Chiefs Seem Ready to Make Most of This Opportunity

The Chiefs beat the Chargers 37-27 on Sunday and claimed the AFC West title

The smiles were everywhere, and for good reason.

The Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) had just beat the San Diego Chargers (5-11) and won their first divisional championship since 2010, and thanks to a Denver Broncos 24-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders—the Chiefs also claimed a first-round bye and home playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium as the AFC's No. 2 seed.

It was a perfect day if you're a Chiefs fan, and the locker room after the game had the kind of atmosphere you might expect.

The players had their phones out and were celebrating by taking pictures and passing out division championship hats to one another. Running back Spencer Ware filmed an interview on his phone that initially started with just Charcandrick West before Anthony Sherman joined in as well.

It's a jubilation that carried over to the loading of the team busses and then once they got on the team plane. They knew they had just accomplished something special, and they were living in the moment.

Coming into the game, the Chiefs' only shot at a divisional title was a victory paired with a Raiders loss, and the games were taking place at the same time.

The scoreboard at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego where the game was being played kept showing the score of the Raiders-Broncos game, and while the focus was on taking care of their own business, the Chiefs players couldn't help but look up to see what was happening in the other game.

"It was pretty sweet when we saw the score there at the end," quarterback Alex Smith explained. "When we had our deal sealed up, you could finally let it sink in a little bit. It's a big swing to go from playing a road game next week to two weeks from now we'll get a home game at Arrowhead. It's pretty awesome.

"Then, obviously, to win the division was special as well. That's something that this group hadn't done. Every day I'm in the indoor facility and you see all the banners that are up and we haven't been able to hang one ourselves, so it'll be nice to get one up there."

Smith helped lead the Chiefs to their seventh division title since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger by completing 21 of 28 for 264 yards with three total touchdowns (one rushing), and an interception.

"We've been practicing for this moment since the first day of training camp," Sherman explained. "To come out here and do it with these guys after all the work we put in, it's crazy."

"It feels good," receiver Jeremy Maclin, who finished with four catches for 53 yards, added. "All the hard work we put in to get to this point, it just makes you feel so much better, but we know it's only the start.

"We have a week now to help guys get back with us, and I'm excited."

Maclin is referring to guys like linebacker Justin Houston (knee) and running back Spencer Ware (rib), who were both inactive for Sunday's game with injuries, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the game both of those guys should be good to go in the playoffs.

Reid also said it's important for the guys not to relax too much during the bye week.

"I'm glad we have a rest, as far as a little time here with the bye, but you want to stay hungry—that's something that the guys felt last year," Reid explained. "They got a little taste of it and they want to keep playing."

Maclin said he's excited to bring a home playoff game to Arrowhead Stadium.

"That's all we wanted—to get back to Arrowhead and in front of those fans to put on a show," Maclin added. "They deserve it. We've put the work in and we're ready to make them proud." 

It'll be the first divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium since 2003.

Tight end Travis Kelce agreed and spoke about the advantage the Chiefs will have with a home game.

"The way the fans react to every single game, the way they pack the house and how they're there every single year giving us everything they've got, I think we owed this to Kansas City and to the Kingdom," Kelce explained. "Just giving them [a reason] to keep coming to the loudest stadium in the world.

"It's the best home-field advantage you can ask for in the NFL."

While the final score shows that the offense had little trouble putting up points, the fact is they were tested in this game, and they responded.

Perhaps the best example of not only how this team responded in this game, but also how it's a microcosm for how this team is wired overall, is the drive Smith led following an interception that was returned for a touchdown by the Chargers defense.

Holding a 20-10 lead and getting the ball to start the second half, the Chiefs were marching towards taking a commanding lead when Smith's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and landed in the hands of Chargers safety Jahleel Addae, who returned it 90 yards for the touchdown.

Just like that, the Chiefs lead was cut to 20-17. 

On the ensuing drive, the Chiefs responded by going 60 yards on 12 plays and taking 6:35 off the clock, converting three third downs on the drive, including the second touchdown pass of the day to running back Charcandrick West, who finished with 21 touches for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

It gave the Chiefs back their 10-point lead and sent a message to the Chargers that one big play isn't going to shake this team's resolve.

"I thought that was big," Reid explained of that drive. "It kind of showed what this team is about. Nobody flinched and they got right back on it. There was no screaming and yelling at one another or anything. The guy made a good play, he tipped the ball on a three-step drop, the kid got his hand on it, made a nice play and took it the distance, but we were able to come back."

"That game certainly could have gone differently if we hadn't done it there," Smith added of that drive.

With all of the smiles, hugs and high-fives following the realization that the first step in the process has been achieved—a division title—the focus never got lost in the locker room that this isn't the end goal, and that the day-by-day focus that got them to this point is what they'll use moving forward to get them to where they ultimately want to go.

"I will say the great thing about our team is as much celebrating [as we're doing], and obviously, the guys feel good in there, this team has a great understanding that this is just an opportunity right now," Smith explained. "We have to make the most of it."


On Sunday, January 15 at 12:05 p.m. CT, the Chiefs will host the highest seed of whoever remains following the two AFC Wild Card games next weekend. The Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 3) host the Miami Dolphins (No. 6), and the Houston Texans (No. 4) host the Oakland Raiders (No. 5).

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