By Nick Athan @Chiefsinsider
For Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, it’s clear he’s amongst the gods of the sport. Arguably the best player in the NFL today, he showed incredible grit after injuring his ankle in the teams 27-20 AFC Divisional round victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals come to town with their eyes set on a second straight Super Bowl Appearance. If the Chiefs want to reclaim their big dog status, and Mahomes wants to leave no doubt he’s the best QB in the NFL, he’ll have to rely more on the rest of his roster.
In a couple days, the Kansas City Chiefs will play host to their fifth straight AFC Championship game at Arrowhead. It’s a remarkable achievement, one never done before. In the four previous AFC title games, the Chiefs stand 2-2 and are 1-1 in Super Bowls under Head Coach, Andy Reid.
The Cincinnati Bengals come into this game knowing they have the Chiefs number. In three previous meetings they’ve yet to lose, including an overtime win last January in KC. It was a bitter loss, that forced the organization to look within, and begin a rebuilding process in a year many doubted they’d be in this game again on Sunday this soon.
General Manager, Brett Veach, jettisoned Wide Receiver, Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in a deal that allowed Kansas City the opportunity to rebuild many of the holes on defense. Head Coach, Andy Reid, gave his quarterback more latitude to navigate his new offensive weapons Veach assembled in the off-season with unsupervised workouts in Texas.
The results were phenomenal. In 2022, the Chiefs won their seventh straight AFC West Title, regained the top spot in the post season, and will continue their annual Chiefs Invitational tradition in KC another season. Not bad considering all the doom and gloom many pundits felt with the departure of Hill.
While those are great accomplishments, the reason these men work so hard in the off-season, grind out training camp, and play 17 grueling games in the regular season, is about to play out Sunday evening. For the Chiefs, every season is judged on winning the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have changed their culture since Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City ten years ago. His success has been pushed into the stratosphere thanks to his once in a lifetime quarterback. He knows Mahomes is special. In that light, for a new generation of sports fans, we’ve not seen a player of this stature in Kansas City since Royals third baseman, George Brett. You know that guy who stood on second base after he broke the .400 barrier in 1980 and carried the Royals to their 1985 World Series Title.
Present day, Mahomes has a chance to shatter every NFL passing record and achieve the kind of success of his hero, The Goat, Tom Brady. However, he doesn’t care about those records, nor does he care about the sacrifices that have to be made to perform at an elite level – especially when you play hurt – he just wants to win Super Bowls!
Against the Jaguars, Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain, and many felt it might be worse. For mere mortals, they would have been carried off the field never to return to game action. Well, that’s not Mahomes. He fought, he hobbled, he yelled, and damn near came to tears on the sidelines, fighting to get back into the game. You see this Gladiator wasn’t about to let his teammates down and he did whatever it took to secure the win for his team in the second half.
In response, the players on the sidelines responded by doing their part in all three phases of the game. The offensive line gave Mahomes time to make plays in the second half, special teams scored points, and the defense created two fourth quarter turnovers.
It’s clear they were inspired by their leader and what he overcome playing on one leg. However, as great as that was to get the win, and despite the progress Mahomes has made to be near 100% on Sunday, the Chiefs are facing the hottest team in the NFL. The Bengals are riding a ten-game win streak. Last weekend they dismantled the Buffalo Bills to reach the AFC title game and a rematch with KC and they made it look easy!
The Bengals are talented up and down their roster. Led by Quarterback, Joe Burrow, who is as unflappable as they come. Like Mahomes he has the same drive to succeed. If you give him time in the pocket, he’ll deliver surgical strikes that can’t be stopped. If you try to sack him, he’s so elusive, he makes 300-pound men gasp at his strength to break free from their pursuit.
Yet despite his wizardry, the Chiefs can win this football game. They have a talented roster coached by a future Hall of Fame Head Coach in Reid, that is as determined as his quarterback, to break the Bengals winning streak – especially with the Super Bowl on the line.
Reid has been salty this week in his daily press conferences That tells me he’s been burning the midnight oil in his office, devising a master game plan to insure he protects his quarterback, and scores one more point than the Bengals.
That won’t be easy, and as much has Mahomes has carried this team since he took over as the starting quarterback four seasons ago, it’s the men around him that will determine if Kansas City returns to the Super Bowl.
Even with a healthy Mahomes the task at hand Sunday will likely be in doubt at some point in the fourth quarter in the bitter cold at Arrowhead. In three previous losses to the Bengals, penalties, turnovers and poor coaching, can be directly attributed as to why this team seems to own the Chiefs.
Yet, I can’t help but think this go round, Kansas City won’t make the same mistakes they’ve made in the past. If the guts Mahomes displayed against Jacksonville, match his willingness to turn over every treatment stone to play Sunday, I’m confident every man on the field will match that drive and show they’ve got his back as well.
Cincinnati Bengals – 27
Kansas City Chiefs – 31