This is it, folks. The finale, the season-long goal, the opportunity to defend the championship! The Kansas City Chiefs are on the precipice of immortality. What we have witnessed this entire season is nothing short of legendary. After watching the Chiefs since 1969, this team has made me most proud. Despite what the pundits and naysayers have spewed, these players have fought with grit and determination.
The roller coaster of this season has undoubtedly identified this team’s strengths and needs. Should the Chiefs be successful Sunday (more on this later), many issues of consistency and continuity will be put to rest.
The formula is apparent when you possess the best football player in the league and the best head coach; you win the game and close games. You rise to the occasion and turn on “beast mode” when you know the stakes are high. The San Francisco 49ers are still a 2-point favorite as of this writing. I imagine that won’t likely change by Sunday.
Playing with house money is usually an excellent place to be in Las Vegas. All of the pressure and anxiety will be on the 49ers. Can they rise to the occasion? If history indicates its reality, it will be a steep cliff for them to ascend.
Let’s cut to the chase. The Kansas City Chiefs have several things going for them. Not the least of which is experience. I love how the pundits reach back to the 49ers’ “core group” of players that were there in 2019 for Super Bowl LIV. I’m pretty sure even those members don’t have a great recollection of that experience. The Chiefs were there last year. The pundits like to compare that 49ers team to today’s Chiefs but that’s not an accurate sentiment.
You always hear that “defense wins championships.” If that’s indeed the case, then this story will complete itself. A great defense helps only if the offense can score enough points to keep the opposition at bay. The Chiefs have the firepower to make that happen, and in the playoffs, they always seem to shine.
Patrick Mahomes has the football intelligence and skills that translate into dominant performances when he needs to flip the switch. This Super Bowl, he’s healthy! He has consistently done that throughout his time in Kansas City. Will he do it again? That would be an emphatic YES!
Statistics aside, the mark of a champion is always the ability to rise above adversity. The Mahomes-led Chiefs have shown us the “come from behind” mentality in many of these types of games. Letting your guard down is at your peril when it gets down to brass tacks. This team will not be caught unaware on gameday; rest assured.
First, I’m excited to see the strategy the Chiefs will employ in the first offensive series. My belief, and you’ve heard me say it many times, is to start with the running game and stick with it. This strategy will separate the wheat from the chaff. Heavy doses of Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and La’Mical Perine should get the job done.
Andy Reid and Matt Nagy’s offensive game plan must focus on busting down the 49er’s defensive line. It’s time to get Nick Bosa off his game. Punch it in between the tackles. Andy Heck will be sure his offensive line is prepared to split the tackles. Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and Nick Allegretti should be able to work the interior effectively. My only concerns are Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor. Can those guys hold up their end of the bargain regarding passing plays? Mahomes can’t be running for his life all game.
I will go out on a limb and say Smith and Taylor will play their best game this Sunday. Andy Heck will impress on them the gravity of the situation, and I think they’ll respond. Let’s talk about the receivers. The receiving corps has stepped up their game in the playoffs. Considering what they were during the regular season, it is a remarkable turnaround. Marques Valdes-Scantling, in particular, has come through at critical times. Same with Travis Kelce.
Despite the issues during the regular season, all the receivers have come through. Rashee Rice will be a superstar before his time in KC is complete. Justin Watson, Richie James, Mecole Hardman, and Justyn Ross have all come through at different times. Skyy Moore may also be available after coming off IR on Wednesday.
Being the biggest stage in all sports worldwide, this game is the perfect opportunity for every Chiefs player who gets a shot on the field to make the most of it. There is no time for rookie mistakes, no time for dropped passes, and no mental mistakes. This is the proverbial time to put up or shut up.
I recognize the fact that nobody is perfect. That said, every player needs to hunker down and give their best effort for this game. Period. Anything else is well…not acceptable. Leave it all on the field. That’s what champions do. As I’ve pointed out numerous times, this team and this year have a sense of inevitability. I’m not saying that from a position of arrogance but rather from a position of perception.
Despite all the challenges the Chiefs have experienced this season, one specific aspect has emerged and remained consistent—the defense. Steve Spagnuolo has developed and fielded the most potent defense of the Reid/ Mahomes era. With the collective reliance on the firepower of the Chiefs offense of the last few years, they’ve only needed a “good” defense to win. Now, they have what I perceive as the best defense in the NFL.
Having a top defense has helped to limp this team through when the offense has been unable to put together its typical high-octane performance. This is why that sense of certainty is ever present in my mind. One side of the ball helps the other. The results are emblematic of that sense. Behavioral scientists say that perception is reality. What we see and experience, individually and collectively, bears this out. The Kansas City Chiefs are becoming one of those teams that will be talked about even more for their ability to overcome adversity and, in the end, shine on like a new penny.
Despite the few injuries, only Jerrick McKinnon and Joe Thuney were limited or did not practice at all; most of the team is intact and appears ready to go. This is excellent news, and Andy Reid must pick his active squad from a relatively healthy list.
So, it comes down to those three things I called out in part one: Preparation, Execution, and Experience. This Chiefs team will have all three aspects locked in. Reid and the coaching staff will be prepared, and they will prepare the players. Patrick Mahomes and the team leaders will execute. The entire organization has the experience to follow through and win this game.
This team, at this time, at this moment, will be legendary.
Chiefs 28 – 49ers 21