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How the AFC was won: The Chiefs journey back to the Super Bowl

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“Run it Back”– That has been the relentless motto of the Kansas City Chiefs following on from their Superbowl 54 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Every Chiefs player, coach, assistant, intern, and cleaner in the building at Arrowhead has bought into the ideology of getting back to the dance. And now stands four quarters of football between themselves and the Lombardi Trophy for the second straight season.

The Chiefs are aiming to become the first back-to-back winners of the Super Bowl since The New England Patriots and their run of dominance in the early 2000’s. With an almost perfect record, Kansas finished the season with only two losses, a 14-2 record, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. One of the losses came in week 17 when the majority of starters were being rested.

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KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 24: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after defeating the Buffalo Bills 38-24 in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 24, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

So, as mentioned, come Sunday they will be playing in their second consecutive Super Bowl. But how have they got here? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit the story of how the AFC was won.

Flashback to around this time last year, the sporting world was mourning the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and the wider world was just beginning to hear rumbles of a new respiratory virus spreading throughout Asia and Europe. Skip ahead a month or two and the NFL season was in real jeopardy.

Questions circled around the possibility of a shortened season or an amended scheduled to reduce travel and integration among players. The face of ‘normal’ had changed and the NFL was facing some very serious issues. We had already seen the NBA postponed and return in a bubble and what, in hindsight, may have benefited the NFL was the time it had ahead of itself to prepare and put the appropriate measures in place.

Patrick Mahomes

With daily testing, strict track and trace, and even tougher on-site rules, the NFL was back. No pre-season, limited training camp, and a thousand prayers later and it was kickoff week; the best week of the year.

The Chiefs picked up where they left off last season and began the season with a win on opening night over the Houston Texans in front of 17 or so thousand fans in Arrowhead. Displays from Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and the new kid on the block Clyde Edwards-Helaire saw the Chiefs win in convincing fashion by a scoreline of 34-20.

Week two posed an unexpected challenge when a rookie by the name of Justin Herbert was thrust into the spotlight on close to five minutes’ notice. An injury to Chargers starter Tyrod Taylor meant Herbert would make his NFL debut against the reigning champs. Herbert put in a stellar performance and dragged the Chiefs to overtime where the champs would eventually win.

An early-season fright was soon put to bed when the Chiefs romped past the Ravens on Monday Night Football. An explosion of Mahomes and Reid genius had the Chiefs looking like them true selves from a season prior.

The Chiefs only loss of the season (in a meaningful game) would come in week five against their divisional rival Raiders who shocked everyone across the League by beating Kansas 40-32. The scoreline flatters the Chiefs; this was a true beat down and an embarrassing loss in their home building.

The loss also served as a wake-up call. Kansas wouldn’t lose another game until week 17 of the season when their starters were being rested and they had already secured home-field advantage. As dominant as ever, Kansas were once again the team to beat in the AFC and the road to the Super Bowl would run through Arrowhead.

Avoiding disaster in the divisional round, the Chiefs saw off a resilient Browns side without Mahomes for the last portion of the game due to injury. Chad Henne the backup QB stepped in and stepped up to ice the game for the Chiefs. A dominant win over the Bills in the Championship round meant the Lamar Hunt trophy was once again held aloft in the once owners own stadium.

The focus now shifts to this Sunday. The whispers of a dynasty beginning in Kansas will grow to shouts with a win over Tampa Bay and the expectations for this team for the next decade will be astronomical. A well-deserved spot in the big game for the Chiefs and one that they are sure not to waste – it’s time to: “Run it Back”.

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Michael Lavery writes on behalf of the Irish NFL Show who are in partnership with Pundit Arena. Tune into their Sunday, Monday and Thursday shows every week on Facebook. 

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