Some times, it is difficult to accept when something that has become so normal changes. For almost my entire life, the Kansas City Chiefs have been notorious for choking in the playoffs.
In just the last decade, the Chiefs have fallen short in playoff matchups they absolutely should have won. Their 28-point lead against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 Wild Card game became one of the largest postseason collapses in football history. More recently in 2017, their playoff woes continued in a collapse to the Tennessee Titans.
So when the Chiefs fell in a 24-0 hole to the Houston Texans Sunday in the AFC divisional round, it was an unmitigated disaster. The blown coverage on the opening drive, blocked punt and muffed punt all produced terrifying moments in just 10 minutes of game time. At that point, I was not even sure Patrick Mahomes could overcome this level of adversity and started to wonder if this was actually the end.
Thankfully, it was not even close to the end.
Mahomes’ second quarter was one of the most prolific performances a Kansas City Chief has ever had. His five touchdowns – four in the second quarter – were all basically perfect. He connected on passes all over the field, showed incredible awareness on his fourth score to Travis Kelce, dragging his foot on the line of scrimmage as he floated the ball between five defenders directly into the tight end’s mitts. As the second quarter started, the optimistic approach was to think the Chiefs could score a couple of touchdowns and get the ball back after halftime and try to take the lead from there.
To think they would come out, score 28 straight points – which later become 41-straight – and allow zero points on defense is just insane. However, this was not the first time the Chiefs accomplished this feat. In the second game of the season against the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs trailed 10-0 at the beginning of the second, only to score four touchdowns while allowing zero points to go into halftime with a 28-10 lead. These games are clearly different but it says a lot that Mahomes can orchestrate scoring runs like this and the defense can support it. After Sunday, it should be abundantly clear that Mahomes has taken the Chiefs out of playoff darkness.
With just one game between the Chiefs and their first Lamar Hunt trophy, I was not expecting to see the Titans as their last test to end a 50-year Super Bowl drought. At the beginning of these playoffs, it was about the Chiefs knocking down the New England Patriots once and for all then going to Baltimore and showing the league that their win in Week 3 was real.
Now it has truly become a revenge tour. Last week was the first dose with the Texans and now another shot at the Titans and Derrick Henry. Henry rushed for 188 yards and a long score against the Chiefs in the regular season. Ryan Tannehill was in the opening act of his comeback and made some outstanding plays to really win the game for his team.
Mahomes was outstanding in that first matchup despite it being his first game back from his dislocated knee and if not for some crucial mistakes on special teams, the Chiefs likely win the game.
Given that, it is hard to say what this rematch will be like. Mahomes is basically 100% now, his receivers were in sync after the rough opening quarter Sunday and the defense is still evolving as they prepare to face their toughest challenge. Henry has to be effective for the Titans to really stand a chance and even then it is hard to imagine this game can be won on the ground. If Mahomes and Co. come out and score on even four consecutive possessions, the Titans will have to rely on throwing the ball more often.
Henry has carried the ball more than any running back should in today’s game and it makes me wonder if he will be able to continue his dominance. Either way, I feel more confident in Mahomes’ ability to score points than the Titans.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at email@example.com