MediterraneanGrocery Wholesalers in Kansas City, MO

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The Largest Selection of Wholesale Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Products in Kansas City

When it comes to trying new, exciting cuisine, few foods hit the spot like a deliciously fresh Mediterranean meal. However, we know that it can be very difficult to find authentic Mediterranean grocery wholesalers in Kansas City, MO. Having lived in metro Atlanta for years, we realized that our customers needed an easy way to find quality wholesale Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food in bulk. That is why we created Nazareth Grocery Mediterranean Market - to give everyone a chance to enjoy tasty, healthy food, desserts, and authentic Mediterranean gifts at wholesale prices.

Founded in 2009, Nazareth Grocery has become one of Kansas City's leading international wholesale grocery stores. We are very proud to serve our customers and do everything in our power to give them the largest selection of high-quality wholesale goods available.

If you're looking for the freshest, most delicious Middle Eastern wholesale products and ingredients, you will find them here at the best prices in the state. We encourage you to swing by our store in Marietta to see our selection for yourself. We think that you will be impressed!

The Nazareth Difference

At Nazareth Grocery Mediterranean Market, our mission is simple: bring you and your family the largest selection of wholesale Mediterranean products in Kansas City. When coupled with our helpful, friendly staff and authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere, it's easy to see why we are the top Middle Eastern grocery wholesaler in Kansas City, MO. We're proud to carry just about every kind of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern product that you can think of, from prepared meals and hookahs to fine seasonings and sweets. We're here for our customers and want each one of them to have a unique, one-of-a-kind experience when they shop with us.

Our loyal customers love our selection of the following wholesale foods and gifts:

  • Fresh Breads
  • OlivesOlives
  • HummusHummus
  • CheesesCheeses
  • SaucesSauces
  • Savory-FoodsSavory Foods
  • DessertsDesserts
  • DrinksDrinks
  • HookahsHookahs
  • TobaccoTobacco
  • SaucesGifts
  • Much More!Much More!

Our Service Areas

Most Popular Wholesale Mediterranean Foods

There is so much more to Mediterranean food than pizza and pasta. The perfect climate combined with delicious foods and amazing wine makes the Mediterranean incredibly irresistible. That's why our customers absolutely love to buy this kind of cuisine in bulk. Every country in this region has its own set of specialties and delicacies, each with its own flavors and styles of preparation.

Mediterranean countries include:

  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Turkey
  • Syria
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • Spain
Mediterranean Grocery Kansas City, MO

So, when it comes to the most popular wholesale Mediterranean products in Kansas City,
what are we talking about?

 Mediterranean Supermarkets Kansas City, MO

Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a classic Mediterranean dairy product that is often enjoyed on its own, in Greek salads, on bread, or mixed with zucchini. Depending on where the feta is sourced and produced, the cheese can be made from cow, sheep, or goat milk, or even a combination of the three. Regardless of the animal it comes from, this delicious cheese is a crowd favorite.

 Mediterranean Grocery Store Kansas City, MO

Baba Ganoush

This Levantine dish is one of the most well-known Mediterranean dishes to eat in the United States. It typically comes in the form of a dip, served with pita or another kind of dipping bread. Commonly served before dinner as an appetizer of sorts, it usually features tahini, eggplant, garlic, spices, and sometimes yogurt. This tasty cuisine works great as a spread on a sandwich, or you can even eat it with a spoon, all on its own.

 Middle Eastern Grocery Kansas City, MO


If you have never tried authentic baklava before, get ready to have your mind blown. This dessert is a traditional Mediterranean food that will have your taste buds craving more and more. Once you open a box of baklava from our Mediterranean grocery wholesaler in Kansas City, MO, you won't want to stop eating! Baklava is made with layers of thin filo dough, which is layered together, filled with chopped nuts (think pistachios), and sealed with honey or syrup. Baklava is so good that its origins are debated, leaving many wondering which country invented the dessert. Everyone from the Turks to the Greeks and even Middle Easterners hold unique takes on baklava. Try each one to discover your favorite!

Most Popular Wholesale Middle Eastern Foods

Fresh, healthy, aromatic, rich: it's no wonder that the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine and products has skyrocketed in the United States. This genre of cuisine features a large variety of foods, from Halvah to Labneh. If there were one common theme throughout all Middle Eastern food, it would be the bright, vibrant herbs and spices that are used. These flavorings help create rich, complex flavors that foodies fawn over. Typically, Middle Eastern food is piled high for all to eat, with enough food for an entire republic to put down.

