The Kansas City Chiefs were expected to end the New England Patriots dynasty in last season's AFC Championship Game, but Bill Belichick's defense did just enough to tame the NFL's highest-scoring offense and earn a trip to Super Bowl LIII.
It was one of the most exciting championship games in recent memory. Mahomes did his best to overcome a 14-0 halftime deficit and even led the Chiefs to a late fourth-quarter lead. After the Patriots took the lead back, Mahomes quickly brought the Chiefs into field goal range in the final minute of regulation, where they tied the score to force overtime.
Mahomes didn't get a chance to win the game in overtime because the Patriots won the coin toss and Brady marched New England's offense down the field for the game-winning touchdown. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Chiefs, and it probably would've turned out better for them if they didn't play so poorly in the first half. In fact, Mahomes recently told ESPN's Jeff Darlington that first half against the Patriots was the most humbling moment of his career.
"I think the most humbling was probably that first half against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game," Mahomes said. "I just felt like we couldn't do anything, and I felt like I was really letting the defense down. It was holding them to -- I think it was 10 points in that first half. I knew a lot of that was me not making the right decisions. That was kind of when realized, hey, I got to make sure I'm ready for everything every single game. No matter who we play, I've got to prepare for it so that whenever stuff happens during games I can make adjustments quickly."
Mahomes has bounced back from that setback in a major way.
After returning from injury in a Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Mahomes has led the Chiefs on a 7-game win streak, including a historic comeback victory over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round and a triumph over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes has been the catalyst for Kansas City's resurgence, and he's averaged 307.5 passing yards with a total of eight touchdowns and zero interceptions through two playoff games.
"Going into this season, I envisioned being in the Super Bowl," Mahomes told Darlington. "After the season that we had last year. We had everything we needed to be in this game, having this opportunity."
The Chiefs will make their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years Sunday when they take on the San Francisco 49ers. KC is the betting favorite, and deservedly so given how well Mahomes is playing. The Chiefs are set up well to contend for many years, and if Mahomes is able to stay healthy, this team has a great chance to become the AFC's next powerhouse for a decade.