By Nick Catlin
For the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs, season capped off by their first AFC Championship appearance since 1994 and with record-setting performances on both offense and defense, felt everything but complete after their overtime loss to New England.
National attention surrounded second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and rightfully so. He’s only the second player in NFL history to have 5000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season. Unfortunately for Kansas City, NFL football is not a one man show.
The defense mightily struggled. The Chiefs were ranked second highest in total offensive yards allowed- at 405 per game. Defensive end Chris Jones tied an NFL for sacks in consecutive games with ten straight, tying Demarcus Ware and Simon Fletcher. It also ranked 24th in points against at 26 points per game.
Tight end Travis Kelce briefly held the single season receiving yards record for his position until 49ers tight end George Kittle exploded for 149 yards against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelce still proved himself as receiving weapon and consistent red zone force in one of the better years of his career.
In other individual achievements, KC had six players selected the Pro Bowl- including first-time nominations for offensive tackle Eric Fisher, linebacker Dee Ford, and Mahomes. Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill both return.
The Chiefs dominated their division, winning seven out of their eight games- the lone divisional loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in week 15. The Chiefs have now won the AFC West for the past three seasons.
The offense was the clear highlight of the team, averaging 35 points a game, but this couldn’t stop them from being the first team to lose an NFL game despite scoring 50 or more points in a 54-51 November loss at the Los Angeles Rams.
Despite a porous defense, the Chiefs held on to their tiebreaker over the Chargers to have the no. 1 overall seed in the AFC, with a 12-4 record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
After the wild-card round, the Indianapolis Colts traveled to Arrowhead as the hottest team in the league. The Colts had won 10 of their last 11 after beginning the season at 1-5.
The Chiefs controlled the game with a balanced rushing and passing attack headlined by former third-string running back Damien Williams, who got moved up to starter after Kareem Hunt’s domestic violence surveillance video surfaced leading to his subsequent release, and backup Spencer Ware’s hamstring injury.
Williams rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown while Mahomes threw for 278 yards, this propelled the offense to jump out to a 14-0 lead early in the game. But the defense stepped up in a major way.
The Chiefs had three sacks and continually stopped Indianapolis running back Marlon Mack early in the game to halt any sort of rhythm he could get into early. Linebacker Justin Houston had two sacks and Ford had the third. The defense looked as though they were hitting their stride at the best possible time, quarterback Andrew Luck had a quarterback rating of just 20.0 to finish the game.
The Patriots were the Chiefs next opponent, and the two foes couldn’t be more polar opposites. Quarterback Tom Brady and company have made the last seven AFC championship games prior to their matchup with Kansas City.
Mahomes struggled early, the Chiefs didn’t score in the first half, and in fact ironically saved by the defense as linebacker Anthony Hitchens picked off Brady on the goal line on a pass intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Chiefs were down 14-0 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Chiefs’ offense finally found their rhythm as they scored on their opening drive, and the defense continued to play well, only allowing a 47 yard field goal.
Williams one-yard rush cut the Patriots lead to three. The Chiefs eventually get the ball back off of a Daniel Sorensen interception and Williams scored another touchdown in two plays to gain their first lead of the game with 7:45 left in regulation.
The two teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the game, the Patriots take a 3 point-lead with 39 seconds, the Chiefs drove down the field and bailed out the defense after kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 39 yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
The Patriots elected to receive after calling heads and scored a touchdown on their opening possession, and after converting three straight third downs, ending the Chiefs season as New England advanced to its third straight super bowl appearance.
The lasting impression on the season is defensive coordinator Bob Sutton getting fired, leaving many fans in joy and curiosity as head coach Andy Reid has one of the most important decisions he’s had to make since coming to Kansas City. Former St. Louis Rams coach and New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo has emerged as a leading candidate, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org