LAS VEGAS (AP) — This was supposed to be the year the Kansas City Chiefs were vulnerable. Their wide receivers were dropping passes, their offense was committing penalties, Travis Kelce was supposed to be getting old and there was no way Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes were going to overcome all of that.
Yet they did it and dispelled any doubt that the Chiefs are the NFL’s new dynasty.
With their overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday night, the Chiefs won their third Lombardi Trophy in four trips over a five-year span. And they became the first team since Tom Brady’s New England Patriots two decades ago – football’s last great dynasty – to successfully defend their title.
Even Mahomes, when asked if the Chiefs had become a dynasty, replied: “It’s the start of a dynasty.” »
“It’s a little surreal,” Reid said. “I don’t know what a dynasty is. You have the thesaurus, so you can understand it. It’s a great win because I know how hard it is to do and how tough the season has been, the ups and downs of the season, and how proud I am of the guys that remain the with each other and remain positive towards each other.
Never before has an underdog in back-to-back Super Bowls won both, and perhaps that best illustrates two important facts: The Chiefs were eminently beatable this season, and no one was capable of beating them when it counted.
Start with the roster, which had to be creatively built by general manager Brett Veach around a roughly $37 million salary cap hit occupied by Mahomes, the largest cap hit in the NFL this season. Yet the architect of each of their last three title runs has managed to find bargains such as Jerick McKinnon and Drue Tranquill who have contributed well beyond their monetary value.
Look at their wide receivers, juniors and journeymen who have dropped more passes than any team in the league this season. Yet they galvanized around an under-the-radar rookie, Rashee Rice, who not only became their No. 1 option, but a bona fide star.
But it goes beyond the personal. Consider the path Kansas City has had to travel this season.
At one point, the Chiefs played six straight games in which the other team had extra days off, the only time that has happened in NFL history. They had to play in Germany, beating the Dolphins in Frankfurt in a preview of a future wild-card game, and at one point lost five of eight midway through the season to fall to third place in the playoffs .
After beating the Dolphins in the fourth coldest game in NFL history, the Chiefs hit the road in the playoffs for the first time in six years with Mahomes as the starter. But as underdogs in Buffalo and Baltimore, the Chiefs embraced their new status as hunters rather than the hunted, and they responded by playing their best football of the season.
In terms of opposing strength, the Chiefs managed to navigate the most difficult path in history to the Super Bowl.
Then came a worthy finale in Las Vegas.
The Chiefs started by making the same stupid mistakes that got them down too many times during the regular season, and they fell behind San Francisco by double digits, just like they did in each of their four Super Bowls with Mahomes under center. But just as they did in beating the 49ers four years ago and the Eagles last year, the best team of its era rallied around what is fast becoming the greatest quarterback of all era to organize an unforgettable return.
Mahomes led the Chiefs to a field goal to tie Game 16 with about 5 1/2 minutes left. He drove them to another basket with 3 seconds left to force overtime. And he answered a San Francisco field goal to start the extra session with a gutsy drive that Mahomes capped with his game-winning touchdown to the much-maligned Mecole Hardman.
“Like always,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said afterward of Mahomes. “He is incredible.”
As always for the Chiefs: incredible.
“They are all tough. I’m not going to say one is tougher than the other,” Mahomes said of the championship. “You have to do your best, and I think for me, personally, it was just about fighting through adversity throughout the season, whenever the offense wasn’t playing the way I wanted it to, and just believe in it and fight for it. But all these games are difficult. You need your best football.
Reid and Kelce allayed some concerns among Chiefs fans about retiring after the Super Bowl, saying Sunday night that they both plan to be back next season. Mahomes and most of his key players will also be back, although tough decisions loom regarding pending free agents.
All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed will demand massive contracts, and the Chiefs also have to be mindful of next year, when several other important players hit free agency.
The Chiefs will celebrate their latest Super Bowl triumph with a parade through downtown Kansas City on Wednesday, and after a brief exhale, Veach will join Reid and the rest of their brain trust in getting back to work. The cycle will start again.
Because sustained success – the kind the Chiefs have achieved year after year – is what turns great teams into a dynasty.
“I mean, I’m going to party tonight. I’m going to celebrate at the parade,” Mahomes said after winning his third Super Bowl MVP award, “and then I’m going to do everything I can to be back in this game next year and try to get that three-peat. .
“I think Tom said it best: Once you win that championship and you have those parades and you get those rings, you’re not the champion anymore,” Mahomes added. “You have to come back with that same mentality and learn from guys like him who have been the best ever, at the highest level, and so that’s my mindset. I’m going to celebrate with my guys because of the way we did that, but then we’re going to come back to this game next year.
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