 Mediterranean Food Stores Kansas City, MO


This refreshing, healthy dish is chock-full of greens, herbs, tomatoes, and bulgur (or cracked wheat), creating a memorable, bold flavor. This dish may be eaten on its own or paired with a shawarma sandwich or helping of falafel. It's best to buy your ingredients in bulk to make this dish because it tastes best freshly made with family around to enjoy. Just be sure to bring a toothpick to the tabbouleh party - you're almost certain to have some leafy greens stuck in your teeth after eating.

 Middle Eastern Market Kansas City, MO


We mentioned shawarma above, and for good reason - this dish is enjoyed by men and women around the world, and of course, right here in the U.S. Except for falafel, this might be the most popular Middle Eastern food item in history. Shawarma is kind of like a Greek gyro, with slow-roasted meat stuffed in laffa with veggies and sauce. The blend of spices and the smoky meat mix together to create a tangy, meaty flavor that you will want to keep eating for hours. For western-style shawarma, try using beef or chicken. For a more traditional meal, try using lamb from our Middle Eastern grocery distributor in Kansas City, MO.

 Greek Grocery Store Kansas City, MO


Traditionally used as a dip meant for fresh pita, hummus is a combo of chickpeas, garlic, and tahini, blended together until silky, smooth, and creamy. You can find hummus in just about any appetizer section of a Middle Eastern restaurant menu. That's because it's considered a staple of Middle Eastern food that can be enjoyed by itself, as a spread, or with fresh-baked pita bread. Hummus is also very healthy, making it a no-brainer purchase from our grocery store.

Benefits of Eating a Mediterranean Diet

If there's one diet that is most well-known for its health benefits, it has got to be the Mediterranean diet. In 2019, U.S. News & World Report listed the Mediterranean diet as No. 1 on its best over diet list. This incredible diet has been cited to help with weight loss, brain health, heart health, diabetes prevention, and cancer prevention.

Whether you already love Mediterranean food or you're looking to make some positive changes in your life, this "diet" is for you. Eating cuisine like Greek food, Persian food, Turkish food, and Italian food is healthy and tastes great. Even better than that? At Nazareth Wholesale Grocery, we have many staples of the Mediterranean diet for sale in bulk so that you can stock up on your favorites at the best prices around.

So, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet?

It is a way of eating that incorporates traditional Greek, Italian, and other Mediterranean cultures' foods. These foods are often plant-based and make up the foundation of the diet, along with olive oil. Fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry are also included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are only eaten in moderation, not in abundance. Mediterranean food includes many forms of nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, seeds, and more. Of course, you can find at them all at our wholesale Mediterranean grocery store!

Here are just a few of the many benefits of eating a healthy Mediterranean diet:

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Reduced Risk
of Heart Disease

Many studies have been conducted on this diet, many of which report that Mediterranean food is excellent for your heart. Some of the most promising evidence comes from a randomized clinical trial published in 2013. For about five years, researchers followed 7,000 men and women around the country of Spain. These people had type 2 diabetes or were at a high risk for cardiovascular disease. Participants in the study who ate an unrestricted Mediterranean diet with nuts and extra-virgin olive oil were shown to have a 30% lower risk of heart events.

Reduced Risk of Stroke for Women

Reduced Risk
of Stroke for Women

In addition to the heart-healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet, studies have shown that eating healthy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods can reduce the chances of stroke in women. The study was conducted in the U.K., which included women between the ages of 40 and 77. Women who stuck to the Mediterranean diet showed a lower risk of having a stroke - especially women who were at high risk of having one.

Benefits of Eating a Mediterranean Diet

First and foremost, purchase your Mediterranean and Middle Eastern wholesale foods from Nazareth Grocery - we're always updating our inventory! Getting started on this healthy, delicious diet is easy.

Try these tips:

Try these tips


Instead of unhealthy sweets like candy and ice cream, try eating fresh fruit instead. It's refreshing, tasty, and often packed with great vitamins and nutrients.


Try eating fish twice a week, in lieu of red meat. Fish is much healthier and doesn't have the unfortunate side effects of red meat, like inflammation.


