KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Chiefs toppled the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, Chris Jones stood contained in the locker room at Hard Rock Stadium, a mischievous smile on his face, and made a proclamation:

“We gonna build a (expletive) dynasty in Kansas City,” he stated. “We’re like the Golden State Warriors, baby.” 

In the second, it was simple to suppose that Jones, the Chiefs’ All-Pro defensive deal with and loquacious grasp of ceremonies, was onto one thing. Kansas City had Patrick Mahomes, essentially the most dominant power in soccer, a crew of sensible playmakers round him and a gifted roster molded by head coach Andy Reid. It was simple to think about a run of Super Bowls, two or three championships and a successor dynasty grabbing the torch from the New England Patriots and pushing soccer into the longer term.

But, in fact, it didn’t prove that means. Not but, anyway. The Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl in 2021, solely to be blown out by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. And then got here final 12 months, after they blew a 21-3 result in the Cincinnati Bengals within the AFC Championship Game and misplaced in extra time. 

If the Super Bowl loss was a actuality test, final 12 months’s setback was a intestine punch, a sobering reminder that NFL dynasties are by no means inevitable. It was notably agonizing for Jones, who had predicted extra titles after which watched as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow stored slipping away late within the second half. The feeling stayed with Jones all offseason, via OTAs and coaching camp and a 17-game recreation common season earlier than it lastly manifested itself in maybe the best recreation of what may turn into a Hall of Fame profession.

On Sunday, on a bitterly chilly night in Kansas City, the Chiefs discovered candy redemption, edging the Bengals, 23-20, in an AFC Championship Game rematch. After Mahomes gutted it out with a excessive ankle sprain, tight finish Travis Kelce performed via again points and kicker Harrison Butker booted the game-winning subject objective within the ultimate seconds, propelling the Chiefs to a Super Bowl matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 12, it was Jones who was one of the best participant on the sphere, the game-wrecker who spent the night time manhandling double groups, dominating in opposition to one-on-one matchups and serving to the Chiefs do one thing they by no means had earlier than: beat Joe Burrow. 

“I planned for this game,” Jones stated. “My whole offseason was dedicated to this game.”

Specifically, Jones had spent his offseason pondering the performs he did not make final 12 months. He wished to make certain that if the Chiefs noticed the Bengals once more, and if the sport was on the road as soon as extra, he wouldn’t falter. So when the second arrived on Sunday night time and Cincinnati had the ball at their very own 35-yard line with 44 seconds left and the rating tied at 20, Jones was ready. Burrow had simply accomplished an extended go on third-and-16 to maintain the drive alive. The Bengals wanted solely a subject objective to win. But when the Chiefs protection compelled one other third-and-8, Jones moved exterior and watched tight finish Hayden Hurst transfer as much as the road of scrimmage. When Jones had seen the look earlier within the recreation, he had confronted a double-team. But he suspected he may get a one-on-one battle with proper deal with Hakeem Adeniji — or maybe a matchup with Adeniji with Hurst offering momentary assist. This time, Jones’ prophecy was (largely) correct: Hurst ran an out route with out serving to. Jones dominated Adeniji with a swim transfer, beating him to his left, then he buried Burrow for his second sack of the night time. The Chiefs protection had the cease it wanted, giving Mahomes one ultimate drive for a go-ahead subject objective. 

“Chris Jones,” defensive finish Frank Clark stated. “The most unstoppable man in football.”

That didn’t really feel like hyperbole on Sunday, at the same time as Jones shared the identical subject with Mahomes. Jones completed with two sacks and three tackles for loss, and whereas the manufacturing got here in opposition to a battered Bengals offensive line, it additionally got here in opposition to a line that recurrently had two gamers making an attempt to cease him. Jones appeared unbothered, spending the night time pushing his 6-foot-6, 310-pound body via double-teams.   

“Chris Jones did what Chris Jones does,” defensive finish Carlos Dunlap stated. 

“He set the tone,” Clark added. “He finished the game.”

Jones had spent a lot of the 2022 season ending video games, taking his recreation to a brand new degree in his seventh 12 months in Kansas City. Seven of his 15½ sacks had come within the fourth quarter, and he staked his declare as a defensive participant of the 12 months candidate by recurrently pestering quarterbacks late. Amazingly, although, he had by no means collected a sack within the postseason, a run that included a dominant efficiency in Super Bowl LIV. Jones stated after the sport that he had not cared in regards to the storyline — although he may recite the precise statistic. “Eleven games, no sacks. So I get it.” 

He will now not need to reply questions on that statistic. Instead he was speaking about his signature night time in a Chiefs uniform. He joined the group in 2016 as a second-round decide from Mississippi State. He grew into one of the vital formidable defensive linemen in soccer. He grew to become a Super Bowl champion, however the second title has so far proved elusive. The Chiefs haven’t turn into the Golden State Warriors of the NFL, as Jones stated, however they now have a chance to step into the neighborhood. With a victory over the Eagles, they will win their second title in 4 years. With Mahomes on the helm, they are going to be poised to be contenders for years. 

“The opportunity itself is important,” Jones stated. “I’m grateful for the opportunity. I don’t want to start no dynasty talk. You guys start blowing it out of proportion. Right now, we got a challenge ahead of us against a heck of a team.”  

That speak may wait. For Jones, the objective on Sunday was easy. He wished to settle a rating in opposition to the Bengals. He wished to make up for final 12 months. He had listened to the Bengals consult with Arrowhead Stadium as “Burrowhead,” and it solely provided extra motivation. 

“Don’t ever, ever, ever disrespect Arrowhead Stadium,” he stated.

On Sunday, Jones checked off one offseason objective. Now, because the Super Bowl awaits, he has an opportunity to make one other previous prediction come true.

“We’re back, baby,” he stated. “We’re back.”

(Photo of Chris Jones sacking Joe Burrow: Kevin C. Cox/ / Getty Images)

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