The Super Bowl was not even officially called the Super Bowl when the Kansas City Chiefs appeared in the first championship game between the AFL and the NFL, prior to the merger of the leagues. More than a half-century later, the Chiefs will take their shot at returning to a game that has become bigger than anyone could have imagined in the 1960s.

In advance of Sunday’s AFC title game vs. New England, a closer look at the Chiefs:

Team’s theme

Like this weekend’s other contestants in the NFL’s conference championship games, Kansas City is an offense-driven team, with dynamic quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid, who remains an NFL innovator in his 20th season as a head coach. The Chiefs led the NFL in total offense (425.6 yards) and scoring (35.3 points), while allowing the league’s second-highest point total. And here they are, playing for a long-awaited trip to the Super Bowl.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK
Tribune sportswriter Kurt Kragthorpe introduces the four contestants in Sunday’s NFL championship games. This installment: Kansas City Chiefs.


How they got here

Kansas City went 12-4 in the regular season, tying with the Los Angeles Chargers for first place in the AFC West, yet that record was sufficient for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and two home playoff games. The Chiefs beat Indianapolis 31-13 in the division round.

Utah connections

Reid, 60, is a former BYU offensive lineman and has drawn from his roots in the traditional BYU passing offense in designing the Chiefs' scheme. With a 195-124-1 record in 20 years in Philadelphia and Kansas City, he ranks No. 8 on the NFL’s all-time coaching wins list. He would be a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate if he had a better postseason record, with only one Super Bowl appearance in Philadelphia.

Alex Whittingham, a former Utah special-teams player, is in his first season as a Chiefs defensive assistant. He’s a son of Ute coach Kyle Whittingham, who will attend Sunday’s game.

BYU product Daniel Sorensen is a starting safety, having been activated from injured reserve in the middle of his fifth pro season. Marcus Kemp, from Layton High School, is a backup receiver and special-teams player.

Mahomes is a son of Pat Mahomes, who pitched for the Salt Lake Buzz in 1996 in the Minnesota Twins organization.

Moment in Utah State opponent history

Playing for Hawaii, Kemp caught six passes for 56 yards in a 2014 loss to Utah State.

Best player

Mahomes. Having replaced former Ute quarterback Alex Smith, who’s credited with having been a good mentor last season, Mahomes became the NFL’s biggest story. He’s an MVP candidate after passing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in the regular season.

Best player you’ve never heard of

As evidence of the Chiefs' offensive talent, they have three other AP All-Pro first-team selections. Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz gets far less acclaim, by the nature of his position, than receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.

Reasons to cheer for them

Reid transcends the BYU-Utah division as a longtime friend of Kyle Whittingham, who once labeled him “a closet Ute” — referring to all of his Utah apparel. The Chiefs are trying to defy the theory that defense wins championships at any level of football, and they would be good story in a return to the Super Bowl. And they’re not the Patriots.