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History suggests Chiefs can overcome slump... and perhaps reach the Super Bowl again

The Chiefs’ trend line over the past six weeks feels ... slump-y.

Three losses in five games? They no longer hold the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

But they’ve been here before.

More times than not in Patrick Mahomes’ years as a starter, Chiefs seasons have included losing at least three times in a five-game stretch.

It happened in 2018, Mahomes’ first season as a starter; in 2019, the season in which these modern-day Chiefs won their first Super Bowl; in 2021 ... and now.

The current run started when the Chiefs won six straight after an opening-game loss to the Detriot Lions. Since then, the Chiefs have lost to Denver, Philadelphia and Green Bay while beating Miami and Las Vegas.

The Chiefs’ most recent outcome, a loss at the Green Bay Packers, dropped the Chiefs’ record to 8-4, good enough — heading into Sunday’s home game against the Buffalo Bills — for a two-game lead over the Broncos in the AFC West with five games remaining.

“I’ve been on a team that was 6-4 and we won the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said.

Indeed, the 2019 Chiefs dropped four games in six weeks. Mahomes missed two games (which the Chiefs split) with a knee injury, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill missed a game that the Chiefs lost with an injury. They went on to win their final six in the regular season and then beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

The previous year, Mahomes’ first as a full-time NFL starter, the Chiefs started 9-1 before dropping three of five. They won their first home playoff game in more than two decades before falling to New England in the AFC Championship Game.

The 2021 Chiefs crashed early, losing four of six starting in Week 2. Turnovers played a major role in this malaise, with the Chiefs committing 17 in that six-game stretch.

But in each of those years, the slump was tucked inside a division-winning season. Further, each of those teams reached the AFC Championship Game, at least.

Now, as then, the Chiefs are making adjustments but don’t plan to change their habits all that much.

“It’s week to week, and we understand that,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “You do a better job coaching, players do their jobs. Those are things you can control, and keep a positive attitude doing it.”

Does this season’s downward trend feel differently than the previous ones? One current area of concern is an offense that doesn’t produce as well as it had in previous years. The Chiefs are 11th in the NFL in points this season, at 22.9. They’ve never finished lower than sixth with Mahomes as their starter.

As Reid sees it, the Chiefs have been caught up in a swirl that ensnares many teams.

“This league is crazy right now. I mean, it’s week-to-week,” Reid said. “San Francisco was on a three-game skid, and now they’re playing well. Denver, the same thing.”

Buffalo also has lived through ups and downs. The Bills, who entered the season as a playoff favorite, have lost five of seven. That followed a three-game winning streak.

So how big is Sunday’s game? If the season ended today, the Bills (6-6) and quarterback Josh Allen would miss the postseason for the first time in five years. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are fighting to reestablish themselves as the AFC favorites.

Currently, they trail Miami and Baltimore in the AFC playoff seeding.

“We want to always win 14 or 15 games every year, but that’s not how the NFL works,” Mahomes said. “We’re sitting here 8-4 and we’re going up against a great team. If we can find a way to get a win, we can just try to build off that momentum and ride that through the playoffs.”