For Andy Reid, it looked as though history was again repeating itself in horrifying fashion on Sunday.
The 61-year-old is likely better known for his many playoff failures than for his immense career success in the regular season. Despite 10 division titles and a .618 winning percentage in 21 years as an NFL head coach, Reid entered these playoffs with a career postseason record of 12-14, no championships and only one Super Bowl appearance.
Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, only two coaches—Don Shula and Bill Belichick—have won more regular-season games than Reid, who is indisputably an offensive mastermind and a quarterback whisperer. And that legend has only grown in Kansas City, where he's posted the second-best record in the NFL since joining the franchise in 2013 following a 14-year run in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles.
But between 2009 in Philly and 2018 in K.C., Reid won just two of nine playoff games and lost four of five home postseason affairs.
And at 3 p.m. Central time Sunday, Reid's Chiefs—a double-digit favorite at kickoff—found themselves trailing the inferior Houston Texans 24-0 at home.
But Reid didn't flinch, and as a result, neither did his team.
"He can't just stand there and say, 'We got it, we got it,'" offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz recalled, per ESPN.com's Tim Keown. "What he said was, 'You got to keep playing, and keep battling it out.'"
Fewer than 10 minutes after falling behind by three two-point-converted touchdowns, the Chiefs would come back to gain a 28-24 halftime lead. Thirty minutes later, they'd become just the second team in modern NFL history to win by 20 or more points after trailing by 20 or more points.
"It was about settling down and calming the storm," Reid said afterward, according to Keown. "No need to panic, just fix the problems."
There's no telling how Reid and his team might have reacted to that type of playoff adversity in the early-2000s (when the Eagles made four consecutive conference title games), in the mid-2010s (when the Chiefs were becoming a juggernaut but couldn't get it done in January) or even a year ago (when they blew a late fourth-quarter lead to the New England Patriots with a Super Bowl trip on the line).
Prior to Sunday, a Reid-coached team had never overcome a deficit larger than 14 points in the playoffs or 21 points in the regular season. He and the Chiefs were much better known for blowing a 28-point lead to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 wild-card round. Now, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Reid is the only coach in NFL history to both blow and come back from a margin of at least 24 points.
As late as it is, Sunday's comeback might have represented a turning point for Reid, whose team is again favored heavily at home in the AFC Championship Game.
With the Patriots no longer a factor this year, and with the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens now out of the way as well, the path is clearer than ever for Reid to finally rip that proverbial monkey off his back and launch it into the bleachers at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida, which will play host to Super Bowl LIV in fewer than three weeks' time.
At Caesars Palace, Kansas City is now the odds-on Super Bowl favorite. This is Reid's seventh conference championship appearance, but it's the first in which his team is favored by a full touchdown. If they beat the Tennessee Titans, they'll either be favored in the Super Bowl, or they'll be getting fewer than the seven points the Eagles got from the Patriots in 2004.
This might be Reid's best chance yet to win that elusive ring and salvage his legacy from a championship standpoint.
You could argue there'll be plenty of other opportunities to come considering the shape of Kansas City's stacked roster, but that's something you might have also said about the New Orleans Saints with Sean Payton and Drew Brees in 2009, and that team hasn't been back to the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers also looked like they'd be a perennial Super Bowl contender after they won it in 2010, but they, too, haven't returned.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a transcendent superstar, but Brees and Rodgers are Hall of Famers.
With that in mind, Reid knows you can take nothing for granted in this league, particularly when you're a coach on the other side of 60. He has to take advantage of this, especially now that he's battled back from Houston 24, Kansas City 0.
Just this year, Reid became the only coach in NFL history with more than 200 wins and no Super Bowl rings or NFL championships on his resume. In terms of regular-season success, he's in a category with legends like Tom Landry, Chuck Noll and Curly Lambeau, if not Shula, Belichick and George Halas. But his name won't be used in the same sentence as any of those unless or until he wins a championship.
Several would be nice, but it only really takes one. You've got to be a "Super Bowl-winning coach." Otherwise, even if you wind up in the Hall of Fame (as George Allen, Bud Grant and Marv Levy all did despite no titles), you'll always be categorized with those guys in the best-case scenario, and great non-champions outside of Canton like Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Reeves and Chuck Knox in the worst-case scenario.
Fair or not, two wins in the next three weeks could essentially turn Reid from a Schottenheimer to a Landry.
That's how much this matters. And right now, he has a team that is firing on all cylinders while fully aware of what this could mean to the boss.
"I think everyone who has an understanding of him over the past 20 years understands there's one thing he hasn't done," offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz said, per Keown. "It would be really special to be able to do that."
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.