The Chiefs finished the regular season on a hot streak, winning five straight games — including nine out of their last 10. The team was playing its best football to end the season, and now it's ready to carry that momentum into the playoffs.
“Extremely excited,” began Justin Reid, as he expressed his feelings going into the game. “This is what we live for. This is the biggest reason why I came to Kansas City. To have opportunities to play in games like this, make a playoff run, and hopefully have a chance at the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, Kansas City will face a Jacksonville team riding a lot of their own momentum as well. During Wild Card weekend, the Jaguars overcame a 27-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Chargers and secured the upset victory for the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff history.
From personal experience, Reid knows just how fragile a big lead can be in the postseason. During the 2019 AFC Divisional Round, the former Houston Texan saw the Chiefs score seven consecutive touchdowns against his team to overcome a 24-0 deficit.
This season, the Chiefs have shown somewhat of a tendency to permit teams back into it during the second half of games, so Reid emphasized the importance of going all out for the entire 60 minutes.
“You can never count them out the game,” Reid explained. “Don’t matter what the score is. I’ve actually lived that life a couple years back in 2019, being on other side of it. So I’m going to bring that with me and let the guys know here that you have to play the full 60 minutes or however long it takes. Can’t take your foot off the pedal for a minute. If you happen to have a lead like that, you don’t want to allow a team to get back into it.”
A major reason why the Jaguars were down so early was the poor start by quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He began the game with three-straight interceptions in just the first quarter and had a 0.0 passer rating by halftime. However, Lawrence redeemed himself and more in the second half, where he completed 18-of-23 pass attempts for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Reid discussed Lawrence and the challenge he brings to the defense on Saturday.
“(Lawrence) is a talented guy,” Reid noted. “You see the experiences coming into play for him now. This Jacksonville team is completely different from the first time we played them. They’re playing with a lot more confidence, defense is tight, and their playmakers are making the plays when they need to make them. Trevor Lawrence, first overall pick, has the talent to make all the throws that he needs to make, so we can’t sleep on what he’s able to do whenever he gets out there.”
As Reid said, the Jaguars offense has improved a lot since their Week 10 matchup, in which the Chiefs won 27-17. Jacksonville running back Travis Etienne Jr. only rushed for 45 yards on 11 carries in that game, while tight end Evan Engram caught just three receptions for 14 yards. Despite that midyear showing, both players were critical to Jacksonville’s success this past weekend, combining for a touchdown and 202 of the team’s 390 yards of total offense.
Their performances have gained the attention of linebacker Nick Bolton, who will help lead the defense by slowing down the Jaguars two best playmakers.
“Evan Engram has been having a hell of a last eight games,” Bolton told reporters on Tuesday. “His back-half eight games been great and again just doing a great job of minimizing turnovers and maximizing opportunities. They’re going out there, and putting points on the board and I kind of feel like that’s helped them a lot in the last couple of games.”
As for Etienne, Bolton says it will require a team effort to slow him down. Bolton, who had the second-most tackles in the NFL this season, emphasized the importance of tackling when it comes to someone as explosive as Etienne coming out of the backfield.
“We have to rely on our front,” responded Bolton, when asked about slowing down Etienne. “Let our front four guys do the work for us. We got to tackle out in space, and we all know he’s an explosive running back — I think he was top five in the league in explosive runs especially outside the tackle.
“So, we got to minimize those opportunities he has to break tackles on the outside and just tackle well in space. We did that well last week, and it will take all eleven of us to do it again this week.”