Column: Chiefs come back to Earth in tough Super Bowl defeat
It is an unusual feeling.
The Kansas City Chiefs were just one game away from defending a Super Bowl title Sunday night- a task the history of the NFL shows is extremely difficult to do. Only seven franchises in the NFL have accomplished the feat and the New England Patriots were the last ones to do it in 2005, but the Chiefs were back in the big game and seemed poised to keep the Vince Lombardi trophy in Kansas City.
Just one problem- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers- who showed that the defending Super Bowl champions were not invincible. Prior to Sunday night’s game, so much had gone right for the Chiefs that it was an unusual sight and unusual feeling for Chiefs fans to see them truly struggle in a 31-9 defeat.
In the middle of a pandemic Kansas City cruised through most of its schedule to a 14-2 record in the regular season, looking almost unchallenged in most of those games, even with some close outcomes. Despite a rough start to the playoffs against the Cleveland Browns, a game where Patrick Mahomes was lost due to injury, backup quarterback Chad Henne rallied the team with some heroic efforts to preserve the lead and clinch a berth to a third straight AFC Championship game. Trailing 9-0 to the Buffalo Bills in the conference title game, the Chiefs still looked relatively comfortable in a game that was never really close in the end.
So, as Sunday night’s game wore on and the penalties and the deficit on the scoreboard grew, it still seemed there would be a turning point and the Chiefs would find a way to rally because they had done so time and time again. However, that moment never came.
The Bucs piled on touchdowns- three of them alone in the first half- and the Chiefs responded with field goals. With a makeshift offensive line, comprised mostly of backups, it was a bridge too far for even Mahomes to overcome as he spent most of Sunday night trying to avoid the rush. He still nearly made some spectacular plays, namely one where he was horizontal to the ground- almost looking like Neo from the “Matrix”- and still chucked the ball 30 yards to the end zone where one of his receivers dropped the ball.
Meanwhile, 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady looked fairly comfortable in the pocket all night long as the Chiefs defense failed to deliver a pass rush and the penalties were devastating. The Chiefs had 95 penalty yards in the first half alone, the most penalty yards in the first half of any game this season, and it helped the Bucs score touchdowns on four of their first five drives. Give Brady that many breaks and he will crush the opposition. He did not fail to do so Sunday night on his way to a seventh Super Bowl title and he now has more of them as a player than any franchise alone.
A Chiefs team that almost seemed unstoppable at times, the same team who overcame a 24-point gap against the Houston Texans in last year’s Super Bowl run and the same team that had won 25 of their past 26 games when Mahomes started at quarterback, showed they were still indeed human.
The pill may be a tough one for Chiefs fans to swallow for the time being, especially in a game the Chiefs were actually favored to win. But keeping things in perspective, there are 30 other teams who would have enjoyed playing in this game, let alone the opportunity to play in it two years in a row. The Chiefs were once one of those teams, suffering through a 50-year title drought and Super Bowl appearance until last year’s championship run.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but with Mahomes at the helm and the core of players the Chiefs have, there may be more Super Bowl appearances and potentially more titles ahead. Whatever happens the journey should be a fun one to see unfold because there is a good team in Kansas City- it just may not win a championship every single year.
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-346-2132