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Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes continue AFC dominance despite challenges

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Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes continue AFC dominance despite challenges

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offense stand in the way of everyone and everything daring to dream of Super Bowl glory. It has been that way for the past five years, and it is that way still. Forget the careless talk of a “down” year after six regular-season losses. Those numbers don’t matter.

Sure, out of the four teams remaining with ring ceremony aspirations, Kansas City has the most interceptions, the fewest passing yards by attempt, the fewest total touchdowns, the second-fewest passing touchdowns, and the second-fewest passing yards.

Are those figures supposed to ease the tortured sensibilities of Buffalo Bills fans, who can wallow in “wide right” agony forever if they wish, but know deep down that they lost again because Mahomes and company found a way to be marginally better than Josh Allen and his crew, like they always do this time of year?

Mahomes is the most destructive force in modern football, inflicting postseason pain wherever he goes. Bills supporters ultimately didn’t know whether to cry because of Mahomes or to throw snowballs in his direction at Highmark Stadium. They wound up doing both.

Yet while it is those from Western New York who have suffered most frequently and most gallingly at his hands, theirs is not a lonely fate. The Chiefs’ prolonged stretch — six consecutive AFC Championship game appearances and counting — has many victims, cutting off all kinds of aspirations; big or small, foolishly confident or with nervous fingers crossed.

Winning 13 out of 16 playoff games required the cold-blooded ability to perform when it matters the most. All those opportunities taken by the Chiefs mean an equal number of chances snuffed out for someone else.

All those moments when, for the other team and the other QB, it was supposed to be destiny, the chance of a lifetime. Finally their time, perhaps. Until it wasn’t.

Mahomes understands the pain, but he’s happy it belongs elsewhere.

“It is tough; you put in so much effort and work every single game to play in these playoff games,” Mahomes told reporters on Sunday. “(Josh) played his tail off, we were just able to come out with the win in the end.”

Don’t just ask Allen how this feels. Ask Jalen Hurts, who played a beauty of a Super Bowl, but couldn’t get the Philadelphia Eagles over the line. Ask an extraordinarily well-rounded San Francisco 49ers team that led until late in Super Bowl LIV before being suddenly overwhelmed by big play after big play.

The Chiefs ruined both Tua Tagovailoa’s first playoff game just over a week ago and Andrew Luck’s last NFL game five years back. What could have been transcendent breakthroughs for Trevor Lawrence, Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson faded into fiction.

Next in Mahomes’ sights: Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, who will have the twin benefits of real momentum and home field, and the whopping disadvantage of, you know, having a Mahomes-sized obstacle in their path.

FOX NFL analyst and Super Bowl XVIII champion Howie Long got some insight into the Mahomes mindset when his son Kyle, an offensive guard, spent time with the Chiefs in 2021.

“Kyle was blown away by Patrick and felt like Patrick was the closest thing in the NFL to Michael Jordan, in terms of his competitive nature and physical and his ‘die to try to win’ approach,” Long said on “First Things First” last week.

Basketball is a different sport and different factors at play, but one thing that’s similar to Jordan is the effect that the Chiefs’ gluttony has had on the careers of others. Just as the Chicago Bulls shut out the light for other Eastern Conference teams for what seemed like forever, Mahomes and the Chiefs are doing the same thing in the AFC.

People have previously talked about Justin Herbert as the kind of QB that you’d figure would one day win a Super Bowl. The way things are going, he might not win the division he shares with Mahomes

Lawrence gets the same sort of props, and if C.J. Stroud keeps up his first-year excellence, he’ll join that chatter as well. But it’s just not that simple.

Clinching a Super Bowl is monumentally hard in any era, but in this one, with Mahomes Mountain sitting real and present, it feels like a forlorn hope.

Across those 16 playoff games, Mahomes has passed for 4,561 yards and notched 38 touchdowns. In the postseason, when things supposedly get tougher, he performs even better than normal.

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