Some how, some way, the magic man and his teammates, coaches and administration did it again. The Kansas City Chiefs, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes & Co., pulled off an unprecedented third consecutive double-digit comeback in the NFL Playoffs to win the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 2, 2020. It reminded me of the first ever accomplishment of the St. Louis Blues to go from last place in early January 2019 to win the Stanley Cup in June.
The Kansas City Chiefs overcame deficits of 24-0 vs Houston in the second round of the playoffs, and then 17-7 vs Tennessee in the AFC Championship game to advance to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs trailed 20-10 mid-way through the 4th quarter in the Super Bowl. Most people, myself included, thought no comeback this time against a better defense than they had faced in prior rounds of the playoffs. But they converted a 3rd down and 15 yards to go late in the game. The Chiefs scored the final 21 points to win the game and the Super Bowl 31-20. It marked the first Super Bowl victory in 50 years for arguably the best fans in football.
No team has ever won three consecutive NFL playoff games to win the Super Bowl after trailing by 10 points or more. It might not ever happen again. How did they do this? First the team must have the talent to have a chance to pull off such great comebacks. Secondly, they must have good coaching to do it. Head coach Andy Reid & Co., must have made good in-game strategic adjustments. But it’s more than that. The team leaders and the coaches must have instilled in the whole team a belief they could make a comeback.
To simplify something that is not simple, consider these 4 C’s that must have been present for the Kansas City Chiefs to make the historic comebacks. These four terms are highlighted in my “Next Level Coaching” book in the Mental Skills chapter in one of the exercises.
Commitment – the team stayed committed to the process, rather than become obsessed about the chances of losing. The team must have stayed in compete mode and played with a sense of urgency, and a willingness to persevere.
Confidence – the team continued to believe in themselves individually and collectively. The team took on the challenge and trusted each other to perform better. They had a resilient belief they could still do it.
Control – the team maintained emotional control in the face of adversity. If any players had a feeling of anger (one player did temporarily), they needed to channel it into controlled aggression while thinking clearly to solve problems.
Concentration – the team had to maintain focus. Football is a sport that requires interval concentration when you are on the field. The sport also requires cerebral concentration when you are on the sideline. The team had to focus in on the task at hand and not become consumed by the threat of losing. Instead, focus on what you need to do now to be successful in the coming moments.
I hope we can all admire the accomplishments of the Kansas City Chiefs no matter which team you were rooting for. More importantly, I hope you will be able to utilize the psychological attributes they used on and off the field of play.