Try planning out your meals using beans, whole grains, and veggies. Don't start with meats and sweets.


They're tasty, but try to avoid processed foods completely.


Instead of using butter to flavor your food, use extra virgin olive oil instead. Olive oil contains healthy fats and tastes great too.


Try to get more exercise and get out of the house. The Mediterranean lifestyle is an active one, best enjoyed in the beautiful sunshine when possible.

Why Buy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Products Wholesale?

Buying wholesale and retail are quite different. When you buy products from a wholesaler, you're essentially buying from the middleman between a retail establishment and the manufacturer. Wholesale purchases are almost always made in bulk. Because of that, buyers pay a discounted price. That's great for normal buyers and great for business owners, who can sell those products to profit. This higher price is called the retail price, and it is what traditional customers pay when they enter a retail store.

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 Middle Eastern Store Kansas City, MO

Latest News in Kansas City, MO

Chiefs-Bengals betting-line shift takes Vegas by surprise: ‘That just doesn’t happen’

Jay Kornegay — executive vice president for SuperBook Sports operations — says what’s transpired over the past 72 hours is unprecedented in an AFC or NFC Championship Game.Kornegay’s SuperBook Sports opened its line Sunday night with the Kansas City Chiefs favored by three for Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Less than 24 hours later, so many Cincinnati bets came in that the Bengals became the favored team....

Jay Kornegay — executive vice president for SuperBook Sports operations — says what’s transpired over the past 72 hours is unprecedented in an AFC or NFC Championship Game.

Kornegay’s SuperBook Sports opened its line Sunday night with the Kansas City Chiefs favored by three for Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Less than 24 hours later, so many Cincinnati bets came in that the Bengals became the favored team.

And as of early Tuesday afternoon, that trend hadn’t slowed, with the line shifting to Bengals by 2 1/2 (though it moved back to 1 1/2 later on Tuesday).

“We talk about the Bengals’ great performance (against the Buffalo Bills last week), but that’s a 5 1/2-point move. That just doesn’t happen,” Kornegay said. “And I would say 90% of that is because of (Patrick) Mahomes’ injury.”

The Chiefs quarterback Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain last week against Jacksonville, which limited his mobility in the second half. Mahomes has vowed to play Sunday against Cincinnati, though, meaning sportsbooks were left to speculate about his status while attempting to set their opening lines.

Kornegay said he and a handful of other handicappers met Sunday during the Bills-Bengals game to establish SuperBook’s opening line.

They started the discussion with Mahomes. They knew from the past that high ankle sprains could be serious, estimating that Mahomes would be around 60-80% of his usual production (with some in the discussion leaning closer to that lower 60% mark).

The next talking point, though, was about Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Could the bookmakers give that much deduction to Mahomes if the Chiefs coaching staff might game-plan some around Mahomes’ lack of mobility?

“We think that there’ll be certain plays that will be designed to keep Mahomes in that pocket or a more dink-and-dunk kind of passing plan to limit his limitations,” Kornegay said. “And so we think about that.”

The group also tried to keep the big picture in mind. For example, one of the biggest surprises from Sunday’s Bengals-Bills game was Cincinnati’s run game; running back Joe Mixon had 20 carries for 105 yards, and the Bengals averaged 5.1 yards per rush.

Whether that would be repeatable against the Chiefs, though, was a different discussion.

“The Bengals were just running right at the Bills, and the Bills couldn’t do anything about it. It was just shocking to us,” Kornegay said. “So we thought that was kind of an anomaly of what we were seeing, simply because the Bengals really haven’t been able to do that all season long.”

The handicappers also had recent history to take into account. The Bills were favored by six at home over the Bengals in that game Sunday, with more bets coming in on the Bills’ side. That number, if nothing else, could be the start of a baseline for how Cincinnati should be viewed when traveling to KC.

Kornegay said the group eventually came to a consensus: SuperBook Sports, which prides itself on posting some of the fastest opening lines in the NFL while operating in seven states and at Westgate in Las Vegas, began with the Chiefs favored by three.

“You take all these variables, and you throw them in the hat. And we spit out three, even though I will admit ... I’ll admit that it wasn’t our best work,” Kornegay said with a laugh.

