It’s almost comical at this point.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs won their 10th consecutive game — tying a single-season franchise record — when they squeaked by the Atlanta Falcons with a score of 17-14. In their last seven contests, they’ve failed to cover the betting spread; each of those games finished as a one-possession victory.
Whether it’s the elite of the NFC or teams already preparing for next year’s NFL Draft, recent Chiefs’ opponents have stayed in the game and forced Kansas City to sweat each one out. The AFC’s top seed in the postseason continues to emerge victorious — even in a game like Sunday’s, in which the offense scored the fewest amount of points they have all season.
After the game, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid acknowledged the close victory — but reminded reporters about how hard it is to win each week in the NFL.
“I appreciate the effort — I mean winning in this league is tough,” Reid emphasized. “You see it every week and you see teams go through these peaks and valleys, and to be able to just consistently push through, everyone’s not going to be the prettiest one that you’ve had, but the bottom line is you’ve got to keep battling. And if you don’t battle, you can’t do anything, so there’s no way you’re going to survive in this.”
He went on to compliment the mentality that this Chiefs team has played with down the stretch of the 2020 regular season — a mentality that could come in hand over the next two months.
“The mental toughness is a part that I respect, and I understand the demands when you’ve won the championship... You can come out and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to be everybody’s big game,’ but until you experience it and find the demands on continuing to bring the product out and working your game, then words don’t explain it.
“But our guys are tough, they’re mentally tough, and to put together what they have to this point, my hat goes off to them. I appreciate the effort, and I get to see it every day. So, they battle through and that’s going to help us down the road.”
The best example of toughness came from the defensive side of the ball today. The Chiefs defense bent but did not break while surrendering only 14 points and 277 net passing yards to Atlanta.
It was the offense that showed flaws and signs of concern. To explain their resilience in a down-trodden game, quarterback Patrick Mahomes borrowed a defensive mantra as he spoke in his post-game presser.
“At the end of the day, the defense played their tail off in that game and to give us a chance — and the offense found a way to score a touchdown when we needed to, that’s just that championship swagger as Tyrann (Mathieu) would say, of knowing how to win a game even when you’re not playing well.”
Tight end Travis Kelce showed individual resilience during his record-setting game. He overcame a slow start to haul in two of the biggest receptions from the Chiefs’ game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. He knew the team could have played better, but he reiterated how difficult it is to win every week against each opponent.
“This league can get very confusing to a lot of people,” Kelce explained during his post-game press conference. “They think since we have the best quarterback, two great receivers... Sack Nation, they think we should go out there and dominate every single game and every single play — and that’s not reality. The reality is these guys on these other teams are coming in here, knowing that they’re going up against a good football team. They get geared up, they get fired up, and their attention and alertness is that much more locked in... You have to respect the guy across from you, and know that you’re going to get their best shot. Sometimes you have to find a way to win a football game, and that’s what we did.”
Finding the way to victory involved dealing with multiple injuries and physical hamperings. Besides the obvious obstacles the defense had to overcome on that front, the offense was playing without their starting running back and a beat-up wide receiver in Tyreek Hill, who was on the injury report as questionable with a hamstring injury.
In the fourth quarter, Kelce limped off the field as the offense was driving — but he returned to the field in wincing fashion on the very next play. Kelce takes the idea of being available for his teammates very seriously.
“You have to walk a few things off, you have to regroup,” Kelce began. “Let the discomfort of the pain settle and just go back out there and keep playing — knowing that the guy next to you is going through something similar or could be going through something similar. I love being there for these guys — I love being there for the coaching staff, the organization, and for Chiefs Kingdom when it matters most. I take a lot of honor and pride in that.”
They may not handle 4-10 teams like you think they should — but it’s rare that NFL teams win as much as the Chiefs have over the last two seasons. They are now 23-1 in their last 24 games, and the team has won each and every way you can — continuing to experience new methods each week.
Even in one of the least productive games of his NFL career, Mahomes resiliently led a game-winning drive; he threw the go-ahead touchdown immediately after nearly throwing a game-ending interception.
Even when things are seemingly at their worst, it feels like Mahomes always finds a way to make it work — whether it’s for a half, a drive, or a single play. Travis Kelce couldn’t have summed it up any better.
“It just happens to play out that when adversity hits, Patrick Mahomes plays his best.”
That trait isn’t exclusive to just the signal-caller. This team knows how to answer when their collective back is against the wall — and there isn’t an NFL team with as much confidence in those situations as this year’s Chiefs.