The list of NFL franchises that have won consecutive Super Bowls is brief. Seven teams have done it: the Packers (1966 and 1967), Dolphins (1972 and 1973), Steelers (1974 and 1975, 1978 and 1979), 49ers (1988 and 1989), Cowboys (1992 and 1993), Broncos (1997 and 1998), and Patriots (2003 and 2004). Following last season’s championship run, many expected that the Kansas City Chiefs would have a shot to become the next to join this list—to confirm the franchise as the NFL’s latest dynasty. After comfortably defeating the Buffalo Bills, 38-24, that possibility is on the verge of becoming a reality.
Entering Sunday, some believed the second-seeded Bills—with their masterfully constructed roster and surging QB in Josh Allen—would be enough to overcome the Chiefs. But when it came down to it, the AFC championship game looked like it was being played between squads in two different realms. Even as Buffalo took a fortunate 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter, it wasn’t long before Kansas City quickly erased the deficit. Patrick Mahomes found Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard touchdown, running back Darrel Williams scored on a 6-yard run, and tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire punched in a 1-yarder, catapulting the Chiefs into a 21-9 lead with four minutes left in the first half.
The Bills chipped away with field goals, but they didn’t matter—they never really do against Mahomes and the Chiefs. Buffalo drew within nine points late in the third quarter, and then Kansas City pulled away for good. Tyreek Hill’s 71-yard catch-and-run set up a Mahomes touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce. On Buffalo’s ensuing drive, Chiefs cornerback Rashad Fenton picked off Allen, and Mahomes answered by connecting with Kelce for a second time, extending Kansas City’s lead to 38-15. Mahomes finished the game 29-for-38 with 325 yards and three touchdowns, producing a magnificent performance that might have made you forget he was in concussion protocol and dealing with turf toe during the week.
“It was just trusting each other,” Mahomes told CBS during a postgame interview. “The best thing about this team is that we believe in each other, and every time we hit the field, we give everything that we have.”
Kansas City’s victory was one of the team’s most complete performances of the year. The Bills offense finished the season as the no. 5 unit in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. Allen had stunningly transformed himself into one of the NFL’s best signal-callers, flanked by league-leading receiver Stefon Diggs and All-Pro Cole Beasley. But the Chiefs found a way to slow Buffalo’s passing attack down. Allen struggled as his receiving cast had difficulty beating Kansas City’s press coverage. The QB produced minus-2.7 expected points added, took four sacks (and lost 53 total yards), was hit 10 times and committed his first red zone turnover of the postseason. During the regular season, the Bills had been the NFL’s best third-down offense, converting at a 49.7 percent clip. On Sunday, that number fell to 35.7 percent (5-of-14).
All season, the Chiefs had a massive target on their back. Their “run it back” motto suggested the franchise embraced the challenge. Kansas City took every opponent’s best shot, as evidenced by its 8-1 mark in one-possession games during the regular season. However, it didn’t matter how many different ways teams tried to beat the Chiefs—they always had answers for how to come out on top. They marched to a 14-2 record and the AFC’s no. 1 seed, clinching a bye with one week in the schedule to spare. They survived losing Mahomes in the divisional round against the Browns, and this week pummeled the only team in the conference considered capable of beating them. Even as analysts have questioned whether the Chiefs were as sure a thing as some thought, they kept proving time and again that they were the NFL’s only constant team. Now, they are set to face the league’s most constant individual—Tom Brady—with a Super Bowl on the line.
Brady was on the field the last time the Chiefs were on the verge of breaking through, in the 2019 AFC championship, when a Brady-led Patriots team beat Kansas City in overtime. Brady denied the commencement of the Chiefs’ dynastic run. Two weeks from now, we’ll find out whether he will further delay Kansas City—and, specifically, Mahomes—from inching toward his accolades. There will undoubtedly be questions about both quarterbacks’ legacies heading into the contest, with the league’s winningest player being challenged by the first player who seems capable of possibly challenging him.
Brady and Mahomes have faced off four previous times. (The series is tied 2-2.) In Week 12 of this season, the Chiefs outlasted the Buccaneers, 27-24, behind Mahomes’s 462 passing yards and three touchdown passes. Oddsmakers initially favored the Chiefs by 3.5 points, despite the game being in Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium and Kansas City likely being without starting left tackle Eric Fisher, who left Sunday night’s game with an Achilles injury. Mahomes has never played an away postseason game in his career. And even though Super Bowl LV will be considered a neutral setting on his career ledger, the Bucs will have a tangible advantage. Mahomes didn’t seem fazed by that likelihood following Sunday’s win, though.
“The job’s not finished,” Mahomes said. “We’re going to Tampa, and we’re trying to run it back. We just gotta be ourselves. I trust my guys over everybody. And we’re gonna go out there and be ourselves and be who we are.”