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‘Winning one for Andy’ has become key source of Chiefs’ motivation — whether he likes it or not

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A number of players mentioned Kansas City’s head coach after their 35-24 win in the AFC title game.

NFL: AFC Championship-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last Thursday, days before the Kansas City Chiefs took the field against the Tennessee Titans, Andy Reid was pressed about the championship that has eluded him since becoming a head coach 21 years ago.

“Listen, you’ve known me for a long time,” said Reid. “I think more about the players than I am sitting here thinking about myself and all of that. That’s not where I go. I try to get the guys ready. I try to make sure that I’m ready and then go play. I don’t look at it that way. I look more at the disappointment for the other teams that I’ve been able to coach and how those kids felt, because they worked their tails off for that amount of time, and the other coaches.”

Reid’s been down to the final four seven times in his career, including this past weekend. But only one other time has Reid won the conference title game — and in that year, 2004-05 — his Philadelphia Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the New England Patriots.

In Reid’s perfect world, there would be no Google — no history books to reference, no outside analysis for his players to see. But that is not what’s real, and after the Chiefs’ 35-24 conference title win on Sunday night, their awareness of that sole blemish on his Pro Football Hall of Fame career never seemed more prevalent.

“I love coach Reid,” said tight end Travis Kelce after the game. “He is definitely a part of the motivation. We are sick of hearing what the media says about him and how he can’t get the big one done. You know what? We knocked a big one off the list. We got the Lamar Hunt trophy back here in Kansas City for the Hunt family. We still have one more goal to knock off the list.”

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt noted Reid’s emphasis on the trophy in his post-game press conference.

“Andy was very nice to mention how happy he was to win this for our family,” said Hunt. “I think the same is true for us. We’re just as happy for Andy in having a chance to win a Super Bowl. He’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. He is without a doubt a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He’s going to get to go to his second Super Bowl and hopefully get a victory this time. As a family, we’re as excited for him to get this opportunity as he is to give this trophy to us.”

The turning point of Sunday’s game came when quarterback Patrick Mahomes rolled out to his left, dashed up the field for 27 yards, shaking four Titans in the process. The end of the play called for Mahomes to barrel in the end zone, and the Chiefs took a lead they never relinquished.

Injuries hampered Mahomes throughout 2019, and he even missed two games with a dislocated kneecap. But did Reid tell Mahomes to slide on the play?

“No. he didn’t,” Mahomes said. “I think that’s the best thing about playing for coach Reid, he lets you be who you are. He lets you go out there and really play the way you want to play as long as it’s according to the guidelines of how to play the quarterback position. He lets you be who you are.”

“I think he’s a great coach and he’s all about his players and the team,” added safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has become the defensive leader for the Chiefs this season. “Most importantly, he allows us to be ourselves. He’s not restricting us from our personalities, and I think that has a lot to do with us fighting through adversity and believing in ourselves.

After the game on Sunday, some players had the reaction of many of the team’s fans — they understood they won the football game, but that fact truly sinking in has been a process.

“I don’t even think it has hit me yet — it hasn’t even hit me,” said linebacker Reggie Ragland. “I’m excited. I don’t think it’s going to hit me until I walk in that tunnel and all of those lights are flashing (at the Super Bowl). I’m excited. I’m going to enjoy this for 24 hours and then it is time to get back to work. I’m excited for everybody.”

Then, unprompted...

“Coach Reid doesn’t have one, so we have to go out there and bust our butts and get one for him.”