We can all admit it now. After the Raiders’ loss at home on Christmas Day, only a few felt the Kansas City Chiefs would be playing in Super Bowl LVIII. The fans, the media, and almost everyone counted them out and placed blame on every corner of the franchise. However, Patrick Mahomes wanted none of that, and with his 17-7 win over Lamar Jackson in the AFC Title Game, he is one Super Bowl win away from being at the epicenter of a new dynasty in the NFL.
The Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl. There were question marks on offense in the most improbable of seasons, which ended with an 11-6 record. The offense stunk at times; turnovers, penalties, and dropped passes created so much negativity that Mahomes blew up on the sidelines in their home loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Yet, the defense played great all season and held the team together. Eventually, Mahomes and Head Coach Andy Reid made the adjustments, and in their AFC West title clincher against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs found their offensive footing.
In the postseason, Mahomes was nearly flawless; the receivers held onto the ball, and the penalties diminished. In three games, Mahomes completed 70 of 103 passes, 718 receiving yards, and four touchdown passes with no interceptions.
For Kelce, he caught a mind-boggling 23 passes on 27 attempts with 262 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The fire in his eyes pre-game on Sunday was something I’d never seen from the future Hall of Fame Tight End. He was focused on upsetting the Ravens. So, he caught all eleven passes thrown his way and broke Jerry Rice’s post-season record for catches (152).
Now, Kelce stands alone with 156 receptions in 21 playoff games.
The most striking thing after the game was how the Chiefs players and coaches celebrated their AFC title victory. This was a business trip for Kansas City, and their excitement afterward was tempered. They know the job still needs to be done because Super Bowl LVIII is the prize and has been all season long.
Despite the doubts internally and externally, I think the Chiefs avoided a car crash because they had more robust metal than any other team they faced in the postseason. They took down the Dolphins at home and the Bills and Ravens on the road. They did it by making plays, and they were, in all three games, the best team on the field.
The Ravens’ fatal flaw was their comments during the week, dissing the Chiefs. Their pre-game antics included Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker warming up at the goal line during the Chief’s pre-game work on the field.
The late hits, cheap shots on Mahomes, and their trash-talking never ended. They played out of control, and their chippy nature never intimidated the Chiefs. That falls on Head Coach John Harbaugh, who encourages that rage from his players. After all, he had the NFL’s best offense and defense, yet scored ten points against the second-best defense in the league.
However, playoff football and regular season football are two different animals, and Harbaugh needed to be a zookeeper to get his players in line. Instead, he let them run amuck and out of the playoffs.
Lamar Jackson did his best to prove to the doubters he could deliver the goods with his arm this season, but against the Chiefs, he didn’t make enough plays, and he could not handle the pressure. I’ve said it since he broke into the league: running quarterbacks do not win AFC Title games or Super Bowls.
In the end, one thing can’t be understated: the hero of the Chief’s 2023 season wasn’t Mahomes, Kelce, or Reid; it was Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was brilliant the last three weekends.
This season, he took down the top three quarterbacks in the NFL: Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. He faces the 49ers Brock Purdy in two weeks, playing in his first Super Bowl.
Yet, none of that matters because the Chiefs have Mahomes. He has a chance at age 28 to secure his third Super Bowl in six seasons as a starter in the NFL. Is anyone going to bet against him?
Well, Vegas already has the Chiefs as 2.5 underdogs, which adds even more fuel to their fire as they prepare for the 49ers. One thing is sure: Mahomes and the Chiefs are already back at work Monday morning, preparing for Super Bowl LVIII.
Win this game, and their dynasty is secure forever!