KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When the Kansas City Chiefs fell behind by 24 points in the second quarter to the Houston Texans on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes gathered his offensive teammates for a message.
He urged them to go and do something special.
"Obviously, I knew as a team everything kind of had to go the right way," Mahomes said later. "Being down 24-0 in the NFL, you don't win a lot of those games."
Even as optimistic as he was about overcoming such a large deficit, Mahomes couldn't know how correct he would be about the Chiefs doing something special. Kansas City roared back to win 51-31 in the divisional round at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs advance to next Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Tennessee Titans, also at Arrowhead. They opened as 7-point favorites at Caesars Sportsbook.
On Sunday, the Chiefs became the first team to win a playoff game by 20 points after trailing by 20. While the final score left little doubt, wide receiver Sammy Watkins acknowledged that at 24-0, he began to think the Chiefs' season soon would end.
"A couple of times, I was like, 'This is over,'" Watkins said. "I kind of got down, like, 'I don't know what's going to happen.'"
He said he then looked to tight end Travis Kelce for guidance along the sideline.
"He said, 'Hey, don't look like that, your body language,'" Watkins said. "I was like, 'OK, he knows something I don't know.'"
Like Mahomes, Kelce was optimistic but couldn't know how quickly things would change. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter, tying an NFL playoff record for one period. Three went to Kelce, who set an NFL record for TD catches in a quarter.
The Chiefs needed just more than 10 minutes of game time to erase the 24-point deficit. They led 28-24 by halftime. Only three teams have overcome a bigger playoff deficit.
The Chiefs made plenty of mistakes early. They dropped four passes in the first quarter after dropping four in the previous six games combined. Their normally reliable pass defense blew a coverage on the Texans' first touchdown. They allowed a touchdown on a blocked punt. Tyreek Hill lost a fumble deep in Kansas City territory on a punt return.
These were all things that were uncharacteristic for the Chiefs, or as coach Andy Reid said, "freak stuff."
"These are things that we haven't done," Reid said. "That's not us, right? It was just a matter of settling it down and calming the storm and making sure that our guys knocked whatever rust off and calmed down and made plays. We've been doing that all year, and it was important we got back to doing that.
"We were able to rebound. A lot of teams can't do that."
The Chiefs reeled off 41 points at one point before the Texans finally scored again. They scored on a touchdown on seven straight possessions, an NFL postseason record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"The goal is to score on every drive," said tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who added he didn't realize until the game was over that the Chiefs scored a touchdown on seven consecutive drives. "Realistically, it's never been achieved in NFL history. It was nice to string it together.
"It just keeps coming and keeps coming. Putting the ball in Pat's hands, usually good things happen."
Such offensive eruptions were common for the Chiefs in 2018, when they led the NFL in scoring. They haven't had as many offensive games like that this season, in part because they haven't needed to thanks to an improved defense. But they needed the points on Sunday and didn't seem to have any problem summoning them.
"When you see teams that don't have an MVP at quarterback and the skill guys we do, you kind of say, 'You want to get them into those passing situations.'" Schwartz said. "I don't think anyone approaches us and says, 'We want to make them throw the ball.' It definitely plays to a strength of ours."