AFC Championship / by Jeremey Theron Kirby

On Sunday I was able to photograph my fourth straight Chiefs playoff game. It was one of the most competitive and exciting games I’ve ever seen and with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, first year starter and presumptive league MVP Patrick Mahomes went blow for blow with the greatest quarterback to ever play the sport. Obviously, as a life-long Chiefs fan, I came away from the game disappointed but grateful to have witnessed it and hopeful that under Mahomes games like these will become recurrent. That said, what I’ll remember most about this game won’t be the questionable officiating or the fact that the Chiefs should have used more time at the end of regulation or the Dee Ford gaffe, but instead, the ruthless, clinical dissection of the Chiefs by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Take a look at the stats to see how one-sided the game really was. The fact that it was somehow close at the end speaks to just how special Mahomes is, but on Sunday it was Brady that impressed me the most. The accuracy. The efficiency. I don’t remember New England having a single spectacular play. I will also note that I didn’t see a bunch of ridiculous penalties or choreographed team celebrations by players with nifty nicknames. All New England does is control both lines and nick you to death with a thousand paper cuts. On the drive home I thought about how many millions of football fans over the course of Brady’s career have felt what Kansas City was feeling. As someone who appreciates the strategy of football, it was a masterclass. 

From a photography perspective, I shot the game with the new Canon 400 2.8 IS III on a 1Dx Mark II body. This third 400 2.8 is roughly half the weight of the first 400 and two pounds lighter than the version 2. It is the lightest 400 2.8 in the world. For long stretches of the game I actually shot handheld. The combination of this new lens and the 1Dx was outstanding.

Each January in restaurants and bars and living rooms and cars exiting Arrowhead Stadium, there’s an old saying… “There’s always next year…” Patrick Mahomes just completed one of the most impressive quarterback seasons in league history in his first year as a starter and he is just 23 years old. 

This time that feels true.