A tumultuous regular season has come to an end.
By a miracle, the Kansas City Chiefs are entering the playoffs with a first-round bye. It took their win against the Los Angeles Chargers (which was expected) and a 27-24 loss by the New England Patriots to the once-considered-tanking Miami Dolphins (which was a miracle).
I’ve said a lot of less-than-positive things about Ryan Fitzpatrick in my life.
So please allow me to apologize to the second-best quarterback in the National Football League — a man whose swag and talent has been so underappreciated... by me.
I am so sorry, Ryan. You are the embodiment of greatness. I regret ever doubting you, your beard or your 37-year-old right arm.
With 29 seconds remaining, that aging right arm completed a touchdown pass to Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki to take a 27-24 lead over the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots made a valiant effort to come back — but for once, that’s all it was: a valiant effort.
It would have been frustrating for the Chiefs to go into the Wild Card round after defeating both of the teams with byes in the AFC. But thanks to their win on Sunday — and a little Fitzmagic — that isn’t going to happen. Instead, they’ll get a week to get healthy and prepared for another run at the championship that has so far eluded Andy Reid in his long career.
#Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins' reax to team learning they leapfrogged the Patriots to secure the No. 2 seed: "To have the Dolphins beat the Patriots. You know we're living right, we're doing right over here. That's a blessing."— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) December 29, 2019
Make no mistake: this is a blessing. The Chiefs are extremely lucky to be in this position. Even as late as Sunday afternoon, one measurement gave the Patriots — not the Chiefs — a 97% chance get the first-round bye.
Final chart of the race for the No. 2 seed in the AFC today. The Patriots entered the day with a 97% (!) chance to land that No. 2 spot, per FPI. pic.twitter.com/XomjpStQ4Q— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 29, 2019
When the Chiefs lost to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10, it looked like the last nail in the coffin; there seemed to be no chance for them to be where they are now. Credit must be given for how the team has handled its business since then; the Chiefs haven’t wasted chances to get better.
Since then, the season has felt more process-oriented than any we’ve seen. The defense used each game as a building block toward becoming what has been one of the league’s best during the home stretch. The offense used the time to get healthy — and regain some of the magic it had in 2018. Patrick Mahomes is finally healthy — and now will gain an extra week before the rigors of the playoffs.
Now they can catch their breath before they make another run at a championship. They are far from done — but they’re now in a much better position than we could have imagined just a few days ago.
The defense will have to figure out how to make up for the loss of rookie safety Juan Thornhill, who has been a big part of the unit’s resurgence. The offense will have to play much better than it did in the regular-season finale.
However, this team comes into the postseason with still-fresh memories of the opportunities they missed in last year’s AFC Championship. If anyone understands what this bye week means, it is those who were part of last year’s run. They are the ones who will need to carry the team to a title — and beyond.
Christmas came late for the Chiefs. They have been given a gift — but one that they earned the right to receive. What they do with it now it is up to them.
This miracle bye will forever be a part of the story of this Chiefs season. But the only way for it to have a satisfying finish is to reach the Super Bowl.