt good about the chances of injured Chiefs starters like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Sammy Watkins and Eric Berry being available for the first postseason game a week from Saturday.
“I think so. Larry had a good week. The other guys — Sammy had a good week. The other guys have all been out there and going through practice, or at least parts of it. I think the week off will help us get healthy and where we need to be.”
Reid gave a lot of credit to his assistant coaches for the victory.
“I am proud of our team and the job they did,” he said. “The guys came out with tremendous energy. It started with our defense — the big plays they made, the turnovers. I thought Bob Sutton had a great game plan and the guys executed. Eric Bieniemy had a phenomenal game plan, as did Dave Toub. The coordinators I thought were spot-on.”
But Reid also said that the possibility of playing at Arrowhead in the postseason — and shaking off the losses of the last two weeks — played a big part.
“Listen, I mean I’m not going to tell you we didn’t want to play here. That’s a good thing,” he explained. “On the other hand, I would say just getting back playing good football. We just felt like we had kind of let off the accelerator a little bit there, and didn’t take care of opportunities we had. I think the guys wanted to bear down on it. It wasn’t going to happen again in their minds.”
Reid always expresses his thanks to the fans in the stands, but on Sunday, he seemed to appreciate it more than usual.
“I’d like to just thank our fans,” he said. “They were phenomenal tonight. I mean, extraordinary, phenomenal. We came of off two losses here and we are getting close to New Year’s, it’s cold and they could’ve just stayed home, but they didn’t. Everyone showed up and they were incredible. Our players feed off that. Now we have another opportunity to play here. We can’t wait to bring whoever it is — we don’t know yet — here with our home-field advantage.”
During the game, quarterback Patrick Mahomes had thrown his 50th touchdown and passed 5,000 yards on the season, thereby becoming only the second player to achieve that feat. Reid was asked if he would have predicted the incredible record-breaking season Mahomes has had.
“You never know. I am not much of a crystal ball guy,” Reid shrugged. “I know he had a good foundation that was set — Alex Smith was a big part of that and helping him understand what this league is all about — but who knows?
“In this game, you don’t know week-to-week,” he continued. “You go out and do your best. You work hard, and you keep that process going every day, every week that you have an opportunity to do so — and he did that. Does it surprise me? Nothing he does really surprises me. I saw that the first year. You don’t know, but heck, I still think he can keep growing. We haven’t seen the end of it.”
For his part, Mahomes said he didn’t even know how to put the season into perspective.
“When you’re in the moment, you’re not really thinking about it. It’s a credit to my teammates. The offensive line kept me up all season long, guys were making plays on short passes that were scoring touchdowns and it’s a combination of all that with Coach Reid calling these great plays.”
His teammate Justin Houston said that Mahomes has a different focus than his own records.
“If you talk to Pat, we have bigger goals than that in mind,” Houston said. “Right now we are just focused on the next game. We want to put this behind us.
“Like I told everyone in the locker room, it means nothing if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity,” he continued. “We have one game coming up. That’s our focus. We need to do what we have to do to attack this game. One game at a time. We only have one game.”
Tyreek Hill — who set a new franchise single-season record for receiving yards in the game — expressed a similar thought.
“It was amazing, but I feel like none of that means anything to us,” said Hill. “We are all trying to reach a goal, and that is the Super Bowl. Head down, we are all focused. Like I said, it feels great, but right now I just want to win a Super Bowl.”
Travis Kelce — who briefly held the NFL single-season receiving yards record for tight ends on Sunday afternoon — was equally dismissive of the records.
“The individual accolades in this game alone I think are a bit overrated,” he said. “It’s an ultimate team game. We’ve got 11 guys out there trying to push for one goal — and sure enough, we achieved that today as a team. I’m ecstatic to finally get home-field advantage for the playoffs... bring everyone to Arrowhead... first round bye. That’s what these fans deserve.”
While many fans can’t forget the many years of disappointments in the postseason, Houston said he and his teammates don’t even think about it.
“That’s behind us. That’s old news,” he said. “You don’t focus on the past. Don’t let the past poison your future. We are focused on the future now, and we are getting ready for whoever we have to play. We are going to take advantage of this opportunity.”