The secret recipe for a dynastic Kansas City Chiefs team

In the aftermath of the Kansas City Chiefs cementing their legacy as a dynasty, it's worth looking back at the road they've traveled to NFL immortality.

Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Todd Rosenberg/GettyImages

It's been said that "adversity introduces a man to himself." Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have won their third Super Bowl in the past five years, there's been no shortage of crisis moments the team has had to navigate. In fact, Kansas City has been molded by the fires of duress. This all began five years ago before the franchise could taxi its way onto a championship runway. Fortunately, the new gold standard in the National Football League may have been precisely what this organization needed.

The flashpoint in this team's dynastic trajectory most will remember was a historic comeback in the 2020 Divisional Round matchup with the Houston Texans. I'd argue the arc began the season prior. That 2018 season ended in heartbreak for the Chiefs as they lost the AFC Championship Game to a Tom Brady-led Patriots team in overtime. Sure, that team went 12-4 in the regular season and eventually hosted the conference title game, but there were a few moments when the stage proved too big for a young Chiefs team.

Kansas City began its 2018 campaign by winning each of its first five games. They mowed through all but one of their opponents winning those games by an average of 9.2 points per game. The first setback of that season was a Sunday night game in Gillette Stadium versus the New England Patriots. At that time, the Patriots were coming off of two straight Super Bowl appearances in Super Bowls LI and LII. The Chiefs were supremely inexperienced and it showed in that Sunday night game. The game was tied at 40 points apiece with three minutes remaining in regulation. Kansas City would lose in the waning moments of the game on a 28-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

In the aftermath of the Chiefs cementing their legacy as a dynasty, it's worth looking back at the road they've traveled to NFL immortality.

Down the stretch, the Chiefs would lose three of their last six games — all of which were nationally televised affairs. Following the loss to New England, Kansas City rattled off four in a row to get their record to 9-1. They locked horns with the Los Angeles Rams in a Week 11 game that proved the ultimate slugfest between two juggernaut NFL offenses. They'd go on to lose that game late. In fact, their two other losses, to the Chargers and Seahawks in consecutive weeks, were also one-score games. Primetime was Hell on the Kansas City Chiefs that season.

All of this came to a head in a second gut-wrenching loss to the Patriots in the AFC Title Game. I'll spare you the recap, but we know that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Rex Burkhead. The Chiefs simply weren't ready to manage crises at this stage of ascension. The playoff lights were too bright for Kansas City and they did not have the benefit of prior exposure to high-stakes games. Those experiences, while unfortunate, would pay dividends the following season.

Let's go back to the 2020 Divisional Round tilt with the Texans I cited earlier in the article. A series of unfortunate events led to a 24-point deficit to begin that contest. To this day, the Chiefs have a share of the fifth-greatest postseason comeback in league history. Kansas City overcame a seemingly insurmountable degree of adversity because they were no strangers to it. 2018 had been the tough lesson that catalyzed a championship run. We've all seen the NFL Films footage and how poised players were on the sideline down four scores. Kansas City would go on to obliterate that lead and eventually win the game by 20 points.

Kansas City would repeat this script the next week in the AFC Championship Game with the Titans and two weeks later in Super Bowl LIV in their first matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. They trailed by double digits in each game en route to the first of three NFL championships. They have an unfathomable level of composure in the game's tensest moments. They're simply unflappable in situations where most teams would unravel.

In Super Bowl LVIII, their first nine offensive drives went as follows: punt, punt, fumble, punt, field goal, interception, punt, field goal, punt. It's true that the Chiefs only trailed by two scores for about four minutes of regulation, but they had been dominated in the trenches to that point in the game. For some, it looked like the beginning of the Super Bowl LV loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There simply were no answers offensively and the defense had surrendered three drives of 46 or more yards. The Chiefs cut the lead to just one score and went into the half trailing by just 7 points. The offensive woes continued on the far side of a long halftime show, but the team got points in each of their last four drives.

Kansas City has been shaped by adversity in such a way that it can remain poised when a game begins to slip from its grasp. Patrick Mahomes is 9-2 in postseason games when trailing by 7+ points. Every other quarterback in this scenario, dating back to 1950, has a sub-.500 record. This franchise has been here before and that experience is a form of currency in the NFL. With it, they've etched themselves into the history books and the scary part for the rest of the league is that they still may not be done yet.