According to Kornegay, Cincinnati had “a rush of money” in the first few hours to move that line down to Chiefs by one late Sunday night. By Monday morning, the Bengals were favored. However, Kornegay noted some “highly respected handicappers” started to bet Kansas City when the game was a pick ’em or Cincinnati favored by one.

That still didn’t stop Cincinnati’s support as the line shifted to 2 1/2 points. As of Tuesday afternoon, Kornegay had only seen a brief instance of a sportsbook making the Bengals a three-point favorite before shifting back to 2 1/2; that three-point number is a big one in betting circles, as NFL games often end with a three-point margin because of field goals.

“What’s surprising to us at this point,” Kornegay said, “is that (the bets) just keeps snowballing on the Cincinnati side.”

Some of this could be attributed to recency bias, Kornegay said. The Bengals looked dominant in their 27-10 win over the Bills, while the Chiefs failed to cover their 8 1/2-point spread in a 27-20 home win against the Jaguars.

Kornegay spoke through some hypotheticals to give context on where the public was landing with the Bengals-Chiefs line. He said with a fully healthy Mahomes, he’d put the Chiefs as 4- to 4 1/2-point favorites against the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. If Mahomes were ruled out, he’d set the line at Bengals by five.

There have been NFL instances in the past, Kornegay said, when a team missing its starting quarterback and turning to its backup has moved a line between seven and 10 points. Those are typically extreme examples.

This circumstance is unique, however, because it’s trying to estimate a healthy Mahomes against an injured one.

“I think everybody’s eyes — whether you’re a bettor, educated player, sharp guy, sharp handicapper, bookmaker, oddsmaker — everybody’s gonna be looking at that ankle all week,” Kornegay said.

With that information, Kornegay said, the line could still shift either way.

“It’s really going to be based off those practice reports,” Kornegay said. “I think that people are gonna look at that and see — including us — and read between the lines of what’s reported to really get an idea of how healthy he is.”

Nothing that happens ahead changes the craziness of what’s already occurred with the Cincinnati-Kansas City spread.

Kornegay says the line has been a “hot topic” in Vegas this week, with other handicappers he’s talked to agreeing that they’ve never seen anything like this.

“This is the biggest move,” Kornegay said, “I’ve ever seen in a Championship Game.”

Red Sox acquire Adalberto Mondesi in trade with Royals

The Boston Red Sox acquired shortstop Adalberto Mondesi from the Kansas City Royals for left-handed reliever Josh Taylor on Tuesday,...

The Boston Red Sox acquired shortstop Adalberto Mondesi from the Kansas City Royals for left-handed reliever Josh Taylor on Tuesday, providing middle-infield depth to buttress losses this winter to free agency and injury.

The Red Sox also will be receiving a player to be named or cash considerations as part of the deal.

The Red Sox also officially announced their one-year contract with outfielder Adam Duvall and designated right-handed reliever Matt Barnes for assignment in a corresponding move. The 32-year-old Barnes, who has spent his entire nine-season major league career with the Red Sox, was 0-4 with four saves and a 4.31 ERA last season.

The 27-year-old Mondesi, whose star-level tools made him a top prospect but whose inability to stay healthy has limited him to 358 games in seven seasons, is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. Boston lost shortstop Xander Bogaerts to the San Diego Padres and second baseman Trevor Story to internal bracing surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, leaving a significant middle-infield gap.

Enrique Hernandez, who has played center field for the Red Sox over the past two seasons, is expected to take over at shortstop, where he has played 100 career games. Mondesi has spent most of his career at shortstop, though he has dabbled at second and third base in the past. He will make $3.045 million this season.

Kansas City once saw Mondesi as a foundational player in its rebuild, and he looked the part in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, hitting for power and stealing 75 bases with his elite speed. For him to be packaged with a player to be named later and return only a reliever illustrates how far Mondesi's stock has fallen. Over his seven seasons, Mondesi's career line is .244/.280/.408 with 38 home runs and 133 stolen bases.

Taylor, 29, has been effective in his two full seasons with the Red Sox but missed all of 2022 with a back injury. In 2021, he struck out 60 in 47? innings, walked 23 and allowed only two home runs. Taylor, who has thrown multiple bullpen sessions recently and is expected to be healthy in time for spring training, will join Aroldis Chapman -- who recently signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal -- Amir Garrett and perhaps Angel Zerpa as left-handers in the Royals' bullpen.

