When It Matters

13 seconds. There were 13 seconds left in an NFL game. What images does that conjure up in your mind? What unorganized chaos comes to mind when a team gets the ball back with the game on the line with less than two minutes to go? One minute to go? 13 seconds to go?

Does your QB go off running and fail to clock the ball while the umpire tries to set the ball as time expires? Does your QB chuck the ball into the endzone when all you needed was two yards? Does the offensive line leave the defensive tackle untouched on a three man rush?

The Kansas City Chiefs orchestrated the only successful 13-second drill in NFL history.

The last two minutes of the AFC Divisional Playoff between the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills contained a lifetime of playoff drama. Three lead changes and a tie. Two quarterbacks establishing themselves as unstoppable forces of nature. I don’t know if we’ll ever see anything like that again.

It comes down to who can execute when it matters. The Chiefs had no shot. Buffalo was 99.9% ready to host the AFC Championship…and I was fine with it. A peace came over me in those moments. This is just how it happens. Sometimes it’s just the team who has the ball last. Josh Allen had come into Arrowhead and slayed the dragon when it mattered.

But there were 13 seconds left – and Patrick Mahomes had the ball last.

The NFL playoffs are the ultimate crucible. The games are going to come down to the last possession, often with just seconds to spare. Teams spend countless hours during the offseason preparing, planning and pouring over film just to eek out .500 records and the seven seed, trying to claw their way into the postseason where the lights shine much brighter and decisions are dissected for decades.

Then it comes down to those seconds and it looks like no one has any earthly idea what to do. The Chiefs knew.

Patrick Mahomes found his guys.

“Do it, Kels. Hey, do it.”

In a situation where 99.99% of players in the history of the league would be running around like a toddler at a barbeque, the Chiefs were calm, cool, collected and knew exactly where to find each other.

That is why they will now host their fourth straight AFC Championship game. No frills. No lucky charms. No curses. No lucky ketchup dances. They knew exactly what they had to do in that moment and executed it flawlessly.

The Chiefs are a well-oiled machine. Every aspect of their organization is highly organized and buttoned up. Coaches and administrative personnel aren’t allowed to put their hands in their pockets at practice. You are to be attentive and demonstrative when players are on the field. No standing around. Players follow the same path back from the practice field to the cafeteria in St. Joe. Team security shows up two hours before player appearances to location scout a blood drive. Wives and girlfriends are given minute-by-minute game day itineraries. Everything is done with purpose.

Every detail matters.

The details don’t matter until they do. They may never matter. They may not matter when you get to play the lowest remaining seed in the playoffs at home. They may not matter when you know your divisional opponents will self sabotage down the line in the regular season. They may not matter when Andy has a flawless script out of the gate.

When it matters, the details are the only thing that matters. Knowing that your guys are going to be where they need to be, whether that’s with 13 games to play, 13 minutes to play, or 13 seconds to play.

That’s when it matters.