By Harvey Hoffman
The Kansas City Chiefs will finally return to the Super Bowl, 50 years after beating the Minnesota Vikings for their only NFL championship.
This time, they will be coached by Andy Reid and quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes after their 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt hoisted the Lamar Hunt Trophy, given annually to the AFC champions. The trophy is named for his late father, who founded the Chiefs.
The Chiefs’ Super Bowl championship in 1970 came when they were members of the old AFL, which was in its final season. This is the Chiefs’ first AFC championship and thus the first time they’ve won the trophy bearing their founder’s name.
Mahomes was as usual the key figure for the Chiefs. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
His running was as big a factor. Mahomes led the Chiefs with 53 rushing yards on eight carries. He scored a 27-yard touchdown that gave the Chiefs their first lead at 21-17 late in the first half.
The Chiefs traded up to draft Mahomes in the first round in 2017. He became a starter last season and took the Chiefs to their first AFC Championship Game in 25 years last season.
“Playing at Texas Tech, I put up a lot of stats but we didn’t win a lot of football games,” Mahomes said. “I knew going into the NFL I was going to do whatever it took just to win games.”
Mahomes and the Chiefs put Reid in the second Super Bowl of his career. He coached the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl after the 2004 season. The Eagles lost to the New England Patriots.
The Chiefs made the playoffs in six of their seven seasons under Reid but were 1-4 in the first four postseason appearances.
“It takes an army,” Reid said, deflecting credit for the Chiefs’ success this postseason. “It’s not one guy at all.”
The Titans jumped to double-digit leads twice in the first half. But after taking a 17-7 advantage in the first half, they didn’t score again until just more than four minutes remained. The Chiefs held Titans running back Derrick Henry to 69 yards. He had 188 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in a Week 10 victory.
They opened a 35-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. At that point, the wait to collect the Lamar Hunt Trophy seemed to take forever.
“I feel the last quarter took about three hours,” general manager Brett Veach said. “It’s all worth it in the end to see Clark hold that trophy up with his father’s name on it.”