Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes discusses Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill, his sprained ankle
Early in the second quarter Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ crown jewel and the stuff the team’s dreams are made of, went on a little jaunt around right end to leave us cringing over how vulnerable he was.
Especially against a surly Jacksonville defense that already had knocked Tyreek Hill out of the game and was apt to treat officials’ whistles as guidelines more than rules in the Chiefs’ 40-26 season-opening victory.
Before you could even exhale, one play later Mahomes got tangled up and mangled some in a scrum 15 yards or so from a near-brawl that initially distracted from what had happened to him with the Chiefs holding a 17-10 lead.
But, oof, there he was, accepting help to limp off the field and make his way into a pop-up tent to get a private going-over while backup Matt Moore warmed up to potentially appear in his first NFL game since 2017.
The very flicker of a hint of a notion that anything could be awry with the franchise savior — at least when it comes to legitimate hopes of the first Super Bowl berth in half a century — was “very weird” to see, Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said.
Which was putting it mildly when it came to widespread and tangible panic on social media, memorably encapsulated by @t1_matthew on Twitter when he wrote … “please (God) take my leg instead.”
As it happened, amid all the hyper-ventilating and shuddering, Mahomes would say, “I just kind of rolled my ankle,” and was inside trying to convince Chiefs athletic training personnel “to just tape it up” more.
“But they wanted to look at it a bit,” Mahomes said, smiling and adding that he was eager to get out from under his first NFL tent experience with temperatures in the mid-90s. “It was pretty hot in that tent today, I’m going to tell you what, so I was trying to open it back up as soon as possible.”
In the broader sense, encumbered by what coach Andy Reid called a sprained ankle, Mahomes wasn’t exactly able to open it back up the rest of the game.
Instead, though, he didn’t even miss a play as he authored another sort of chapter in his ongoing journey to becoming a legend.
Call this one True Grit.
“Whenever we’ve got guys who are playing through something,” left tackle Eric Fisher said, “we see it and we appreciate it.”
Mahomes has always been so much more than just an arm, and it’s surely not the first time he’s had the fortitude to play in pain. But it certainly was one of the most obvious times, thus illustrating another dimension of what he means to this team.
Even with the ankle muzzling his ability to go downfield, Mahomes nevertheless threw for 378 yards — the second-most of his career behind only his 478-yard game against the Los Angeles Rams last season.
In the process of Mahomes surpassing Kurt Warner for most passing yards in a quarterback’s first 20 career games (5,759), the Chiefs tied an NFL record with 19 consecutive games scoring 26 or more points.
“That’s the fight in him,” said receiver Sammy Watkins, who scored three touchdowns on a career-best 198 yards and said he didn’t even realize Mahomes had received treatment until he saw the extra tape around his left ankle at some point later.
In terms of sheer numbers, it helped that before he was hobbled Mahomes threw for 211 yards in the first quarter, including touchdowns of 68 and 49 yards to Watkins. That was part of the second-most first-quarter passing yards in NFL history behind Peyton Manning (247 in the first quarter against Green Bay in 2004).
“It felt like as soon as I went over to the bench I was up again ready to get back on defense because they score so fast,” said linebacker Damien Wilson, new to the Chiefs this season. “That’s a good problem to have.”
But in terms of the signature of this game, what also resonates is the fact that Mahomes engineered drives for three more scores after the field goal that ended the drive on which he was hurt.
Yes, he did it with a lot of dinking and dunking, short, quick passes that kept him out of harm’s way as much as possible.
In the process, though, he reminded that he can dispirit and dissect an opponent little by little, piece by piece when he has to.
Case in point: the 12-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that drained 6 minutes 25 seconds off the clock in the third quarter to give the Chiefs a 30-13 lead after Bashaud Breeland’s fumble recovery.
“Obviously, I wasn’t as mobile as I usually am, but the team helped me out,” said Mahomes, who threw for 43 yards on the drive. “I was able to get the ball out of my hands, and guys were making plays.”
If you want to nitpick, this wasn’t a perfect day for Mahomes, although for a while it was perfect on every pass he actually was looking into his target: His first incompletion came on his ninth throw, when he no-looked a misfire to Travis Kelce, who was open in the end zone.
“I owe him a dinner or something for that one; that was a bad one,” Mahomes said, noting that he thought Kelce was going to do something different than he did but adding that he himself “definitely tried to do a little too much on that play.”
Kelce would later tweet laughing emojis and say, “ya never owe me anything brotha.”
In fact, Sunday was about another dimension of what Mahomes gives us all: belief that he can do about anything on the field even when he’s not 100 percent — along with relief that it wasn’t worse.
“They banged my quarterback up a little bit,” Clark said, smiling. “But as you saw, he came out and finished the game … and had a hell of a game.”