Mahomes has been everything KC wanted
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It wasn’t that long ago that the Chiefs wondered if Patrick Mahomes were too good to be true.
Four touchdowns in the season opener, followed by six the next week and three more the week after that. The physics-warping arm angles and the nolook lasers into impossibly tight spaces. The unbridled joy and complete unaffectedness.
No way Mahomes could keep it up, right?
“That first couple of games, we thought, ‘Is this an outlier? Is this something that’s going to last?’ ” Chiefs CEO and chairman Clark Hunt acknowledged Saturday. “He literally has done it every week.”
Just 23, Mahomes has proved to be more than a franchise quarterback in this, his first full season as a starter. He’s been transformational for a team whose postseason miseries are as lengthy as they are well-documented. The 31-13 victory over Indianapolis in the divisional round Saturday was only Kansas City’s second playoff win in its last 12 tries.
It also was the franchise’s first playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium since the 1993 season, which, coincidentally, is the last time the Chiefs reached the AFC title game. And when Kansas City hosts New England next weekend, bringing the man who has carried the NFL the last 15 years face to face with the man who will carry it the next 15, it will be the first time the AFC Championship Game has been played at Arrowhead.
Mind-boggling, considering the winner of the game is awarded the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named for the Chiefs’ founder and Clark Hunt’s father.
“We’re excited we get to play here and have a chance to go to the Super Bowl here,” Mahomes said.
A powerhouse in the old AFL, the Chiefs have had their moments since the merger. There was the Joe Montana and Marcus Allen Era, of course. Tony Gonzalez got them to the playoffs a few times. So did Jamaal Charles. Under coach Andy Reid, Kansas City has been a regular in the playoffs.
But it was never quite good enough. Punter Dustin Colquitt, who has been in Kansas City for his entire 14-year career, remembers watching the Chiefs’ next-door neighbors win the World Series in 2015 and thinking there was no reason his team couldn’t do what the Royals were doing. They just needed a few more players.
Asked Saturday night if they have those players, Colquitt smiled.
“I think it’s tough to argue not,” he said, his eyes automatically glancing at Mahomes’ locker.
Mahomes was something of an enigma coming out of Texas Tech. There was no question he could throw the ball — he passed for 5,052 yards in his last season with the Red Raiders and had a career passer rating of 152 — but he’d started for only two seasons. Seasons in which Texas Tech was a non-factor in the Big 12.
But Mahomes was also mature beyond his years, and growing up in Major League Baseball clubhouses had prepared him for both the grind of a pro career and the pitfalls that can come with celebrity. With Alex Smith the established starter when Mahomes was drafted, he became a sponge, learning as much as he could without getting overwhelmed or arrogant about his surroundings.
“I am proud of the way he goes about his business,” Reid said. “It’s important your quarterback does that. He had a great teacher in Alex.”
The Chiefs parted ways with Smith last offseason, as had been expected, and gave the keys to the franchise to Mahomes. He has yet to disappoint.
He became only the third player with 50 touchdowns in a season, joining Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, while throwing just 12 interceptions. He led the Chiefs to the No. 1 seed, and all-important home-field advantage, and is the heavy favorite for NFL MVP.
“Coach Reid and (offensive coordinator Eric) Bieniemy have done a great job of managing a lethal weapon,” Colquitt said. “The cool thing is, he’s not putting everything on his shoulders. He’s just going out and doing exactly what the coaches tell him to do, and it’s fun.” And everyone is in on it. Though Mahomes is the Chiefs’ undisputed star, he has shown no interest in making it a one-man show. He is quick to praise his teammates after games. He takes it in stride when Reid and his teammates razz him about his hairstyle and scratchy voice. (Providing a teachable moment for all kids getting teased or going through an awkward phase, too.) He remains unfailingly polite, sprinkling conversations with “Sir” and “Ma’am.”
“That’s just his personality and team has really rallied around him,” Hunt said. “They believe in him. That’s a very important quality if you want to win the AFC championship and go to the Super Bowl.”
The idea of that actually happening might seem too good to be true for the Chiefs and their long-suffering fans. But as Mahomes has already proved, there’s no such thing.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who passed for 278 yards Saturday, takes off running against Colts defensive end Margus Hunt in the third quarter of the AFC divisional round game.