For the fourth time in five years, the Kansas City Chiefs are in the Super Bowl. Despite the Baltimore Ravens hosting Sunday’s AFC Championship as the conference’s No. 1 seed, with MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson under center, Patrick Mahomes and Co. prevailed yet again, claiming a 17-10 victory to reach the Super Bowl LVIII stage.
This is the same Chiefs team that endured a 3-5 stretch starting in late October and saw Mahomes produce the least efficient passing marks of his illustrious career. So how, exactly, did they surge all the way back to the Super Bowl? Here are 10 reasons:
1. Patrick Mahomes is undeniable in the playoffs
This isn’t just conjecture. It’s backed up by the numbers. K.C.’s offense is noticeably more efficient in the postseason versus the regular season, and Mahomes is the captain of that ship. The future Hall of Fame quarterback is now 14-3 as a playoff starter with 39 touchdown passes to just seven picks.
Like his QB, the Chiefs’ star tight end saves some of his best work for the brightest lights. Despite a “quiet” 980-yard receiving season, he hit a new gear in the playoffs, logging at least seven catches for 70 yards in each of K.C.’s postseason victories at age 34. He remains virtually uncoverable.
3. The defensive front is a force
It always comes back to the trenches, and the Chiefs have two of the NFL’s best pocket-wreckers in Chris Jones and George Karlaftis. The former had a quiet stat sheet against Baltimore but made his presence felt up the gut all year, combining for 24 sacks in the regular season and playoffs to date.
4. Andy Reid hasn’t abandoned the run
The Chiefs offense runs through Mahomes and Kelce, but hard-charging ball carrier Isiah Pacheco has kept them more balanced than usual. While he struggled to find big gains against Baltimore, his heavy workload takes a toll on opponents due to his unique brand of physicality.
5. The secondary is in peak form
If Chris Jones is the face of the Chiefs defense, the back end is the unit’s backbone, with cornerback L’Jarius Sneed leading the charge as a violent but disciplined perimeter man. Safety Justin Reid and fellow corner Trent McDuffie have also been stellar in crunch time.
6. Steve Spagnuolo is in peak form
Not only is the defensive coordinator’s personnel thriving, but he’s also dialing up all the right calls, especially to create pressure. The veteran coach has been well-regarded for years, but he’s in the midst of the most productive stretch of defensive finishes of his entire career.
7. They’ve cleaned up the fundamentals
Earlier this year, K.C.’s inability to field a reliable receiving corps was a league-wide joke, with starters botching critical plays due to miscues like drops and misalignments. In the latter half of the year and especially in the playoffs, the Chiefs have played smart, controlling the ball and clock.
8. Mahomes has a No. 1 WR again
While rookie Rashee Rice took a slight backseat to Kelce against the Ravens, the first-year pass catcher remained a top target of Mahomes with eight catches, solidifying his role as the club’s best downfield option. He’s now hauled in eight passes four different times since Thanksgiving Weekend.
9. Two of their three playoff opponents flopped
Nothing against the Chiefs, but it helped that both the Dolphins and Ravens, two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in 2023, had basically zero answers for K.C.’s defense in the postseason. Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson mustered just 17 combined points in their defeats to the Chiefs.
10. Remarkably, they are best when counted out
No one, deep down, was confidently betting against the Chiefs, but Mahomes is now 10-1-1 against the spread when entering as the oddsmakers’ underdog. He and Reid are this generation’s version of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Patriots — never, ever to be written off.
Super Bowl LVIII goes down Feb. 11 on CBS. The game will also be broadcast on Nickelodeon and streamed on Paramount+.