What worries Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes the most going into a game isn’t the opposing defense or executing coach Andy Reid’s intricate offensive plans.
It’s the coin toss.
“It’s one of the most nervous points of the whole game for me right now,” Mahomes said.
He’s kidding, but the Chiefs’ coin-flip record is better than their overall mark, which stands an AFC-best 8-1.
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That’s right. The Chiefs have won all nine coin tosses this season. They’re 9-0.
“It’s kind of running joke,” Mahomes said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure. Whatever happens, happens. At the same time, everybody knows the coin toss thing is going.”
Add in the final three preseason games, and the Chiefs have won 12 straight coin tosses. If you’ve wondered about the odds of that happening, Phil Deming, a professor who teaches statistics at the University of Missouri, has the answer.
“Since the flip is called before the coin is tossed, and there are only two possible outcomes, the probability of the Chiefs winning the flip (regardless of who calls it) is 1/2, or 0.5, on each flip,” Deming wrote in an email. “Since the flips are independent, you can multiply the probabilities of winning each flip times one another for as many games as you wish.”
Here is Deming’s breakdown for the Chiefs this season, using an exponentiation (^):
- The probability of the Chiefs winning the coin flip in the 5 games in which they called the flip is (.5)^5 = .03125, or 3.125 percent.
- The probability of the Chiefs winning the coin flip in the 7 games in which the other team called the flip is (.5)^7 = .0078125, or 0.78125 percent.
- The probability of the Chiefs winning the coin flip in all 12 games is (.5)^12 = .00024414062, or 0.0244 percent.
Yep, it’s a 0.0244 percent chance that the Chiefs have won 12 straight coin flips.
“It’s ridiculous,” Reid said.
We couldn’t find any consistently kept records on coin-flip streaks, but the Chicago Bears won 14 straight in 2016-17. That included one before the start of an overtime game. The Detroit Lions, who don’t have a sterling history of success, also won the coin flip in 14 straight games in 2004-05.
In 2013, the Carolina Panthers won eight straight coin flips. That’s noteworthy because they’d lost 13 straight flips to start the previous season.
The Chiefs select game captains each week, with one player each representing the offense, defense and special teams. Those players walk out to meet the officials and opposing team’s captains at midfield before the start of the game for the coin-toss ceremony.
Mahomes said the captains don’t go to midfield with a heads or tails strategy. Last week at Cleveland, the group of Cam Erving, Reggie Ragland and Eric Murray called tails.
A week earlier, at Arrowhead against the Broncos, captains Sammy Watkins, Kendall Fuller and James Winchester called heads.
No matter what is called, the Chiefs have won. Every time.
This success has in turn played a role in helping to shape the team’s success. In every game, the Chiefs have elected to defer until the second half, thereby kicking to start each game.
The Chiefs’ defense has had its issues this season, but not on those opening possessions. Seven times, the opponent has punted — five times after a three-and-out. Another opponent turned the ball over on downs, and one kicked a field goal.
On their nine first possessions, meanwhile, the Chiefs have scored six touchdowns and two field goals and punted once. Add it up, and the Chiefs have outscored opponents 42-3 on first possessions.
“Our guys are coming out ready to go,” Reid said. “You’ve got to give them credit for being ready to go and not easing into the situation.”
It hasn’t been just the offense or just the defense, either. The Chiefs’ defense opened the first two games, at the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers with a three-and-out. Against the Chargers, Tyreek Hill returned the subsequent punt 91 yards for a touchdown. Against the Steelers, a long De’Anthony Thomas return led to a short-field touchdown drive.
Reid said the Chiefs are prepared to lose a coin toss somewhere along the way, perhaps as early as Sunday, when the Arizona Cardinals visit Arrowhead.
“If one goes the other way, you’ve got to be ready to go,” Reid said. “You can’t have a letdown.”