No, Kansas City’s 30-24 overtime win over the Houston Texans wasn’t the cleanest of performances. Even head coach Andy Reid called it “a weird game.” Yet the contest ended in a familiar fashion with the Chiefs celebrating their seventh straight AFC West championship.
That meant that despite the less-than-pristine performance, it was time to celebrate for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“We still won the AFC West, and you have to enjoy that,” Mahomes said. “I told the guys to do that. Enjoy it for the plane ride home tonight. We’ve got a short week this next week, so enjoy it and we’ll get right back to it.”
Seven titles in a row don’t happen often. The Chiefs are just the third franchise to join that group tying the Los Angeles Rams (1973-1979) and trailing only the 11 division titles won by the New England Patriots (2009-2019).
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt celebrated with his players in the locker room after the win. His club now owns 15 division titles over the course of 63 seasons, giving him perspective on the accomplishment his franchise just achieved.
“I think one of the most difficult things in the National Football League is consistent success,” Hunt said. “The rules are designed to make that difficult, whether it’s the draft or the salary cap, so it’s a really testament to the job that general manager Brett Veach and coach Reid have done over the last several years.”
Reid now owns 13 division titles as a head coach, seven with the Chiefs and six from his stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. The title also clinches for Reid his 18th career playoff appearance as a head coach, tying him with Tom Landy for third place all-time among NFL coaches. Don Shula and Bill Belichick are currently tied with 19 postseason appearances.
The credit for the winning atmosphere in Kansas City, Reid said, belongs to his boss in the owner’s suite.
“It starts with Clark, and we call kind of work down from there,” Reid said. “He gives us an opportunity to win, which that’s not the case everywhere.”
For Hunt, this division title stands out from the other seven in the way Reid and Veach built this roster. Among the active 53 players currently taking the field, 11 are rookies and another 11 players are in their first season in Kansas City after arriving through free agency or trade.
“It’s difficult when you have as many rookies as we do to get them to play at a high level on a week-to-week basis, and I think coach Reid and his staff have done a tremendous job there,” Hunt said.
Reid said newcomers to Kansas City immediately get the message that expectations are different than for other organizations for whom they have played in the past.
“You set a certain level, and all these new guys come in, they go, ‘Hey, man, we got to win this thing,'” Reid said. “There’s additional pressure on that. But just to get through it, you can see that was a positive thing. Then you can sail from there, so you got that done and now you just go do your thing, go play.”
Running back Jerick McKinnon was in that position a year ago when he arrived in Kansas City for his first season with the Chiefs. He was with the Minnesota Vikings for two NFC North division titles, and was also with San Francisco for their 2019 NFC West win and Super Bowl playoff run but spent that season on injured reserve. He says it’s a blessing to be in this position at this stage of his career.
“I was just talking to the people outside and said, ‘Some guys go their whole career and never win a division, never make the playoffs,” McKinnon said. “When you have the opportunity to be in this moment, you’ve got to enjoy it. You’ve got to cherish it because everybody doesn’t get the opportunity. It’s just a blessing to be here, play on this team, this coaching staff and be in this position.”
When Kansas City won the AFC West in 2016, it felt much more of a pinnacle than it does for the current crop of Chiefs. Mahomes on Sunday reiterated a message he delivers every season when the team comes together for a new campaign. The mission is to win the AFC West, claim home-field advantage, secure the AFC Championship and bring a Super Bowl title to Kansas City.
“We accomplished our first goal,” Mahomes said. “Our next goal is to try to establish home-field advantage. It’s not in our hands. We can do our best to be ready in case we get that opportunity, and then win the Super Bowl.”
The team’s chairman doesn’t want to see his team takes its eyes off the prize because one step has been taken.
“The most important football is in front of us,” Hunt said. We’ve got some important regular-season games over the next three weeks, and then the opportunity in the playoffs to hopefully get back to the Super Bowl.”
Mahomes believe this team has more to accomplish.
“We just kind of continue to get better and better,” Mahomes said. “Obviously we have a lot to learn from this game. But we have to continue to get better as a team so when we get to the playoffs, we’re ready to go to try to make a run.”