AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs fell just short of advancing to their third consecutive Super Bowl, having their season fall a game short in the AFC Championship. The loss was certainly disappointing for Kansas City, losing a conference championship game at home in overtime after building an 18-point first-half lead -- with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes steering the ship. 

A surprising loss in Kansas City capped an interesting season for the Chiefs, one which they once sat at 3-4 and in last place in the AFC West before winning nine of their last 10 games to capture another AFC West crown. The only team to beat Kansas City over its final 13 games were the Cincinnati Bengals, beating the Chiefs in Week 17 and the AFC Championship Game. 

Winning 50 regular-season games and reaching four conference championship games over the last four seasons is one of the most impressive runs in NFL history. The expectation is greater in Kansas City as a result -- Super Bowl or bust. 

"You surely want to take advantage of them, not telling you, you don't but, things happen, and life presents you different problems," Reid said Monday. "You've got to persevere and do a little bit more the next year, get yourself even better the next year. Whether it's myself, my assistant coaches, whether it's the players, you learn from these experiences and you go forward."

The Chiefs are going to be Super Bowl contenders with Reid as the head coach and Mahomes at quarterback. How does Kansas City make sure it avenges its conference championship game loss and get back to the Super Bowl next year? The Chiefs certainly aren't on the decline, even though they have to tinker their roster a bit.   

Get Patrick Mahomes another wide receiver

The Chiefs wanted to help Mahomes out in the pass-catching department last season, but struck out on all their free agent targets. JuJu Smith-Schuster decided to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Josh Reynolds decided to sign with the Tennessee Titans. Kansas City wanted a No. 2 wide receiver, yet settled on homegrown players Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle

Hardman and Pringle had their moments in 2021, combining for 101 catches and 1,261 yards and seven touchdowns. Hardman had three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game while Pringle had two catches for 13 yards. Hardman and Pringle combined for just two catches for 11 yards in the second half and failed to get open when Cincinnati dropped eight back in coverage to contain Mahomes. 

Kansas City needs another playmaker to pair with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in order to prevent Mahomes from getting into these prolonged slumps. Pringle will be a free agent and Hardman will be in Kansas City for the final year of his rookie deal, an ideal situation for the Chiefs to upgrade at the position and find a true No. 2 option. 

The Chiefs have several options on the table to find that No. 2 receiver. Allen Robinson, Christian Kirk, D.J. Chark, and Russell Gage are viable No. 2 wideouts for the offense. Maybe the Chiefs even take another look at Smith-Schuster as he's coming off a shoulder injury that limited him to five games in the regular season (Smith-Schuster was able to return for the playoffs). 

Kansas City committed to rebuilding the offensive line in 2021. The next step is revamping at wide receiver for 2022. 

Re-sign Orlando Brown and keep the offensive line intact 

The Chiefs decided to rebuild the offensive line from the ground up last offseason, acquiring Orlando Brown from the Baltimore Ravens and drafting Creed Humphrey in the second round and Trey Smith in the sixth round. They also signed Joe Thuney to a massive deal to solidify the left side of the offensive line, resulting in Mahomes only getting sacked 28 times on the year (tied for the third-fewest in the NFL). 

Brown was an important catalyst toward the line's resurgence, allowing just four sacks and 37 pressures in his first season at left tackle. He improved as the season went on, having a stretch in which he allowed zero sacks and just seven pressures over his last five regular-season games.

Kansas City traded its 2021 first-round pick, 2021 third-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick, and a 2022 fifth-round pick for Brown to be the franchise left tackle. Brown is slated to hit free agency this offseason, a deal the Chiefs need to get done if they wish to keep contending for Super Bowl titles. 

While Brown wants franchise left tackle money -- and deserves to make it -- the Chiefs will have to be smart in distributing their money and prioritizing their top free agents. Kansas City also has Tyrann Mathieu, Melvin Ingram, and Jarran Reed to make a decision on in free agency -- yet Brown should be priority No. 1 come the next few weeks. 

Take what the defense gives you

What Mahomes has been able to accomplish in four years as a starting quarterback is unlike anything ever seen before in NFL history, yet he's still learning the intricacies of the game. Mahomes has been guilty of going for the deep ball and the big play a few times this year, no matter what the defense is presenting him. 

When Mahomes struggled early in the year and threw 10 interceptions in his first eight games, he took a step back and took the underneath throw -- resulting in the Chiefs' offensive resurgence. Mahomes completed 67.2% of his passes for 3,528 yards with 27 touchdowns to just five interceptions for a 104.7 rating -- a stretch which the Chiefs went 11-1. He threw 20 touchdown pass to just four interceptions over a nine-game stretch that lasted until the AFC Championship Game. When Mahomes was on, so was the Chiefs' offense. 

The AFC Championship game was the perfect example of Mahomes not taking what the defense gave him in the second half. Mahomes was nearly unstoppable in the first half of the game, completing 18 of 21 passes for 220 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 149.9 passer rating. In the second half, he was 8 of 18 for 55 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 12.3 rating.

The Bengals played eight defenders in coverage and Mahomes didn't take the underneath route, nor decided to run immediately and draw the defense up to respect his running ability. Mahomes needed to just slow the game down instead of going for the home run. In turn, Reid should have called more running plays to gain more yards on early downs and force Cincinnati's hand. 

Mahomes is as talented as they come and is still the best quarterback in the NFL. He just needs to control the pace of the game and not try to score a touchdown every time he gets the football. The slow, methodical drives are why Kansas City got back to the AFC Championship game in the first place.