AP Photo/Ashley Landis
Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 | 2 a.m.
The music boomed through the padded walls and closed doors of Allegiant Stadium’s home locker room.
Once the doors swung open, cheering and hollering blended with the music to create a crescendo each step down the hallway towards the locker room. The celebration was under way for the Kansas City Chiefs, their third one in the last five years.
A thick smell of smoke engulfed the teams as lighters clicked around the room to put a flame towards expensive cigars. The smoke got thicker with more than 50 Chiefs’ players contributing to the cause.
Postgame cigars became a staple once Antonio Pierce became the head coach of the Raiders midway through last season. No matter the opponent, no matter the score, as long they won, the Raiders would cover their locker room in smoke.
Maybe it’s all just coincidence that the Chiefs followed suit while set up in the domain of their AFC West archrivals. Maybe they were just caught up in the moment of celebrating a third Super Bowl championship in five years in a traditional way.
Or maybe there’s something more to it.
“Arrowhead West,” Chiefs coach Reid said.
Kansas City has now played in Las Vegas five times, and they’ve won all five after Sunday’s 25-22 overtime victory over San Francisco to retain the Lombardi Trophy. The first four were against the home team.
Raiders owner Mark Davis christened his team’s $2 billion stadium, “the Death Star,” but there’s been nothing scary about Allegiant Stadium for the Chiefs. It’s no house of horrors for the most unwelcome of guests.
Even with a Super Bowl crowd that made it seem more like a 49ers home game, the Chiefs still felt at home.
In a stadium filled with a sea of red, it was the crimson and yellow of the Chiefs that were the colors of celebration. The moment Mecole Hardman caught Patrick Mahomes’ 3-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining in overtime to secure the victory, Chiefs-colored confetti shot out of cannons and littered the turf.
When the dust settled, the Chiefs stood at the 10-yard line close to the south end zone and hoisted their third Lombardi Trophy in five years.
All while doing it in Raiders’ territory.
“I think it’s still settling in a little bit,” said Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton. “It’s still surreal.”
It won’t take much effort to find out where the Chiefs are going to party either. After winning last year’s Super Bowl over the Philadelphia Eagles in Glendale, Ariz., the Chiefs found their way about 280 miles North to the Strip.
To ensure they would be partying for another February in Las Vegas, the Chiefs had to complete another double-digit rally in a Super Bowl, something they’ve now done in all three of their championship wins.
Kansas City came back from a 10-0 hole in the first quarter by way of a strong defense that gave their superstar quarterback enough time to get going. Mahomes completed 34 of 46 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns to secure his third Super Bowl Most Valuable Player trophy at 28 years old.
Mahomes secured his place as one of the best to ever play the game and did it in a stadium he’s dominated in, throwing 12 touchdowns to two interceptions with three 300-yard games.
In the eyes of tight end Travis Kelce, there wasn’t a doubt when the Chiefs got the ball in overtime after holding the 49ers to a field goal. In a situation where a touchdown would win the game, Mahomes converted a 4th-and-1 and two third downs on the final drive before ending it all with the pass to Hardman.
“We knew when they had to kick a field goal, that it was on us,” Kelce said. “We got the best quarterback in the league. We got the best offensive mind in the league. And we got the most determination out of any team in the NFL, and you saw all of that today, man.”
Now comes the fun part: What does this mean for next season?
What does it mean for the Raiders?
Can the Raiders take motivation out of the Chiefs celebrating a championship in their building?
Las Vegas wound up the last team to defeat Kansas City, pulling off a shocking upset on Christmas Day in the real Arrowhead Stadium to make the Chiefs look like less than championship contenders.
At least some Raiders are already fired up. Tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, who’s set to be a free agent after emerging as a valuable starter for the Raiders the last two years, posted, “3 peat my ass,” to social media after the game.
But the Chiefs are at the top of the mountain yet again now. Even in a year where it seemed like a passing of the guard was inevitable, they planted their flag at Allegiant Stadium.
If the Raiders are going to start somewhere, it might be to take away the, “Arrowhead West,” title.
“There’s been a lot of adversity amongst this team and a lot of growth, also,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “That’s the most remarkable thing about how these guys responded.”