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If Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are going to challenge Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ unprecedented two-decade run of success, they have to win a Super Bowl this season.
Mahomes and the defending champion Chiefs are facing their toughest road yet to a Lombardi Trophy. They have to go to Baltimore and take down the No. 1 seed Ravens in front of a hostile crowd.
After hosting the last five AFC championship games, the Chiefs finished with the No. 3 seed so they didn’t get a bye or home-field advantage. They shut down Miami at home in the wild-card round and stunned Bills Mafia in Buffalo last week to advance.
Now, it’s on to Baltimore for Mahomes’ second career playoff game outside Arrowhead Stadium except for three Super Bowls.
Road teams are 35-71 in conference championship games. Brady’s teams own four of those wins. Brady was 4-3 with the Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in conference title games. Each of those four wins, including one over Mahomes and the Chiefs in 2019, led to a Super Bowl victory.
Mahomes proved against the Bills he can lead his team to a tough win as an underdog in a harsh environment. He has to do it again Sunday to really have a shot at making a run at Brady’s seven rings.
Mahomes and coach Andy Reid have won two Super Bowls together in their first six seasons. Brady and Bill Belichick won six in 20 years.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Mahomes said. “They did it for 20 years. All we can do is take it year in, year out, week in, week out and every single day. That’s the long goal, to win that many championships and bring those titles to this organization, but all we can do is focus on the Ravens this week and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Mahomes is only 28. Brady won his third Super Bowl at age 27 but didn’t get his fourth until 10 years later.
Sure, Mahomes should have plenty of opportunities left even he doesn’t play until he’s 45 like Brady did. But getting to this point isn’t easy. There are no guarantees. Mahomes already is lacking a true No. 1 wide receiver. It’s unknown how much longer he’ll have star tight end Travis Kelce, who is 34.
And, the AFC West just became much more competitive. The Los Angeles Chargers hired Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday, pairing a proven winner with a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. No doubt Harbaugh has his sight set on ending Kansas City’s eight-year run of dominance in the division.
That’s why the Chiefs have to take advantage of this opportunity. They’re two wins away from another parade. These are the hardest two wins of all but they’re within reach.
This wasn’t Mahomes’ best season. Statistically, he had a career-low passer rating. He didn’t get much help from his receivers, who led the NFL with 44 drops. But this is when the greats step it up.
“Pat is a perfectionist, and he’s competitive,” Reid said. “He’s as competitive as any of us right here and more so. He wants it right around him, but he’s willing to teach which — that’s the unique part — he’s willing to share what he sees with the guys from his sight and help the guys get into position. As long as the guys are willing to work, he’s all in. That’s what I saw, and the frustration is more off of feeling urgency and winning games. I mean that’s what he’s all about. I’m not sure there was a frustration other than, ‘Hey, let’s go. We’re playing at the highest level in the world, and if you’re going to be as good as we think we’re going to be, then our error margin is like this big (small gesture) so you’ve got to tighten it down.‘”
Kansas City has its best defensive unit during Mahomes’ career so he has help, even if it’s not the guys catching his passes. The Patriots relied more on their defense for their first three titles.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit, anchored by All-Pro tackle Chris Jones, was one of the best in the league, allowing the second-fewest points in the NFL. The Ravens were the stingiest.
When he was the with the New York Giants, Spagnuolo devised a scheme that shut down Brady, Randy Moss and the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl 16 years ago. He has to find a way to slow down All-Pro QB Lamar Jackson.
“It’s challenging, the way he’s able to just be a competitor and just score the football obviously,” Mahomes said about Jackson. “Then, their entire team, it’s a tall task. You have to go out there and play your best football, and if you make any mistakes, it seems like the game’s going to go the other way.”
The Ravens dominated top teams throughout the season, especially down the stretch. Mahomes can’t let that happen to the Chiefs.
They’re still working on their dynasty.
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