By Nancy Armour |
This wasn’t just a playoff win, it was an exorcism.
Decades of frustration, one loss seemingly more agonizing than the next. Nail-biters and blowouts alike, losses on the road and ones in front of their long-suffering and loyal fans. For 25 years now, the Kansas City Chiefs have come up empty, their season cut short before the AFC Championship – a game that ends with the winner hoisting a trophy named for longtime Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.
So, yes, this one was special, a victory that was so much more than that. For only the second time in the last 12 tries, the Chiefs are winners in the postseason. For the first time since Joe Montana and Marcus Allen were repping the red and gold, Kansas City will play for the AFC title.
At home, no less.
“Couldn’t be more excited,” Clark Hunt, Lamar’s son and current CEO of the Chiefs, said after the 31-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a long time coming.”
If you’re a Chiefs fan, it’s understandable if you’ve felt bad karma befell your team along the way. Even Montana couldn’t bring this team a Super Bowl. Couldn’t even get the Chiefs there.
And when Kansas City does seem to finally have a breakthrough team, they run into the Colts. Always the Colts. All week long, the talk has been about that debacle in the 2013 wild-card game, when Kansas city blew a 28-point second-half lead as Andrew Luck staged a comeback for the ages.
“Rookies were 0-3 last week for first-time playoff appearances. But they didn’t have 50 (touchdowns) and 5,000 (yards) this year, and they didn’t do the things that Pat did,” offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz said.
“We were pretty confident in our ability offensively to do big things.”
Mahomes has been defying expectations all season, playing with a maturity beyond his years. This game was no different. With a storm dumping several inches of snow across Kansas City, the thinking was the teams would have to rely on their run games – not the Chiefs’ strength.
But Mahomes was 3-for-3 on the opening drive, including a gorgeous 34-yard strike to Sammy Watkins that put Kansas City at the Indianapolis 10. Damien Williams scored on the next play, and the tone had been set.
Mahomes threw at will all afternoon – short, baseball-like passes that defied physics but picked up big gains, deep strikes and cross-body throws that even video game designers couldn’t duplicate. He might not have thrown any touchdown passes, but it was his arm that carved up the Colts, befuddling their defense and sapping their spirit.
Mahomes finished 27 of 41 for 278 yards. He also ran for a 4-yard score late in the second half – a huge play given Mahomes had appeared to tweak his right knee two drives earlier.
“We all almost expect it every week now,” Hunt said. “I mentioned earlier in the year, that first couple of games, we thought, `Is this an outlier? Is this something that’s going to last?’ He literally has done it every week.
“Playoff football is obviously bigger and sometimes young players have a hard time with that,” Hunt added. “But he’s such a calming presence in the huddle and for the team, and I thought he was fantastic out there today.”
Chants of “M-V-P” echoed throughout Arrowhead as the game wore on and giddy fans realized their agony was about to end. When the final whistle sounded, fireworks exploded above the stadium, and it was as if the entire city exhaled.
“We wanted to light up the city. We didn’t want to take memory lane,” defensive end Chris Jones said. “(We want to) keep it going. I told the team, `Get used to this feeling.’”
The drought is over, the despair has lifted. After so many years, the Chiefs’ luck has finally turned.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.