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The Chiefs Are Ready to Slay the Ghosts of Playoffs Past

A blocked punt, a few ill-timed fumbles—none of it mattered against the Colts on Saturday. After decades of postseason heartbreak, Kansas City looks poised to rewrite its history.

Divisional Round - Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

This Chiefs-Colts game was handmade for Kansas City to blow. Though the Chiefs went up 17-0 early in the second quarter, no Chiefs lead could ever feel safe. After all, we’ve been here before—the last time the Colts and Chiefs played in the postseason, Kansas City led by 28 in the third quarter, and ended up losing in an all-time classic.

Kansas City had so many chances to falter in a similar way in this game: The Colts recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 10 and seemingly give Indy the spark it needed. Then, at the end of the half, the Chiefs allowed a long drive to Andrew Luck, but the Colts were unable to put the ball in the end zone, and Adam Vinatieri’s short field goal attempt hit the upright.

It seemed like every 15 minutes, the Colts would make an incredible play or the Chiefs would blunder spectacularly, and a wave of Here we gos would ripple through the NFL-watching populace. Head coach Andy Reid is known for choking in the playoffs, the Chiefs are known for choking in the playoffs, and this game felt destined for a choke job.

In the second half, the Chiefs very nearly collapsed several more times. With 6:38 left in the third quarter, Chiefs punt returner Tyreek Hill fumbled the football—but Kansas City’s Tremon Smith was there to jump on it. Less than five minutes of game time later, Sammy Watkins fumbled—and this one was recovered by Indianapolis. Though the Colts were down 24-7 at this point, they had a short field and a crucial opportunity in front of them … until Dee Ford strip-sacked Andrew Luck on second down, and Justin Houston recovered.

The Chiefs didn’t score a single point in the second half until there was 2:23 left in the fourth quarter, seemingly leaving the door open most of the game for Luck and the Colts to get going. With 3:42 left and the Chiefs up 11, Kansas City very nearly had another punt blocked, but Najee Goode drew a running-into-the-kicker penalty. That finally gave the Chiefs the cushion they needed: 79 seconds later, the Chiefs were in the end zone to push their lead to 18 and punch their ticket to the AFC championship game.

It’s the first playoff win for Kansas City in Arrowhead since 1993 (nineteen ninety-three!) and the first time the Chiefs will move on to the conference championship game since that same year. After so many playoff appearances have ended in heartbreaking losses, the Chiefs seemed to bury the ghosts of their postseasons past in this game, and now they have their deepest playoff run in a generation. Let’s just say the fans in Kansas City have waited faithfully for this one:

They’ll host either the Chargers or Patriots in the next round, and if the Chiefs play anything like they did today, they’ll be punching a ticket to the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes II passed for 278 yards and rushed for a touchdown, running back Damien Williams rushed for 129 yards and a score on 25 carries, and for all the moments when the outcome looked in doubt, the Chiefs held at least a two-possession lead for the entire final three quarters.

We all knew the offense was great. But the most impressive unit in this game, and the most crucial one for Kansas City going forward, is the Chiefs defense. The Colts picked up no offensive points until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and the team sacked Luck, the most well-protected QB during the regular season, three times. The defensive line of Houston, Ford, and Chris Jones was in Luck’s face all night:

The Chiefs have the best offense in the NFL, and, at least against Indianapolis, showed up with a ferocious pass rush. The Chiefs are on the cusp of rewriting their postseason reputation, and with home-field advantage again next week, they have never been better positioned to do so. All they have to do is not choke.