Kansas City might not be done dealing, either. Earlier in the week, it traded center fielder Michael A. Taylor to Minnesota, and sources told ESPN the Royals have spoken with teams about utilityman Hunter Dozier -- who's owed $17.25 million over the next two seasons -- and infielder Nicky Lopez, who had a WAR of 4.2 in 2021.

Royals acquire lefty Josh Taylor from Boston for Mondesi

KANSAS CITY -- On Oct. 30, 2015, Adalberto Mondesi became the first player to make his Major League debut in a World Series game. In some ways, the chase toward his tantalizing future began then. He was on his way to becoming the game-changing superstar his skills had long suggested he’d become.Seven years and several injury-riddled seasons later, the Royals are moving on from their dynamic but oft-injured shortstop, sending Mondesi...

KANSAS CITY -- On Oct. 30, 2015, Adalberto Mondesi became the first player to make his Major League debut in a World Series game. In some ways, the chase toward his tantalizing future began then. He was on his way to becoming the game-changing superstar his skills had long suggested he’d become.

Seven years and several injury-riddled seasons later, the Royals are moving on from their dynamic but oft-injured shortstop, sending Mondesi and a player to be named to the Red Sox on Tuesday. In return the Royals acquired lefty reliever Josh Taylor, who has his own injury history but was an effective reliever for Boston.


Royals get: LHP Josh Taylor

Red Sox get: INF Adalberto Mondesi, player to be named

It became increasingly obvious this offseason that the Royals were going to move on from Mondesi given his injury history and the makeup of Kansas City’s roster, with Bobby Witt Jr. set to be the starting shortstop in 2023. Mondesi could play second or third base, but the Royals couldn’t guarantee him a starting job after doing so the past couple years and then watching him sidelined by injuries.

“Bobby is clearly our shortstop,” executive vice president/general manager J.J. Picollo said. “And this paves the way for him to play as much as he can at shortstop.”

Mondesi, who will make $3.405 million in his final year before free agency, is as talented as they come at shortstop when he’s on the field. The Royals once saw Mondesi -- armed with elite defense, power and speed -- as a foundational player in their rebuild.

Thank you, Mondi, for your efforts to help bring a championship to Kansas City.We wish you the best of luck in Boston and the rest of your career.

— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) January 24, 2023

But injuries have limited his availability over the past seven seasons. His slash line is .244/.280/.408 with 38 homers and 133 stolen bases, but he’s played in only 358 career games.

The Royals have had their eye on Taylor for some time. He was a key reliever for Boston in 2019 and 2021, with ERAs of 3.04 and 3.40, respectively. In 2021 he was extremely effective against left-handed batters (.146/.222/.159), and he comes to Kansas City with postseason experience.

The 29-year-old did not pitch at all in 2022 because of a back injury, but the Royals feel comfortable with his health and see him as a key lefty in their bullpen. Taylor will make $1.03 million in ’23 after he signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. He also has options remaining, allowing the Royals to maximize matchups in their bullpen based on their opponent.

“It gives us a chance to map out and strategize and plan when we go to play whoever it may be -- let’s put the best matchups together that we can and put our roster together week to week,” Picollo said.

The Royals debated internally whether to trade Mondesi now or wait to see if his value would increase if he stayed on the field. They also recognized that they’ve waited before, only to find Mondesi on the injured list. This was a chance to add a reliever with three years of control in exchange for a player who will be a free agent at year’s end.

“We can debate, ‘When is their highest value?’” Picollo said. “It could be now, it could be at the [Trade] Deadline. You just don’t know.”

The Royals hope for nothing but the best for the soft-spoken player who wants nothing but to stay on the field -- including the man who executed the trade.

“He’s an incredibly talented player. The injuries have impacted his performance,” Picollo said. “… What I’ve shared with Boston and I’ll share with you: He can take off there. He’s going to get a great opportunity. It would not surprise me one bit -- with the change of scenery, his talent, we know his knee is healthy -- if he has a great year. And that’s how the game goes. There’s risk on both ends.”

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Mondesi will get the chance to be Boston’s starting shortstop, and he could still enjoy a long career, with these past seasons reduced to a blip in his player bio. But it won’t be as a Royal. Could the team have done anything different to prevent injuries? Perhaps. They were looking into workload-management scenarios at the start of last season before Mondesi got hurt.

