Once faced with a 24-0 deficit midway through the second quarter, common sense tells you there aren’t many teams in the NFL with the belief and firepower to make it all the way back.
To do that, a team would need the following: a Hall of Fame coach, a transcendent quarterback with a slew of playmakers around him and defense and special teams proficient enough to make amends for past mistakes.
Good thing for Kansas City the Chiefs are that kind of team.
“We’ve got the best coach in the league and the best quarterback in the league, so ain’t no need to panic,” Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill told The Athletic. “Guys were just saying, ‘Next play.’ But it got to a point where we were running out of next plays. Time was moving fast.”
After everything stopped swirling down the drain, after secondary and special teams mistakes ended, once their receivers stopped dropping the ball, the Chiefs realized they had a guy capable of bringing them back.
“These are things that we haven’t done,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s not us, right? It was just a matter of settling it down and calming the storm and making sure that our guys knocked whatever rust off and calmed down and made plays. We’ve been doing that all year, and it was important we got back to doing that.”
They turned to Patrick Mahomes, mystical and magical, and asked him to make the improbable probable.
“The biggest thing I was preaching to the team was, ‘Let’s go do something special, everybody is already counting us out, and let’s just go play by play and just put our best effort out there,’” Mahomes said. “Everything had to go the right way.
“Obviously, I knew as a team that everything kind of had to go the right way. “Being down 24-0 in the in the NFL, you don’t win a lot of those games.”
Well, they won this one. The Chiefs outscored the Texans 51-7 the remainder of the way to capture a historic win in their divisional round game. And now they will host the Titans on Sunday with a spot in the Super Bowl at stake.
“The beginning of the game was exactly how you write it up if you could possibly write it up in a script,” Houston’s J.J. Watt said. “You go up 24-0 on the road in a tough environment. Special teams making great plays. Then it all fell apart.”
Incredible to watch, the comeback was also momentous. No team had ever won a playoff game by 20 after trailing by 20.
Mahomes, the 2018 MVP, was the catalyst, throwing four touchdown passes in 10 minutes of a second quarter that must have felt like a tsunami to the Texans. Three were to tight end Travis Kelce, an NFL record for TD receptions in one quarter.
“I don’t think you could dream about people putting up 50 points,” Houston defensive lineman D.J. Reader told The Athletic, “but it happened.”
The Elias Sports Bureau laid out just how significant the win was.
The Chiefs were the first team in postseason history to score 41 consecutive points after falling behind by at least 20 and the first to score a TD on seven consecutive drives in a postseason game.
No team had ever led at the half after trailing by 24 and the Chiefs were the first in postseason history to score at least 50 after going scoreless in the first quarter.
“The goal is to score on every drive,” Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz told ESPN. “It just keeps coming and keeps coming. Putting the ball in Pat’s hands, usually good things happen.”
When it was over, once the Chiefs avenged a loss to the Texans in October, Mahomes was asked if he’d even ever scored seven touchdowns playing Madden.
“Uh, not a lot,” Mahomes said. “It was an amazing thing. Everything was working. The play calls were great and everybody was getting open vs. man coverage.”
Some of the Chiefs even thought the deficit was too much to overcome, despite Reid pacing back and forth encouraging his players to think positively.
“A couple of times, I thought, like, ‘Man, this is over,’” receiver Sammy Watkins said. “One guy that came up to me was Travis (Kelce). He said, ‘Hey man, don’t look like that, your body language.’ I was like, ‘OK, he knows something I don’t know.’ I just stayed positive after that.”
And then the Chiefs got the spark they needed – a 58-yard kickoff return by rookie Pro Bowler Mecole Hardman. Just two plays later, Mahomes first TD pass set the wheels in motion and the Texans were done.
Once silenced by Texans start, the Chiefs home crowd began to believe and the resulting volume seemed to bother Houston. By the end of the game, the Chiefs had run out of fireworks to set off after their touchdowns.
“It’s a difference-maker,” Mahomes said of the crowd. “Having those fans that are loud and are giving us that passion, that momentum, that whole thing, you feel that as a team. I wanted to make sure the fans were still in it, making sure they knew we weren’t going to give up.”