Kansas City v New England. A Changing of the Guard in the AFC
For the first time since the 1993 season, the Kansas City Chiefs are in the AFC Championship game. A new era is about to begin.I'm old enough to remember the last time the Chiefs were in this position. The 1993 Chiefs got to the AFC Championship Game by winning at home in overtime against the Steelers and by overpowering the Houston Oilers in the Astrodome. A banged up Chiefs team quarterbacked by Joe Montana lost 30-13 on a cold day in Buffalo as Montana and David Krieg split playing time. Both were sacked twice, both threw interceptions. Running back Marcus Allen was limited to 50 yards on 18 carries. Defense was the strength of that team. That was always the case in the Schottenheimer era. The defense included Neil Smith and the late Derrick Thomas and an outstanding tackle in Dan Saleamua. For Chiefs fans too young to remember, Smith was not unlike Chris Jones. Thomas was even more of a problem off the edge than Justin Houston
or Dee Ford.
In '93, we figured that this was just the start of a great era for the Chiefs after Carl Peterson took over as general manager prior to the 1989 season. To an extent, that was correct. The '95 and '97 Chiefs went 13-3 only to suffer agonizing losses at Arrowhead in the divisional round. Those ghosts grew with the infamous 'no-punt' loss
to Indianapolis in 2003 and with earlier than expected exits in 2013, 2016 and 2017.
Those losses had some Chiefs fans wondering if the franchise was cursed. I wasn't buying that. The only curse was a talent issue here or there following '93. A sketchy kicker was a factor in '95. The Vermeil era Chiefs were almost as intimidating on the offensive side of the ball as the current team is. The defense was another matter.
There wasn't much talent on defense in those days. A soft, read-and-react scheme devised by Greg Robinson amplified the talent shortcomings.
The building process toward the '18 Chiefs started six years ago with the end of Scott Pioli's time as general manager. John Dorsey came in as GM, Andy Reid came to town as coach. They inherited possibly the worst overall roster in the league and managed enough of a makeover to grab a playoff berth in '13. A lack of depth in the secondary was too much to overcome in the playoff loss at Indianapolis.
The roster got a bit better in '14 but the Chiefs came up just short of the playoffs. The regime change started paying off in '15. The Chiefs rolled into the playoffs and beat Houston in the wild card round despite a 1-5 start. The '16 Chiefs cruised into the playoffs as division champions only to lose to Pittsburgh. A 50-50, sometimes they call it, sometimes they don't, holding call took a tying 2 point conversion off the board. Injuries and depth issues on defense got the Chiefs at home last season against Tennessee.
Last week's win is exactly why previous seasons don't matter much. The Chiefs did largely what they wanted against Indianapolis.
New England's post season history though this century is great, but it doesn't matter much starting at 5:40 Sunday afternoon.
We're breaking new ground here. History is in the past. The present is this...
This is the first ever AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead. It's also Patrick Mahomes first AFC Championship game. And the oft maligned 2018 Chiefs defense has looked much better since youngsters Charvarious Ward and Eric Murray moved into the secondary less than a month ago.
One bit of history IS noting; Tom Brady has struggled at Arrowhead. In 2005, Brady threw four interceptions and was sacked three times by Gunther Cunningham's attacking defense featuring Jared Allen and a rookie linebacker named Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs cruised to a 26-16 win. That team went 10-6 and just missed the playoffs. The Patriots next--and most recent--appearance at Arrowhead was on a Monday night in 2014. The Chiefs blew out New England 41-14. Brady didn't handle a solid Chiefs pass rush well that night either. He was sacked three times, lost a fumble. And..Brady threw two interceptions. The Chiefs pass rush is at least as good as it was in '14. And this Patriot team isn't as talented it was four years ago.
Patrick Mahomes will do what Patrick Mahomes does on Sunday. The defense will continue the recent trend of solid play. And the changing of the guard atop the AFC starts on Sunday....