Mahomes says Kansas City will 'find a way’ to win AFC Championship — even if it comes down to 13 seconds
Kansas City Chiefs fans are still talking about the composure displayed as quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the team down field with 13 seconds remaining in the AFC Divisional game against the Buffalo Bills. Kicker Harrison Butker stepped up and nailed the field goal, tying the game and forcing an overtime.
If experience means anything for the AFC Championship game Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs may be in a good place, having played for a berth to the Super Bowl three consecutive seasons before this year.
“I think it’s important,” said Butker, who kicked a 39-yard field goal against the New England Patriots with 11 seconds left in the game to force overtime. “2018 was the first time I had been in an AFC Championship game. First time for a lot of guys (on the Chiefs) had been in that situation.”
As Chiefs fans are well-aware, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady eventually directed the winning drive after the Pats won the coin toss.
But the Chiefs know something about bounce-back. And after last Sunday? Do they ever.
They had only 13 seconds to at least tie the game after Buffalo scored a touchdown to put the Bills up by three. The Chiefs miraculously accomplished it with quarterback Patrick Mahomes completing two passes to his main pair of targets, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. It set up Butker’s game-tying field goal.
Before last Sunday, Kelce had a somber view of the number 13.
“My brother wore No. 13 growing up in hockey, lacrosse and baseball. He was always beating up on me, so that’s the only negative thought I have on the number 13,” said Kelce. “This past weekend brought some light to it for the first time.”
There were times this season when Mahomes had to look elsewhere for someone to make a big play. But when the season was on the line, Mahomes connected with his two most reliable receivers — Hill and Kelce — with confidence.
“I’ve played in some big games and had to make some comebacks and I know I have the teammates to do it,” said Mahomes. “I know what it takes to find a way to go out there to win.”
As a result, the Chiefs avenged their regular season loss and face a similar situation when hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals beat the Chiefs, 34-31, on Jan. 2 in Cincinnati.
When experience counts
The Chiefs started their track record for rebounding following the AFC Championship loss from the 2018 season.
There’s something about being in that position, and it isn’t just the players who believe in the experience factor.
Mental performance specialist Ashley Ripke, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has worked with the U.S. Army for the last nine years. She has instructed military personnel in the Kansas City area at one of the Army’s installations for its Ready and Resilient Program.
“Experience is huge in terms of optimal performance,” said Ripke. “Obviously, there’s a lot of technical, physical and tactical preparation that’s done. Sometimes the mental performance is left to chance.”
The day after the big win, Butker discussed his game-tying field goal against the Bills, sharing his mental preparation and visualization prior to the kick. And he mentioned a slight adjustment he made from the 50-yard field goal that he missed at the end of the first half.
Looking back on his game-tying kick, Butker said, “(I) got prepared and got my mind mentally ready to go out there and make the kick that we needed to go to overtime.”
From afar, Ripke saw Butker’s interview since her husband, Nathan, who is also in the field of sports psychology, forwarded it to her. She was impressed.
“I loved his interview because it is huge,” said Ripke. “Visualization is creating or re-creating an image of the mind. Those who do this effectively are able to incorporate the senses. It’s almost as though the brain is familiarized with movement. You can see it, feel it and trust it.”
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow might be visualizing success, but he’s only in his first full season as a starting quarterback. As the leader of a team that went from worst to first, it’s been an admirable uphill climb, but the experience factor may win out.