For long periods during its six-decade history, the Kansas City Chiefs did not have a culture built around success. But when head coach Andy Reid arrived in 2013, the team began building such a tradition — one in which the players expect to be successful.
During the team’s crucial primetime game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night, that winning culture was put to the test. Down 10-0 by midway through the second quarter, the Chiefs went into halftime trailing 10-7. But after the Chargers went up 17-7 to begin the second half, Kansas City scored 20 unanswered points on the way to a 27-24 victory.
“You know, no one shook,” recalled wide receiver Justin Watson, who spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “That’s the great thing about being at a championship organization like this: you expect to win. So we have it to where winning is the standard — [and] we knew that we were going to get back into the game.”
“The best thing that we did today is [that] we stuck together as a team,” noted safety Justin Reid, who spent the first four years of his career with the Houston Texans. “Nobody got on each other’s tail. We stayed together. We kept playing the next play. When crunch time came, players made big plays.”
Watson made one of the big plays Reid mentioned, hauling in a 41-touchdown pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes that began the third-quarter comeback. But in this game, a rookie reserve cornerback made the play that mattered. Early in the fourth quarter, seventh-round pick Jaylen Watson fooled Los Angeles quarterback Justin Hebert into making an ill-advised throw that Watson intercepted at the goal line, returning it 99 yards for a touchdown that gave Kansas City a 24-17 lead.
“This is what it’s going to be,” said Reid. “We know we’re in the toughest division in football. It’s going to be like this with each one of the AFC West teams. We know that we have a target on our back, too — so we know we’re going to get every team’s best shot. We’re going to be ready for it. We are going have to come out and perform.”
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. said that these situations continue to build the team’s character — which will be an essential ingredient in continuing the Chiefs’ success as they navigate a historically difficult schedule.
“When it gets to the end — playoff time — and you face this situation again, you know,” he remarked, “we’ve been in that situation plenty of times. That’s familiar territory for us. So we knew how to handle it. We stepped up and did what we were supposed to do.”