Sunday marked the second consecutive year that the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the late Chiefs founder and given to the winner of the AFC, was in Arrowhead Stadium for the conference championship. Last year against the Patriots, it was supposed to come home with head coach Andy Reid, league MVP Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs. Up to that point in time, last year's title game was the biggest home game in team history. But the Chiefs came up just short as Mahomes could only watch as Patriots QB Tom Brady orchestrated an overtime drive to send New England to Super Bowl LIII.
This year's AFC Championship would prove to tell a different story.
For the first time since 1970, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl, ending the fourth-longest drought in league history. For two generations, Chiefs fans have watched in agony as one of the league's marquee franchises failed to play in the sport's biggest game. But in their 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans, Mahomes made sure that Sunday's outcome would be the opposite of what occurred one year earlier.
"To be here, to be in Chiefs kingdom, to be able to do it in Arrowhead, these people deserve it," Mahomes told CBS' Tracy Wolfson after the win.
An early 10-point deficit proved to be no barrier. And instead, with 7:33 to go in the fourth quarter, Mahomes raised both of his arms to the sky and faced the home crowd. Seconds earlier, he had completed a 60-yard TD pass to WR Sammy Watkins giving his team a 34–17 lead. A Super Bowl berth was in reach.
Last year's NFL MVP believes he's a better QB this season than last season. In his team's divisional round win over the Texans, the Texas Tech product became the first player in NFL history with 300-plus pass yards, five or more pass TD and 50 or more rush yards in a playoff game. He played to a similar level on Sunday, throwing for 294 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 56 yards including maybe the game's best play just before halftime when he scampered for 27-yard score.
He completed passes to six different receivers, including a pair of touchdown to Tyreek Hill. The speedy wideout hauled in five catches for 67 yards, scoring Kansas City's first two touchdowns.
Tennessee's offense kept pace for the much of the first half. In the game's first 30 minutes, QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 120 yards and one touchdown, while Derrick Henry rushed for 62 yards and one score. But in the game's second half, the Titans didn't score until the 4:18 mark of the fourth quarter, with the game's outcome largely decided.
Heading into Sunday's contest, Henry became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 180 yards in three consecutive regular season or postseason games. But he failed to muster the same level production on the ground, rushing for only seven second half yards. Tannehill had his best statistical postseason game, throwing for 209 yards and two scores, but the Titans' offense paled in comparison with the high-octane Chiefs attack.
Through 21 years of head-coaching experience, Reid is 207-128-1 in the regular season. But Reid had made only one career Super Bowl, a loss in Feb. 2005 when he was still with the Eagles.
Behind Mahomes, that fact has now changed. The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to Miami to play in Super Bowl LIV. They will face the winner of the Packers and 49ers in the NFC Championship.
The Lamar Hunt Trophy is finally staying home.
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Packers: 49ers Rock Packers, Roll To Super Bowl