NFL expert A. C. Boyle covers exactly how Kansas City pulled off their glorious and unexpected comeback.
Being a Chiefs fan is not easy, I’ll tell you that right off the bat. But that’s slowly starting to change, and I’m loving every minute of it.
The Kansas City Chiefs finished the 2019 NFL Season with a 12-4 record, same as the year before. They are now heading to their second straight AFC Championship game at home, and they are 7.5-point favorites to win that game, which is on Sunday, Jan. 19, against the Tennessee Titans. During that game, Kansas City will be seeking their first Super Bowl appearance since 1970, and their head coach Andy Reid will be looking for his first Lombardi Trophy.
But before Chiefs Kingdom could move one step closer to the highest of highs, they first had to descend to the lowest of lows.
Last Sunday saw Kansas City in the Divisional Playoff round against an upstart Houston Texans team, led by quarterback De- shaun Watson and Head Coach Bill O’Brien. Maybe Kansas City didn’t think of Houston as a pedigree team, but I certainly wasn’t about to underestimate them, not when they won the regular season matchup against the Chiefs.
But enough of the extra details, let’s talk about this Chiefs-Texans game, because it was so goddamn hyped up that people are talking about it nationally (which always feels good to any fan of a small- market midwestern sports team). Kansas City started out this game about as bad as any team can start an NFL game. They missed tackles, let receivers get wide open, and even allowed a punt of theirs to be blocked. Again. (Seriously, how do you let this happen twice in one season?)
By the start of the second quarter, the Texans were up 24-0, and the onlookers at Arrowhead Stadium were fearing a rout, another playoff humiliation to add to the cabinet.
And then, everything changed. Everything.
By the end of the second quarter, the Chiefs were winning the game, and by the end of the third quarter, it was a blowout the other way.
The final score was a beautiful 51-31, a number Chiefs fans will be remembering for a long time (Texans fans, not so much). Along the way, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for five touchdowns and orchestrated the consecutive drives that led to 41 unanswered points, and tight end Travis Kelce had 10 receptions and three touchdown catches. It was an unexpected obliteration of everything Houston, a plot twist to rival an absurd anime directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
And it was, I’m sure, a huge relief to all those Chiefs fans who bought tickets to the game.
I don’t think anybody gave up and left early, either, though I wouldn’t chalk this up to optimism, but the fact that nobody in their right mind would spend hundreds of dollars on playoff tickets and then leave before the end of the first half.
So how in the world did the Chiefs fight their way back into this game?
Well, I can identify three points where the momentum shifted in KC’s favor. The first came when the Texans, up 21 in the second Quarter, elected to kick a field goal on 4th and Inches in KC’s territory, even though the statistical odds of converting 4th and short are around 63 percent.
Many pundits have already criticized this decision, but it is understandable, as you aren’t exactly in a “go for it” mentality when you’re winning. That being said, the decision to play it safe might have woken the Chiefs out of their football coma, for the second huge moment came when the Chiefs got the ball back next.
On the subsequent kickoff, Mecole Hardman of the Chiefs returned the kick to the Houston 42-yard line. While the play wasn’t anything spectacular, it got the crowd amped up and back into the game, and was the spark of morale that lit the blaze.
A minute later, it was 24-7. The third, and most important, moment of the game came on the Texans’ next drive.
On 4th and four in their own territory, Houston went for a fake punt run play that failed to pick up the four yards necessary for the first down, with KC’s Daniel Sorensen making the crucial tackle.
This baffling playcalling blunder demoralized Coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans, who looked flat and dead after that. A minute later, it was 24-14.
Two minutes later, it was 24-21. By the third quarter it was 41-24 in favor of the Chiefs, who kept Houston out of the game by not letting up on the gas. The rest was merely a formality.
This was the largest comeback in Kansas City Chiefs team his- tory, and the fourth-largest playoff comeback in NFL history.
What made this comeback so impressive, though, was the 51 total points scored by the Chiefs, and the fact that the entire come- back was made in only 10 short minutes.
Make no mistake, even if the Chiefs don’t get to the Super Bowl this year, it will not diminish in any way the achievement of this win, just as Buffalo’s historic 32-point playoff comeback against Houston in 1993 (poor Houston!) was not diminished by their eventual Super Bowl loss that year.
But it goes without saying that this better be the year for Chiefs Kingdom.
And the optimist in me really does think it is, because after a win like this, the locker room always believes in the magic.
By the time this article is out, the Chiefs will either be heading to their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years, or I will be writing the angriest sports rant in human history. See you then!