Patrick Mahomes began planning the return of the Chiefs to this year’s AFC Championship game minutes after falling last year.
The Patriots beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in that amazing game, 37-31 in overtime. Mahomes and his offensive were never able to take the field in the extra time period while Tom Brady marched through the field with three third and 10 conversions to Julian Edelman (two) and Rob Gronkowski to establish the game’s winning touchdown.
Shortly after Rex Burkhead crossed the goal line to end the Chiefs’ season, Mahomes was behind a microphone.
“It hurts,” said the quarterback. “It hurts everyone. We knew we had opportunities in this game and during this season. We put in work. We know that this can be a building block. It could be something that will lead us in the future. Right now, it’s the end, but I hope it’s the beginning of a long time. “
Mahomes looks like a prophet now. The Chiefs are back in the AFC title game. He is back in Arrowhead in front of his beloved fans. However, the opponent this time is very different. Yes, Derrick Henry has made his way through the AFC playoffs for the Titans. But these are not Brady and Bill Belichick. These are Ryan Tannehill and Mike Vrabel, newcomers to the postseason in their current roles.
Gronkowski is retired. Edelman is jumping on cars. Brady is reflecting on his future.
Mahomes returned to where he wanted to be thanks to his performance of five touchdowns in the surprising 51-31 victory over the Texans on Sunday.
The Chiefs showed that they are never out of play. Down 24-0 at the beginning of the second quarter, they took control and never gave up. The scores reached such a rapid pace that it was difficult to follow up. There were three touchdowns in eight plays at one point in the second quarter. They scored in eight consecutive possessions: none of the units lasted more than 3 minutes and 55 seconds. By the time they ran their 51st play, they also had 51 points.
“You just have to keep your foot on the accelerator,” said tight end Travis Kelce, who scored three touchdowns. “You can’t get too excited, you can’t feel a sense of relief like, ‘Oh, we’re back in the game.’ You just have to go ahead and know that you have a lot of issues pending as long as that clock is ticking.”
The pending issues have been an issue for the Chiefs since they faced last year against New England. They were a penalty of Dee Ford outside the seal of that victory in the last quarter. Instead, they opened the door and Brady ran in.
Sometimes you need a defeat in the playoffs to learn how to get the winning playoffs. The 1985 Bears were defeated by the Bears in the playoffs, a 21-0 loss. That established the following season when Bill Parcells, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms would not be denied.
After last year’s loss, Chiefs coach Andy Reid pointed forward.
“This gives us a bit of what we have to expect in the future, and that’s where we will go when we’re done here,” Reid said. “It’s a bright future. We have good players. We’re going to get over the hump here, the big hump. That’s this game right here.”
They will take the hump again on Sunday. The Chiefs have won seven straight games and have an improved defense from last season or even earlier this season. That last defeat came on November 10 against the Titans in Nashville, Tennessee.
The rematch is now in the Chiefs’ territory. Mahomes and his teammates have been waiting a year to return to this point. They plan to deal with pending issues this time.