Patrick Mahomes’ concussion scare reminds the Chiefs there's one thing they can't control in quest to repeat
Defending a championship is difficult in any professional sport. In a world filled with alpha athletes, you become the hunted against which other great teams and players - all of whom are inherently far more competitive than you or I could dream - will measure yourself against.
Nowhere, however, is this more evident than in the National Football League, by far the most physical team sport in America. And 16 games where you're being chased to get the other boys' best shot are… well, exhausting. Especially in modern times when players have never been bigger, stronger or faster.
For me, this is just one of the reasons we haven't seen an NFL team since the Patriots 2003-2004. It's just that hard in the NFL where parity is paramount.
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However, at the start of the 2020 season, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the team's best chances of repeating themselves in recent times. They have a Hall of Fame coach (Andy Reid), a generation quarterback with proven Michael Jordan-like postseason chops (Patrick Mahomes) and, oh yeah, 18 returning starters from last year's Super Bowl winners group.
Their continuity was also evident over the course of a fast-paced 14-2 regular season when they drove the brag, "That's why we're the fucking champions," embodied by the feeling of the inevitable Kansas City win at every game close to one Degree we haven't seen since the '04 Patriots and '98 Broncos, two back-to-back champions who also went (by accident?) 14-2.
But while the Chiefs are checking all the boxes for a back-to-back contender, they still need one item that was tested on Sunday and will be further developed in the future. And of course that's luck.
Patrick Mahomes missed most of the second half against the Browns, highlighting the precarious nature of the injury luck the Chiefs will have to repeat as Super Bowl champions. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)
No team can win something important without an element of it, especially in a league where breakthrough injuries lurk around every corner. Neither the '98 Broncos nor the '04 Patriots would have won anything in those years if their starting quarterbacks Tom Brady and John Elway had been injured in the playoffs.
But on Sunday the Chiefs' sense of fate was put to the test. Even though they handled the business in the divisional round and scored a 22-17 win over an aspiring Cleveland team with a bright future, they had to hold up late without Mahomes, who left the game in the third quarter, and was scored for a concussion and was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game.
"He was hit on the back of the head and knocked the wind out of him," Reid told reporters afterwards. "He's doing great right now, which is really positive. He's got all the deals he needed to close so we can see how things go."
When Reid pressed for more, he added, “I just spoke to him - he's fine. We'll see how he is doing tomorrow, but now he feels fine. "
What does that mean for Mahome's availability next Sunday against Buffalo? Who knows. He looked shaky as he got up from the hit, but he sprinted back to the locker room before being disfellowshipped, and his coach and teammates didn't seem devastated on the postseason zoom calls, whatever that was worth it.
All I know is that if he can play in any way, Mahomes will. The word "warrior" has been used to describe him by those who know him - he really takes pride in playing with pain - and Mahomes tweeted a lot after the game, an indication that hopeful people will perceive him feels okay.
Now Kansas City is waiting with bated breath for the word on Mahomes' status. If the news is good and Mahomes can play against the bills, that news will simply be viewed as the latest adversity to overcome in their journey. Just like the Chiefs found a way to win Sunday without him thanks to some clever game calls from Reid, some brave game rules from Backup Chad Henne, and a defense that showed up in the clutch.
But if it goes that way, no one on the Chiefs - or any Chiefs fans at all - should take it for granted. The only thing harder than winning one Super Bowl is winning two in a row. To achieve this, you need talent and great coaching. But they also need luck, especially in terms of the variety of injuries.
Very soon we will find out if the Chiefs have enough of this last ingredient to potentially dodge another bullet on their way into history.
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