MIAMI, Fla. -- The Kansas City Chiefs, by all logic, shouldn’t be in Miami this week preparing to face the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. They should be on vacation thinking about another opportunity lost.
That’s what would have happened to most teams that dug themselves a 24-point hole in the divisional round.
Somehow, someway, Patrick Mahomes snapped his fingers, put on his cape and the Chiefs turned a 24-0 deficit into a 51-31 win over the Houston Texans.
Down 24-0 at home after an early flurry of miscues, most teams would have been frazzled on the sideline, frantically searching for answers to save their season that was circling the drain.
But there was an eerie calm on the Chiefs’ sideline. Head coach Andy Reid’s demeanor didn’t change at all. Mahomes rallied the offense and the comeback was on.
“It’s quiet, very quiet,” defensive end Frank Clark said. “I remember the one thing I was saying, Tyrann [Mathieu] was saying, Pat was saying, ‘Man keep your heads in it. Stay with us.’ Because you got a lot of young guys that don’t understand. You get to that point in the game and you think it’s done. You’re so used to playing Madden, 2K and video games and 21. You know you get to 21 and you give the other player the controller and the game is over. You know how this goes.
“It’s like, one thing we didn’t want to do was throw away our season,” Clark continued. “We came too far, we done too much, proved too many people wrong to give our season away by a blowout. That’s the one thing I was saying, man. If we go out, this ain’t how we going to go out. We gonna go out fighting, we are going to go out strong and we are going to go out making our fans and people who came and our families proud … I’m sure everyone felt that way, man we got our people in the stands, we got our fans in the stands and we giving them a blowout at our house. That’s the worst thing in the world. And I feel like guys bought, came out revving on all cylinders in that second half.”
After roaring back and bouncing the Texans out of the playoffs, the Chiefs had a clear path to the Super Bowl with only the No. 6-seeded Tennessee Titans standing in their way. Once again, the Chiefs got off to a slow start, falling into two separate 10-point holes.
As has become the norm this season, the Chiefs erased the deficit in an instant, improving their record to 4-0 when falling behind by 10 or more points, and booked their trip to the Super Bowl.
The team’s resilience starts with the leadership of Mahomes, Mathieu and Clark and has trickled down to every player on the roster, giving them a belief that no deficit is insurmountable.
“Some pretty special moments there in the playoffs,” offensive lineman Eric Fisher said. “Obviously we don’t want to start that way. It was crazy to witness nobody panic. I can’t explain why we just rallied. No one was freaking out. No one was yelling. Everybody just kept their composure, stayed the course and when you’re in those situations, you just have to go back to, ‘OK, what got us here.’ The work we put in, the preparation we put in, the coaching and you just got to refocus, take a deep breath and take it one series at a time and do your job.
“It’s just all of us as players,” Fisher continued, “We are professionals at what we do. I think basically we had a bunch of guys just gut-check themselves and say, ‘This ain’t who we are.’ We just went back out there, one series at a time and took it upon ourselves. Nobody can force you to do your job. You have to gut check yourself and I guess the rest is history.”
The Chiefs’ resiliency was born from disappointment last season when they came within a Dee Ford offsides penalty of knocking off the New England Patriots and going to the Super Bowl.
Being so close to the goal and having Tom Brady rip their heart out gave the Chiefs a hardened outer shell and a steely focus to not fall short again.
“When you’re that close, you want to make sure you get back the next year,” Mahomes said. “And I think all the guys on the team, we just took it one day at a time, went through the process, maximized every single day that we had and found a way to get here.”
Getting to Miami hasn’t been easy. It might not have happened at all had the Patriots not laid an egg against the Dolphins in Week 17 and handed the Chiefs a first-round bye.
After that, everything fell into place for the Chiefs. The Patriots and Baltimore Ravens both stumbled against the Titans, clearing the way for the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.
Resiliency is in the Chiefs’ DNA. They have a steadfast belief that no matter the score, the game is never out of reach.
They’ve proven as much this season.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8:30 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).
Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.