“I know Mondesi did all his work,” Picollo said. “I know our medical staff, our strength and conditioning staff, our coaching staff spent countless hours trying to figure out how we keep him on the field and get the most production out of him.

“So is there some regret, or do we question what we could have done better? Sure, there is. I just don’t know what the answer would have been. I know the effort was there, and the minds got together and the collaboration happened. We just didn’t see a positive result.”

What the Royals did with back-to-back trades this week is send a message about their direction in 2023. Witt is their shortstop. Center field is open for young players to establish themselves. The Royals will evaluate that talent this season to help them move forward.

“I think it makes our transition better to being competitive,” Picollo said. “I don’t like using the word ‘rebuild.’ I know that teams do get into rebuilds. But the players that are going to be in the lineup the majority of the time have Major League experience right now. They just simply need to take their next steps.”

Bengals claim former Chiefs CB Chris Lammons

The Cincinnati Bengals may’ve hindered some roster gymnastics by the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of their AFC Championship matchup.Cincinnati claimed cornerback and core special teamer Chris Lammons, who had been with Kansas City for the past four seasons....

The Cincinnati Bengals may’ve hindered some roster gymnastics by the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of their AFC Championship matchup.

Cincinnati claimed cornerback and core special teamer Chris Lammons, who had been with Kansas City for the past four seasons.

The Bengals have claimed CB/core special teamer Chris Lammons off of waivers from the Chiefs. The waiver claim will officially process the day after the Super Bowl, when Lammons will be eligible to join Cincinnati. An added wrinkle of course: Bengals at Chiefs this Sunday.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 24, 2023

Lammons was waived by the Chiefs Monday afternoon, and the speculation was the team would use his roster spot to activate one of their players on the Reserve/Injured list and bring Lammons back on the practice squad. With the Bengals claiming Lammons, that can’t happen.

The move will be deferred until February 13th, a day after Super Bowl 57, which means Lammons is ineligible to play for the Bengals this postseason. That said, the club can still communicate with Lammons as they prepare to face the Chiefs on their home field this weekend.

If Lammons was added back to KC’s practice squad, he would’ve been a clear candidate to be elevated to play. No other player has played more special teams snaps than Lammons this season.

The Bengals may’ve outsmarted the Chiefs here. Or they may simply be getting into the Chiefs’ heads.

Lammons can’t be on the team, but there’s nothing holding Cincinnati back from trying to pick his brain. This also prevents him from going back to KC’s practice squad — which likely would’ve been an option had he cleared waivers. Lammons was with KC since 2019.

— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 24, 2023




and Kansas City Chiefs (+1) are set to square off in the 2023 AFC Championship. Game time is set for 6:30 pm ET on January 29th via CBS with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call. You can stream the game online using CBS All-Access or Paramount+.

Use this stream to keep track of everything related to this championship clash between the Bengals and Chiefs.




Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Chiefs ‘Don’t Want to Mess It Up’ Against Bengals, Again

George Karlaftis remembers the Chiefs’ last game before he joined the team. They were at home. He was in Dallas, preparing for the draft. He had watched Kansas City beat Buffalo (“That was all-time wild game”) and then he watched the AFC championship game against Cincinnati. Kansas City raced to a 21–3 lead.“I was like, ‘All right, the Chiefs got it,’” he said Saturday in the Kansas City locker room after the Chiefs beat the Jaguars. “I turned it off at halftime.”Kansa...

George Karlaftis remembers the Chiefs’ last game before he joined the team. They were at home. He was in Dallas, preparing for the draft. He had watched Kansas City beat Buffalo (“That was all-time wild game”) and then he watched the AFC championship game against Cincinnati. Kansas City raced to a 21–3 lead.

“I was like, ‘All right, the Chiefs got it,’” he said Saturday in the Kansas City locker room after the Chiefs beat the Jaguars. “I turned it off at halftime.”

Kansas City led 21–10 at halftime, lost in overtime, and has regretted it ever since.

“I thought about it all offseason,” running back Jerick McKinnon said. “That’s definitely gonna be a driving motivator like it’s been all offseason. We just let it slip away.”

