It was theorized throughout parts of the 2020 regular season. Then, Travis Kelce did not hold back his honesty on how this season was viewed as inside the Kansas City Chiefs locker room. As the tight end said on Shannon Sharpe‘s podcast, Club Shay Shay, he talked about only thinking of the playoffs during the regular season.
“Alright yeah, we’re going to make the playoffs. Mentally, you say that to yourself, we’re going make the playoffs,” the Chiefs playmaker said. “Mentally, being able to lock in every single week, so that dream, that situation happens. That’s been the hardest thing.”
In order to hone that patience, Kansas City had to work to stay sharp, while also fending off a larger target on their back. But, the AFC Championship Game win over the Buffalo Bills looked largely as nonchalant as it could have. The Chiefs offense was surely throwing in their patented inside shovel pass or other creative concepts. For the most part though, they were keeping it simple. And honestly, it looked fairly easy for the defending Super Bowl champions. Today, we will look back on some of the closer calls this season, playoff dominance and the foundation the Chiefs have built.
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All Wins Are Not Created Equal
The laughable takes during the season were easy to find, regarding the Chiefs’ victories. It somehow was not good enough for them to just simply get the job done. If Kansas City was unable to defeat opponents by two or three scores, it was viewed as a failure. But, why? This is certainly not Alabama vs The Citadel for example, like we have seen in a normal college football season during the latter portion of the regular season.
So, when games against the likes of New England, Carolina, Denver and Miami are close, the negatives are the main focus. However, most of the Chiefs mistakes were not because of what the opponent did. It remains that true that Kansas City has to beat themselves, before you can get by them.
You also have to contextualize the opponents that gave the Chiefs a tougher battle. Despite the final regular season records of some of those aforementioned teams, they all do something well that is a challenge for the personnel of the Chiefs. New England won this year with power and a stout running game. Carolina has one of the more well-rounded set of weapons for a retooling franchise. With guys like Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and others combining with new offensive coordinator Joe Brady, the Panthers were a unit that could stress the defense in multiple ways. Denver saw a massive improvement in the trenches. And finally, Miami had one of their best seasons in a while, due to candid coaching and a refined roster.
Deficits And Strong Finishes
Let’s dive into these “close calls” a little further. An interesting stat I found from the Chiefs starts this season, was rather compelling. In the regular season, the opponent scored first in 11 of 16 games this season. The deficit was not always due to a touchdown, though. The bend-don’t-break defensive style was enough to hold the Chiefs over until they either improved in the game later, or in succeeding weeks. We also know that simply no deficit is too large to overcome for Andy Reid‘s squad.
In crucial situations or moments in games, this team practically gets more confident and stronger. Kansas City outscored the opponent 229-175 in the second half this season. Moreover, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and the rest of the offense is nearly perfect in crunch time. The game winning drive from the Chiefs offense in Vegas looked flawless, for instance. The game winner from Mahomes to Kelce was aided by a freelancing error by safety Johnathan Abram. However, not many other teams or quarterbacks can march down the field in seven plays in a minute and fifteen seconds quite like the Chiefs.
It is not just the gusto of the team in red and gold, it is just as awe-inspiring to see them generally make the correct reads or decisions. And, that is entirely the kind of feather in the cap for Coach Reid, who has long been criticized for clock management. Having the weapons and quarterback that he does at his disposal, have helped him become more bold and aggressive on crucial play calls.
Playoff Fortune Has Changed
For years, just making the playoffs was a major accomplishment for the Kansas City Chiefs franchise. Expecting the team to come up with postseason wins was a mere dream. That is why now, seeing their playoff dominance over the last few years, you can truly see how far the Chiefs have come since Reid’s first year in 2013. While they won a lot with Alex Smith and a ball control offense, Kansas City did not ultimately know how to win the big games. Finishing and executing took a lot of time to develop and mature. As that grew, the expectations started to shift to what we see now.
Since Mahomes took over, he holds a 6-1 record in the postseason. His lone loss is against the same quarterback whom he will face in Super Bowl LV in two weeks, oddly enough. Even when he left the Divisional Round game last week against Cleveland, the signal caller was looking as comfortable as ever. The late season difficulties for him and being in sync with the rest of the offense was pretty much forgotten. An aggressive Bills defense hardly fazed Mahomes and his teammates on offense. Though this season’s job is not done, not many could have envisioned what this Chiefs team has become or built.
Finding An Extra Gear
Finally, let’s go back to our original question. Were the Chiefs truly “bored” this season? Listening to Kelce’s comments and watching what the team did in the playoffs so far, it actually sounds pretty accurate. But, how?
This team obviously has one of the deeper rosters in the league. For example, Byron Pringle, Darrel Williams, Mike Remmers, Stefen Wisniewski and others stepped in to fill hefty roles. The Chiefs still found an extra gear regardless. Furthermore, Reid’s coaching prowess, along with stern assistants like Eric Bieniemy and Steve Spagnuolo put Kansas City near the top of the coaching ranks as well. As far as preparedness and remaining focused goes, not many other teams have the leaders like they do.
And eventually, there is just not enough gas or lengths that opponents can find. Clearly finding an extra gear is not attainable for other teams in the NFL. You either continue to win with the same game plan and style that got you to the dance. Or, you get bounced out of the playoffs due to a multitude of self errors or mistakes and being conservative. That is exactly what we saw in the AFC Championship Game from Buffalo. Meanwhile for Kansas City, it looked like they were directly rejuvenated from the week before. And now, the Chiefs are vying for their second straight Super Bowl victory. If successful, they would be the first NFL team to win it all in back to back years, since New England did it in 2003 and 2004.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs article throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.