Tim Crone: Chiefs show they have a 'heart of a champion'
If you did not enjoy the Kansas City Chiefs in their divisional playoff victory over the Cleveland Browns, you need to check your pulse.
That game was a gut-check event in which only a team that believes in the total concept of team could pull off.
Former two-time NBA championship coach Rudy Tomjanovich once stated, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion!” That quote was on full display Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs proved they are more than just Patrick Mahomes. After Mahomes’ concussion injury in the third quarter, a mentally weaker team would have folded up their tents and called it a season. In actuality this may have been the team’s greatest 2020 season moment.
Chad Henne came into an impossible situation, made a terrible mistake with a horrible interception, but the team and Henne kept grinding. Following that interception he sat down on the bench by himself. Within seconds Travis Kelce ran to the bench and patted him on his back. Kelce showed his leadership and winner qualities.
The defense then went out and stuffed the offense of a fired-up Browns team who smelled blood in the water, which led to a punt. On second down Kelce ran the wrong route, which he admitted to after the game, and caused a Henne sack for a 4-yard loss. That left the team with third-and-14.
Henne was flushed from the pocket and dove for what looked like a first down. His effort was excellent considering his previous throw of the worst interception of his NFL career. On fourth-and-a-half-yard, Andy Reid and his staff showed their championship mettle with one of the greatest fourth-and-short calls in Chiefs history. It looked like the typical run- the-clock-down play with hope the defense would jump offsides, call timeout and punt the ball.
That is what an average team would do.
But the Chiefs are not an average team. They believe in what they do as a team and are prepared to execute in situations like that. The entire offense sold the play along with the coaching staff. Henne completed the pass to Hill that brought the game to a halt.
Even after the Mahomes injury, the Chiefs never hung their heads. They had to fight tooth and nail to hang on for the victory. An average team, not mentally tough, could not pull that off. The Chiefs showed why they are champions.
Attitude makes a big difference in the clutch. The team also showed heart on the play that Daniel Sorensen made to hustle over and put a hit on the receiver to create a fumble and a touchback. He showed a willingness to never stop playing no matter the situation.
The Chiefs did make several costly errors. The biggest was in the kicking game. Harrison Butker is an incredibly talented place-kicker with an extraordinarily strong leg, but he has become a head case on extra points. The wind was a factor, but in the playoffs during January, you have to take all that garbage out of your mind.
Chad Henne’s interception was UGLY! We only had one running back threat in the game with third-team back Darrel Williams. Williams was able to play like the starter both in the running and passing game. He gets no credit, but he is the best third-team back in the league.
The Chiefs were missing wide receiver Sammy Watkins again due to injury. When Watkins is healthy, which is not often, their passing game is unstoppable.
In the second half, the Chiefs, who had played great against the run the first half, started to slip tackles and give up big yardage on the ground. Those factors show things did not go perfectly for the home team. The one thing you did see is a team and coaching staff schooled to keep grinding and fighting to the bitter end.
This week the gurus will predict the Chiefs will not win if Mahomes doesn’t play (he was taken out of concussion protocol Friday and appears as if he will play). It might be a sound thought, but I still say don’t bet on it. This Chiefs team will be ready to play with whoever they have on the field. In order to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. Remember Chiefs fans, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”
• The quote of the week comes from the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman: “To profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work, is as impossible as it is to live without being born.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.