Getting counted out motivated Kansas City to this point, but more work also remains.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ main incentive they had for defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game was to clinch another Super Bowl berth. With that said, they also had a few other reasons to win.
Kansas City had yet to defeat Cincinnati in the Patrick Mahomes era, and not many expected them to be able to pull it off this time around. After all, Mahomes was playing hurt and Zac Taylor’s squad was just as talented as last year’s unit. Why would this installment of the series be any different in terms of outcome? Additionally, the Bengals made it clear that there was no love lost between them and the Chiefs when cornerback Mike Hilton referred to Arrowhead Stadium as “Burrowhead.”
Cincinnati’s mayor, Aftab Pureval, even posted a video to his Twitter account sending jabs at Mahomes and company. This game bordered on personal for multiple parties involved and after securing the win, Mahomes said he preferred to let his play on the field speak for itself.
“Yeah, I mean, you’ve got Burrowhead,” Mahomes said. “They beat us last time and they were talking about ‘we’ve got to play them.’ There was a lot of stuff. I mean, the mayor came at me, man. I understand he’s the mayor of Cincinnati so he has to think about something, but it’s something where you’ve just got to play the football game and let your play do the talking.”
Doubling down on that, while also acknowledging that winning the AFC title game is nice, Mahomes said the team still has more work to do.
“For me, my goal is to win the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said. “Obviously, the AFC Championship is something that I’ll forever remember — winning that Lamar Hunt trophy at Arrowhead Stadium — but to me, the job’s not finished.”
Coming into the 2022 campaign, the Chiefs were on the heels of a tumultuous offseason. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was shockingly traded to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a package of draft picks, forcing Mahomes to adjust to free agent signings such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. On top of that, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit saw changes at all levels after several players walked out the door and hit the open market following the conclusion of the season. It wasn’t a “business as usual” offseason in Kansas City, as general manager Brett Veach fundamentally shifted the outlook on the roster.
As such, many picked the Chiefs to not extend their streak of making the AFC Championship Game. Others expected them to not win the AFC West for the first time in over half a decade. There were even folks who said Kansas City would miss the playoffs completely after having such a poor offseason showing. Despite a stellar regular season, some of that doubt didn’t go away leading up to the Bengals game. When asked about the team’s early thoughts on its upside in year one of the current youth movement, Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said the bar was set high within the organization regardless of thoughts from the outside.
“Internally, we had high expectations understanding the challenge of playing with a bunch of young players,” Hunt said. “If you listened to much of the national media, you would’ve thought that we had no chance. I remember Andy (Reid) commenting in response to a question that, ‘we’re not going to be too bad ourselves’ because people were talking about the other teams in the AFC West. Obviously, really, the credit goes to Andy and the coaching staff for getting those young players ready to play. Of course, tonight, we had numerous young players step up. Some who haven’t played very much over the course of the season, they had an opportunity tonight and they really shined.”
The Chiefs know that more work is left to be done, especially considering that the Super Bowl is a couple of weeks away (and counting). A matchup down in Glendale, AZ against the Philadelphia Eagles offers plenty of intrigue, as Jalen Hurts and company boast one of the most talented and deep rosters in the entire league. The Chiefs opened as underdogs on major betting services but if you ask defensive tackle Chris Jones, that simply gives him and his teammates more motivation to prove people wrong and complete the task at hand. Up next is the ultimate test of the 2022-23 campaign.
“Listen, man… for some reason, we’re always counted out,” Jones said. “Whether it’s in our division, whether it’s against the Bengals who had beat us three times. We enjoy the motivation that being counted out gives us. I think we’ve got a lot of competitors on this team. We look forward to the challenge.”