On Sunday, safety Justin Reid will play in his second Super Bowl in as many years with the Kansas City Chiefs as his team faces the San Franciso 49ers for the Lombardi Trophy. At Thursday's media conference, Reid admitted that he is able to appreciate the opportunity more the second time around.
"It makes the journey just so awesome," he stated. "Like you really get to look back and reminisce on experience of the adversity that we had to overcome to get to this point — and you build strength off of that. So, you're able to take those experiences and build a team."
That experience has been needed as the Chief navigated a more difficult-than-expected regular season. Reid explained what he has seen from his teammates in the postseason.
"The chemistry is higher [and] guys get the letter," he argued, "and you can believe in yourself because you know when things go wrong — and some things that went wrong for us throughout the year — our strength is that we've stuck together. We've never thrown anyone under the bus, and we consistently gave guys opportunities to try and make the next play — and in the biggest moments, guys have showed up.
"So, we take those experiences with us, and we want to end it. We want to end this game the right way with the Cinderella ending and add another championship."
Reid trusts that the Chiefs have the mentality not to overreact to individual moments — good or bad — that will play out on Sunday. He cited this season's outstanding game planning by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and the always dangerous arm of quarterback Patrick Mahomes as reasons not to count out Kansas City, no matter the flow of the game.
"In this game," he explained, "there's so much talent that's on the field the game moves so quickly, there's going to be things that go your way, and there's going to be things that don't go your way. The experience that helps us is being able to handle both ends.
"Coach Spagnuolo talks about this all the time. 'Manage the extremes.' If we're up 14 points managing that, that you don't relax and you keep the pressure on and you keep driving the point home — and you don't let up. You see guys relax, then — all of a sudden — teams come back. The same thing if you're down 14 points: you don't crumble underneath that pressure.
"You don't start pointing fingers. You don't try and play hero ball. You stay within the same system, you believe in each other, and you go out and play — and you get the ball back in 15's hands, and we can get right back in this game."
Reid remembered a famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) Super Bowl comeback moment: the New England Patriots coming back from a 28-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI. Current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was Atlanta's offensive coordinator in the matchup.
"I remember the 28-3 lead that the Patriots had with Atlanta," Reid recalled, "and I actually turned the game off for a minute. I went to hang out with some friends, turned the game back on, and it was the play to [wide receiver] Julian Edelman where [quarterback Tom Brady] threw it in, and he caught it in between the dude's legs, and then they end up coming back and win it.
"So, there's definitely been some crazy moments. And what I take from that is, you got to play a full game. It doesn't matter what the score is [and] doesn't matter if you're winning at halftime."
Before coming to Kansas City, Reid was on the losing hand of another famous playoff collapse as the Houston Texans raced to a 24-0 lead over Kansas City in the 2019 Divisional Round — before then losing 51-31.
"Personal experience," he added, "from the divisional round with Houston and Kansas City back in 2019 — you've got to play a full game."
This season, The Chiefs' defense has been able to maintain their full game ability almost every week because of the stellar play of key reserves when called upon. Reid used the recent example of fellow safety Deon Bush — not even on the Chiefs' 53-man roster most of the season — coming into the AFC Championship game as an injury replacement and snagging an interception.
"It starts top down," Reid said of the defense's success. "We have so much depth in this defense, and we're so fortunate to have it that when a guy's number is called, they come in, they play the defense, and they make plays. Best example I can think of is [against] Baltimore. Deion Bush played three plays, and one of those three was one of the biggest interceptions of the game to really go out and ice the cake. So, guys believe in the system, we trust in each other, and when your number is called, we go out there and execute."