Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes finally gets chance to atone for AFC Championship loss

Patrick Mahomes began plotting the Chiefs’ return to this year’s AFC Championship game minutes after falling in last year’s.

The Patriots beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in that amazing game, 37-31 in overtime. Mahomes and his offense never got to take the field in the overtime period as Tom Brady marched down the field with three third-and-10 conversions to Julian Edelman (two) and Rob Gronkowski to set up the game-winning touchdown.

Shortly after Rex Burkhead crossed the goal line to end the Chiefs season, Mahomes stood behind a microphone.

“It hurts,” the quarterback said. “It hurts everybody. We knew we had opportunities in this game and throughout this season. We put in the work. We know that this can be a building block. It could be something that carries us in the future. Right now, it’s the end but hopefully it’s the beginning of a long time.”

Mahomes looks like a prophet now. The Chiefs are back in the AFC title game. It is again at Arrowhead in front of their beloved fans. The opponent this time is very different, though. Yes, Derrick Henry has run his way through the AFC playoffs for the Titans. But this is not Brady and Bill Belichick. This is Ryan Tannehill and Mike Vrabel, newcomers to the postseason in their current roles.

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are looking for redemption in the AFC title game after losing last year to the Patriots.Getty Images

Gronkowski is retired. Edelman is jumping on cars. Brady is pondering his future.

Mahomes is right back where he wanted to be thanks to his five-touchdown performance in the amazing 51-31 comeback win over the Texans on Sunday.

The Chiefs showed they are never out of a game. Down 24-0 early in the second quarter, they seized control and never let up. The scores came at such a rapid pace it was hard to keep track. There were three touchdowns on eight plays at one point in the second quarter. They scored on eight straight possessions — none of the drives longer than 3 minutes 55 seconds. By the time they ran their 51st play of the game, they also had 51 points.

“You just have to keep your foot on the gas pedal,” tight end Travis Kelce, who scored three touchdowns, said. “You can’t get too excited, you can’t get a sense of relief like, ‘Oh, we’re back in the game.’ You just have to keep going forward and know that you have a lot of unfinished business as long as that clock is ticking.”

Unfinished business has been a theme for the Chiefs since coming up just short last year against New England. They were one Dee Ford offsides penalty away from sealing that win in the fourth quarter. Instead, they opened the door and Brady barreled through.

Sometimes it takes a playoff loss to learn how to get the playoff wins. The 1985 Giants were beaten up by the Bears in the playoffs — a 21-0 loss. That set up the following season when Bill Parcells, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms would not be denied.

After last year’s loss, Chiefs coach Andy Reid pointed forward.

“This gives us a little bit of what we have to look forward to in the future, and that’s where we will go when we’re done aching here,” Reid said. “It’s a bright future. We have good players. We will get over the hump here, the big hump. That’s this game right here.”

They will take on the hump again Sunday. The Chiefs have won seven games in a row and have an improved defense from last season or even early this season. That last loss came on Nov. 10 to the Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

The rematch is now on the Chiefs’ home turf. Mahomes and his teammates have been waiting a year to get back to this point. They plan on taking care of unfinished business this time.

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