While only one of the two games yielded the heart-stopping tension that fans hope for on Championship Sunday, it’s safe to say neither game will be forgotten anytime soon.
The more things change the more they stay the same
This season was different for the Chiefs in a multitude of ways. It was the first year that KC had to pay Patrick Mahomes a real Patrick Mahomes-level salary. For the first time in his career, Mahomes did not have Tyreek Hill by his side. For the first time in a while the Chiefs did not enter the season as defending AFC champs nor were they an overwhelming favorite to win the AFC West.
So many things were different.
But a few critical pieces of the puzzle remained. Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, Steve Spagnuolo. Those five men were able to keep the identity of the offense and defense intact while the rest of the team looked different. And on Sunday against the Bengals it was those five that ultimately made the difference.
Either team could have easily won this game. I thought the Chiefs and the Bengals executed at an extremely high level on both sides of the ball. The defenses really came to play while Mahomes and Joe Burrow showed up and performed how you would expect them to in a game as big as this one. In the end it was Chris Jones and the KC defense that was able to get the ball back in the hands of Mahomes as regulation was set to expire. In a game where the last QB to touch the ball had a great shot to win, it was Mahomes that touched the ball last and walked away with another AFC title.
The Chiefs were always going to get into field goal range on that final drive, it was just a question of how they would get there. With the season on the line Mahomes took off on his bum ankle and scampered to the sideline where he was shoved out of bounds, drawing a 15-yard penalty in the process.
That was all that Harrison Butker needed to send KC to Glendale.
A lot changed in Kansas City, but a lot more stayed the same. The Chiefs won the AFC West, secured the top seed, and hosted the AFC title game at Arrowhead for the fifth year in a row. For the third time in the Mahomes-era, the Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl.
The Birds are flying West this Winter
Six years ago the Eagles got to and won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles at QB and Doug Pederson at head coach. And now, in the year 2023, the Eagles are headed back to the big game and are doing so with a completely different quarterback/head coach combination.
That should not go overlooked.
Think about how many franchises cycle through head coach after head coach trying to find someone capable of a postseason run. It takes some NFL teams years, often DECADES to find a QB of Super Bowl caliber. The Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman made it look too easy. It’s not this simple. Normal General Managers are not able to sign Haason Reddick for 15 million a year, or pull off the A.J. Brown deal, or completely nail the picks of DeVonta Smith and Jordan Davis. Franchise quarterbacks are not typically drafted in the second round like Jalen Hurts was. Few front offices are able to identify and secure a head coach that is immediately able to breed a perfect culture in the locker room and embrace the fan base like Nick Sirianni has done. There are many other moves that I did not include for the sake of time. The point is that Roseman constructed a roster of absolute dudes and got the right people in place to lead them. His work should not be taken for granted.
It was unfortunate to see both Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson get hurt on Sunday. The Niners never really had a chance and that’s a shame given how dominant that team was the past three months. While it would have been great to see the two best rosters in the league battle it out at full-strength, the Eagles being in the Super Bowl feels right.
Who is ready for two weeks of Super Bowl talk? Did you know Andy Reid used to coach the Eagles? Get this, Travis Kelce has a brother named Jason… and he plays for Philly! What will the extra rest do for Mahomes and his ankle? Nobody really knows but everyone will speculate! Interested in a prop bet for the big game? Here are 1,749 options!
Don’t fight it, cherish it. We only have one game left.