McKinnon said this before he knew the Chiefs would play the Bengals again. It will be a rare championship game rematch, and also the rare playoff game between two teams with residual anger about the last time they played.

The Bengals are angry because they won, and people act like they got lucky. They have played the disrespect card for the past month—bristling at a possible coin flip to determine the AFC North winner (it didn’t come to that) and scoffing at the notion that Kansas City and Buffalo were the two best teams in the conference and would meet again. The Bengals are adamant that nobody respects their team, their coaches or their chili.

The Chiefs? They’re angry at themselves. They could have played in their third consecutive Super Bowl. McKinnon was with the 49ers when they blew a 10-point lead to the Chiefs and lost in Super Bowl LIV in Miami, and for him, that remains the worst loss of his career. But he said the Bengals’ loss was “1B.” He thought about it last spring and summer as he got up for early workouts in his hometown of Atlanta or in Miami, where he trained.

“I didn’t even have to watch it,” he said, pointing to his head. “It was stuck up here.”

With a year of hindsight, we can say two things about last year’s AFC championship game. One is that the Bengals were not the plucky underdogs they seemed to be that day. They did, after all, come within a few plays of winning the Super Bowl, and now they are in the NFL’s final four again, and we know a whole lot more about Joe Burrow’s greatness than we did then.

And the other thing we can say is the Chiefs should have won that game, anyway.

They started to blow it at the end of the half. They had first-and-goal on the 1-yard line with nine seconds left. Patrick Mahomes rolled left, saw nobody open, and threw the ball into the ground. Five seconds remained.

Coach Andy Reid should have sent the field goal unit out for the easy three points. Instead, he called a play that he said later he wished he could have back. Sometimes coaches say that kind of thing to cover for their players, and Reid is especially wary of publicly criticizing anybody who plays for him. But in this case, what he said was an understatement. It was an extraordinarily awful play-call—and a revealing one.

The ball was snapped from the 1, and Mahomes caught it at the 6. He faked a handoff to McKinnon, which was preposterous; there was not a chance in the world that, with five seconds left and no timeouts, Kansas City was going to hand the ball off to a running back on the 5-yard line. Not one Bengal was fooled. McKinnon ran straight into the end zone and jumped over the goal line untouched.

Then Mahomes pivoted and threw a screen to Tyreek Hill, who caught it at the 6-yard line with two seconds left.

Reid had completely disregarded the whole thought process behind running a play there. He had forfeited any chance of kicking the field goal. The Chiefs looked like they were trying to have a blast running up points on a hapless opponent instead of playing the kind of sound strategic football that wins playoff games. They played the rest of the way like a team that didn’t expect a fight.

Some of the Chiefs might say last year was last year, and they have moved on. But Karlaftis says the game comes up sometimes—not just because of the stakes, but because Kansas City blew a big lead by not paying attention to details. It is reminiscent of the 2007 Patriots, who used their blown lead in the AFC championship game the season before as fuel to go full throttle in every game. The Pats won 18 straight before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl on the David Tyree catch.

The Reid-Mahomes duo is so potent that it feels like they can win a half dozen Super Bowls, and maybe they will. Mahomes has made it to five conference championship games. The Lions, Texans and Cardinals have played in three—combined—in 135 seasons of the Super Bowl era.

And yet, even for the best of franchises, winning a championship usually comes down to one or two plays. Consider: Tom Brady is 7–3 in Super Bowls, but you could turn five of the wins into losses by changing the result of a single play. You could also turn two of the losses into wins by changing one play.

Mahomes has already won one Super Bowl. He will have more chances after this. He is on the verge of winning his second MVP award and someday will be voted into the Hall of Fame. But when he is done playing, games like this week’s will color our view of him, and maybe his own view of himself. It might not be entirely fair, but it’s the truth.

Kansas City has had a year to think about that play at the end of the half, the rushed interception Mahomes threw in the second half and the failure to gain a single yard after winning the coin flip in overtime. Mahomes might be limping with a high ankle sprain. The Bengals might be better. But the opportunity is there, and even for a team like this, those opportunities are precious. Karlaftis might have turned off his TV last year, but that Chiefs-Bengals game lingers, even for him.

“I'm sure we'll watch it” this week, Karlaftis said. “I'm sure guys will be, like, almost disgusted by it. It’s a chance to go to the Super Bowl. You don’t want to mess it up.”


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