Kansas City Chiefs: 50 years of pain redeemed

Photo via AP/Ed Zurga

65 Toss Power Trap.

Those are the four iconic words that highlighted the Kansas City Chiefs’ last Super Bowl victory, a 23-7 win in Super Bowl IV over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings. Coach Hank Stram was mic’d up and gave viewers legendary soundbites in their win. The Chiefs were in two of the first four Super Bowls but would not reach another one until this Sunday’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54 in Miami.

The journey to get back to the Super Bowl has been a long one and it began in Miami on Christmas Day of 1971. The Chiefs lost in double overtime in Miami 27-24.  Little did Chiefs’ fans know at the time that it would be the first of many painful playoff losses until they reached another Super Bowl.

For the next 18 years, the Chiefs would reach one postseason and then in the 1990’s, the Chiefs built a formidable team led by great pass rusher Derrick Thomas and coach Marty Schottenheimer. But with some quarterback instability, the Chiefs could never get over the hump. In 1990, the Chiefs blew a 16-3 lead in the 4th quarter and lost 17-16 at Miami. In 1993, they were led by Joe Montana and Marcus Allen, but lost in the AFC Championship in Buffalo 30-13. After another loss in Miami in 1994, the Chiefs looked to finally break through in 1995. They had the league’s best record at 13-3 and looked to finally reach the Super Bowl again. But in their Divisional Playoff Game against the Jim Harbaugh-led Indianapolis Colts, they lost 10-7 as kicker Lin Elliott missed three field goals. In 1997, they once again had a 13-3 record and the top seed in the AFC. They even beat the 13-3 49ers 44-9. But once again, they lost in the Divisional Playoff Round as they fell 14-10 to John Elway and the Denver Broncos, who would go on to win the Super Bowl that season.

For the next 14 years, the Chiefs would fade into mediocrity, reaching the playoffs only three times and not winning a single game. They hired successful Philadelphia Eagles’ former head coach Andy Reid to bring the Chiefs back to contention. The result: more years of pain. In 2013, the Chiefs led 38-10 at Indianapolis, but blew it. Andrew Luck pulled off an incredible comeback and led the Colts to a 45-44 victory. Three years later, the Chiefs achieved a first-round bye and their first divisional championship under Reid. But, once again, they fell in the Divisional Playoff Round as Pittsburgh Steelers’ kicker Chris Boswell kicked six field goals and Eric Fisher committed a holding penalty that called back a game-tying two-point conversion late in the 4th quarter. The Steelers won 18-16, adding another failure to the Chiefs’ stormy road back to the Super Bowl.

The last two seasons, however, were especially brutal. In 2017, they faced the mediocre Tennessee Titans and cruised to a 21-3 halftime lead. But with questionable second half play-calling and defensive ineptitude, they blew the lead and lost 22-21. However, what would happen the next season was perhaps the most painful loss of them all. The Chiefs were 12-4 and led by league MVP Patrick Mahomes. In Mahomes’ first year as the starter, he threw 50 touchdowns and led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game in which the Chiefs were hosting for the first time. The Chiefs were shut out in the first half and trailed 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter. But the Chiefs’ offense took off and held a 28-24 lead late in the 4th quarter. The Chiefs’ appeared to have sealed the game with an interception, but a Dee Ford offsides called back the play. The Patriots scored a touchdown three plays later and after a Chiefs’ field goal, the game went into overtime. In overtime, Tom Brady drove the ball right down the field and scored a touchdown to eliminate the Chiefs and headed to their third straight Super Bowl.

The 2019 season wasn’t looking hopeful for Chiefs’ fans. Mahomes suffered a knee injury that would force him to miss several games and they sat at 6-4 in November. The Chiefs would go on to win their last six games and after the Dolphins won at New England, Kansas City entered the playoffs with a first-round bye. After falling behind 24-0 to the Texans, the Chiefs’ offense started clicking on all cylinders and erased that deficit in 10 minutes. They would win 51-31 and after Tennessee stunned the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs once again got to host the AFC Championship Game. The Titans were a team Andy Reid was 1-4 against as Chiefs’ head coach and were the last team to be the Chiefs during the season. The Titans jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the second quarter and fans who had been with the Chiefs for many decades were getting nervous. But Mahomes had a sensational touchdown run before the half to give the Chiefs a 21-17 halftime lead. Unlike previous big games, the Chiefs held on to this lead and finally, after 50 years, reached another Super Bowl.

It was a painful road to get to Miami for the Super Bowl. The first playoff game the Chiefs played after Super Bowl IV was at Miami and they lost in double overtime. The Chiefs’ playoff record from 1970-2018 was 5-17. Also, they went 1-4 against the Colts and 0-3 against the Dolphins in the playoffs in that stretch. I have many family members that were kids when the Chiefs won their only Super Bowl and they are overjoyed to see the Chiefs finally reach the big game after all these years. It was a long and stormy road to get here, but Chiefs fans are relieved to finally see them get over the hump.

Regardless if the Chiefs lose to the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV or not, Chiefs’ fans should be excited they got here, and they should be hopeful they won’t have to wait another 50 years. Patrick Mahomes has already played at an elite level and he’s only 24-years-old. He looks to be the future of the NFL as the previous generation quarterbacks like Brady and Drew Brees begin to age and decline. The Chiefs got to the Super Bowl after five decades of failure, and the way the situation looks, Chiefs’ fans will not have to wait long in between Super Bowls for the foreseeable future.  

Leave a Reply