Maybe we’re still in shock. Maybe we’re just riding a post-game high. But after a performance like the one we saw in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 35-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship, it’s difficult to name many losers.
In the ultimate team sport, it took a complete game from both the offense and defense to get a shot at the ultimate goal. Folks... the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl!
Here are a few of the men responsible for finally bringing the Lamar Hunt Trophy home.
Chiefs fans of all ages: Year after year, we’ve paid our dues. Being a lifelong Chiefs fan hasn’t always been easy. For most of us, we’ve only seen this team be the bridesmaid at best. Season after season of good-but-not-great teams. Going 10-6 — and losing in the most gut-wrenching ways during the playoffs — was an annual tradition. We saw great defenses with inept offenses — or great offenses with inept defenses. But this year, all of that changed. A well-balanced Chiefs team is heading to the Super Bowl. For once, we are celebrating a big comeback in the playoffs. For once, we’re going to watch the Chiefs in the championship. Enjoy it, Chiefs fans. You earned it.
Tyreek Hill: After the drama in the offseason — and the dangerous chest injury that cost him most of September and October — this victory must have been extra sweet for the fastest man in the league. In the biggest game of his career (so far), he had five catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Brett Veach: For all the questions, all the doubts and all the second-guessing, the team’s young general manager now has validation. Letting some all-time fan favorites go was hard. Trading large assets for Frank Clark was controversial. But there’s no doubt now that these moves were just what this team needed to get over the hump. Adding offensive weapons — when people thought they were already loaded — and changing out nearly the entire defense with the goal of adding attitude was risky. And then relying on bargain-basement moves at cornerback, too? It was a bold plan. Now it’s been proven to be a good one.
Andy Reid: In many ways, Andy Reid is the most Chiefs coach ever. He’s been good for as long as anyone can remember — but flawed enough not to win the championship. Big Red has been through a lot in his life — and through it all, he’s been amazingly dedicated to his craft. He’s been an innovator and a mentor, with a legacy of the league’s most significant coaching tree — and former players who would jump at the chance to play for him again. Now he’s added another conference championship to his Hall of Fame resume — and with Patrick Mahomes, has his best opportunity to get over the final hump.
Patrick Lavon Mahomes: Another game, another MVP performance from the young superstar. Two weeks in a row, he’s done something absolutely legendary. Two weeks in a row, he’s led the team in rushing, adding another dimension to the game’s best passer. We’ll be telling our grandkids about his touchdown run — and how we got to watch the very best player in the world lead the Chiefs on a championship run.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: The turnaound has been drastic — and glorious. No longer do we have to watch this team’s defense be helpless while opponents do what we knew they were going to do. Spagnuolo and the defense stepped up and stopped what the Titans do best. They were relentless and prideful. They weren’t perfect, but they imposed their will, playing championship-level football. To do that — during the first year in a new scheme with at least seven new starters and multiple rookies on the field — is unbelievable.
Tyrann Mathieu: On play after play, when the Chiefs needed a stop, we saw the Honey Badger hitting people. He had nine tackles — one for a loss — and a pass defensed. But even that doesn’t do justice to what the Mathieu means to this team.
Sammy Watkins: Give credit where it’s due: Playoff Sammy showed up on Sunday. He was the possession receiver Mahomes needed in order to move the chains. Then he got free on a big third-down play and scored his first touchdown since Week 1. One more game like this one and the other 16 games of unimpressive play won’t matter.
The role players: Tanoh Kpassagnon had two sacks, Demarcus Robinson converted a couple of key first downs, Daniel Sorensen had some huge tackles, Terrell Suggs played strong all game and batted down a pass to end a drive, Damien Wilson stepped up to help stop Derrick Henry... the list goes on. It wasn’t just the stars. The Chiefs got contributions from up and down the roster.
Superstitions, the Madden curse, the playoff curse and heartbreak: I typically tend to not believe in curses — but over my lifetime, Chiefs history has put plenty of doubt in my mind. For every Chiefs fan who felt like their beloved team would never get to the Super Bowl, this one is for you. After 50 years, the streak is over. The playoff curse is dead. And for the duration of Mahomes’ career, the heartbreak is going to be minimal.