It seems like a joke. Somewhat of a cruel joke, maybe a practical joke, but definitely a fitting joke. Before an MVP franchise quarterback came along, the idea that the world might shut down if the Chiefs won a Super Bowl might have been a popular meme. But then came Patrick Mahomes, then came a wild 2019 playoffs, and an up-and-down 2019 season that bled into the absolute party that was the 2020 playoffs. And then, just in time for our victory lap, the whole world fell apart around us, and just four months later, I think it’s a good time to take a look back and remember when 2020 was not the worst year ever.
At about three o’clock in the afternoon on January 12th, I may have had a different take on the new year. By early in the second quarter of the Chiefs’ playoff opener, the Houston Texans had stormed out to a 24-0 lead in the AFC Divisional Round. After coming a quarter of a helmet from the Super Bowl the previous year, it looked like all the promise of the season was about to get flushed down the toilet, but in actuality, the party was just getting started.
A Mecole Hardman kick return would light a fire under the team, and behind Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce and with the help of a stuffed fake punt by the Texans, the AFC West champs would come screaming back to snare a 28-24 lead before the half was over. By the time it was all said and done, afer trailing 24-0, the Chiefs won the rest of the game by a score of 51-7, putting the rest of the league on notice and giving an almost humorous precursor to what the remainder of their playoff run would look like. Mahomes spun 5 touchdowns and led the team in rushing, while Kelce hauled in 3 scores and Damien Williams added 2 on the ground and one through the air as Kansas City started screeching like a tea kettle.
After a resurgent season on the back of an upstart journeyman quarterback and an otherworldly performance from running back Travis Henry, the Tennessee Titans did a lot of the heavy lifting for KC in the playoffs, squashing the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the previous round. The Titans looked to stay hot as they continued their quest for a Super Bowl appearance in Kansas City the following week. Tennessee could not get off to a Texan-style lead in the early-going, and that’s probably what it would have taken, as the Chiefs scoffed at both 10-0 and 17-7 deficits before unleashing 28-straight points to salt the game away.
Again, Mahomes punctuate a masterful passing game with big production on the ground, leading the team in rushing for the second straight game with the exact same 53-yard total, notably a 27-yard sideline slither and crash into the end zone that gave KC its first lead of the contest. This time it was Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill dominating the opposing secondary, combining for 3 touchdowns as the Chiefs flexed their muscles with a 35-24 win against the hottest team in football, while the city nearly melted around them.
If things looked bleak in early playoff games, Chiefs fans spent a good portion of the Super Bowl in near despondence, as what looked to be a close game seemed to slip away late. Kansas City actually held a lead in the early going and had the game knotted up at 10 heading into half, but the San Francisco 49ers climbed up by 10 in the third quarter, and with Mahomes tossing a pair of second half interceptions, it looked like things were heading in all the wrong directions as the Niners took a group photo in the end zone after a late score. But as agonizing as the game was getting, there were still a few tricks up Kansas City’s sleeve, as long passes to Hiil and Watkins that will go down in Chiefs lore dragged the team near enough for a short Kelce touchdown to get things rolling again. And once the Chiefs offense was heading downhill, all the 49ers could do was get out of the way, as 21-straight unanswered points in the fourth quarter wrapped up the Super Bowl title and kicked off a massive party in Kansas City and the surrounding areas with a euphoria that felt like it would go on for months.
But of course it would not. Little did we know we were just a month and a half away from our world grinding to a halt and hardships like we have not seen before in our time would settle in. Along the way, many of us have rediscovered down time and spent extra time with loved ones, while we have also battled against uncertain futures for our economy and our families’ finances. We have faced so many new challenges and found so many uncommon solutions, 2020 has seemed like a year and a half before the halfway mark has come. Many will remember 2020 as the worst year of their lives, but as someone who has waited my lifetime’s share of the fifty years between Super Bowl titles in Kansas City, I’ll also always remember the four weeks that 2020 looked like it would be the greatest year ever.