Another week, another close win for the Kansas City Chiefs. On Sunday, the Chiefs turned in a postseason edition of what they’ve done all season—which is to eke out yet another victory against the best shot an opponent can give them. This time, it was good for a 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC’s Divisional Round.
The Chiefs won 14 games during the 2020 regular season—and even the last loss in Week 17 was due to resting starters against the L.A. Chargers in a meaningless game—but the last several victories came within six points or less as each opponent tried their best to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs. The last time the Chiefs beat anyone by a touchdown or more came back in Week 8 against the New York Jets.
Since that midseason trouncing of the Jets by a final score of 35-9, the Chiefs reeled off 7 straight wins by a total of 27 points—good for an average winning margin of just under 4 points per game. Against the Browns on Sunday, the Chiefs once again overcame a second half surge from the Browns and even withstood an injury to their best player, Patrick Mahomes, in order to advance to the AFC Championship.
According to Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne, those close games were important to building the sort of resilient character that best describes this Kansas City roster. He spoke to reporters after the game about the latest close victory.
"“I think a lot of close games. This team is definitely resilient. Down in some games in the fourth quarter and then we come back and win or the defense gets a big stop for us and we get the ball back and a chance to win as well. Definitely resilient and those tough games and the best shot that we got from every team is definitely going to help us push through.”"
Henne was a big reason for the Chiefs win on Sunday as the team’s lead—once at 19-3—began to slowly collapse without Mahomes under center. Late in the game, as the Chiefs tried to stave off the Browns’ momentum, Henne scrambled on a third-and-long and dove for the first down, a brave run which put his body at risk and the team in position for a potential first down. It was the sort of gritty, gutsy play that has characterized these Chiefs at key moments.
“Just going through my progressions, I kinda felt the pocket collapse after a certain amount of time,” said Mahomes to reporters about the play. “I looked over at the sideline and felt I had a lot of running room. Just trying to make the first down as much as possible. Put my head down. This team’s given me so much, so I put my body out there for them.”
Henne credited Andy Reid‘s decision to let him play in Week 17 as a reason why he felt confident heading out to replace Mahomes—even in a playoff game. After years of not starting a game, Henne could lean on very recent experience of preparation and production from just two weeks ago.
"“Definitely felt a lot more comfortable out there playing the last game of the season against the Chargers. Full week of preparation. Feeling the pocket, especially as a quarterback, is very important, especially if you haven’t been in there in a while.“It’s definitely a big adrenaline rush. Obviously you never want to see a guy like Patrick go down. Obviously one of the best players in the league, but that’s why I’m here to come in prepared. There’s a lot of great players around me. They made me feel confident and just went in there and tried to take what the defense gave me and make some plays while doing it.”"
It was closer than some might have expected, but the Chiefs have been overcoming these sorts of hurdles with just enough room week after week. Now they just have two more games to go.