With Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs always have a chance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When quarterback Patrick Mahomes rallied the Kansas City Chiefs from deficits of at least 10 points to win their two playoff games this year, it wasn’t an anomaly.

He led the Chiefs back from a 10-point fourth-quarter hole last year against the Denver Broncos with the help of a left-handed pass. He threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter of a Week 2 game this season against the Oakland Raiders as the Chiefs erased a 10-point deficit.

Mahomes, in his second full year as the starter, is no stranger to such scenarios. He is 5-4 (55%) in career during games in which the Chiefs trailed by at least 10 points. The rest of the league during that time — 67-405-3 — winning 14% of the time.

And the Chiefs scored 40, 51, 31 and 31 points in Mahomes’ four losses when trailing by double digits. They came back to lead during the fourth quarter in three of those games.

This is why beating the Chiefs has been so difficult since Mahomes took over. Kansas City is 27-8 during games he’s started and has not lost a single game during that span by more than one score.

Not one.

“I’ve been blessed to be in a great situation with a lot of great football players and coaches around me,” Mahomes said. “From Day 1, I’ve been expected to go out there and be who I am.”

Mahomes’ 35 starts without losing by more than seven points is the second longest to start a career among Super Bowl era quarterbacks behind Russell Wilson‘s 38. His eight career losses are by three, three, one, seven, six, six, seven and three points.

When his team is trailing, Mahomes is first in QBR (87) and TD percentage (8.7), second in yards per attempt (8.6) and third in passing touchdowns (33).

And in the past few weeks Mahomes has added a running dimension to his game that has made him even more difficult to stop. His 27-yard touchdown run late in the first half of the AFC Championship Game will forever be legend to Chiefs fans. Mahomes faked a Tennessee Titans defender to get the run started. He appeared headed out of bounds, but instead cut up the field and was able to avoid defenders near the end zone before scoring.

“I was thinking about just running out of bounds,” he said. “As I got to the sideline I realized I could cut up. I was running down the sideline and I knew we had two time outs, so I might as well try to cut it back. I cut it back and luckily I was able to hold on to the ball and get into the end zone.”

Mahomes has led the Chiefs in rushing yards in both playoff games leading up to Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers with 53 yards in each game. He was their top rusher during the regular season during a Week 11 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

“They’re doubling our guys and you’re getting not just one guy doubled but two guys doubled,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The defensive linemen, they’re trying to sack him, so if they make one miss on him or get out of their lane a bit, it’s over. He’s got all this running space.

“For him to be able to decipher it, see it and then go … he still keep his eyes down the field and gives guys a chance to get open. That’s what happened with Sammy. He scrambled to the right and throws it 60 yards or whatever it was on a dime. He probably could have run that one for a little bit, too.”

Reid was referring to the 60-yard pass Mahomes threw to Sammy Watkins for the Chiefs’ final touchdown in the win over Tennessee. Mahomes appeared ready to run before seeing an open Watkins after his defender had fallen down.

“The defenses are obviously trying to take away things down the field,” Reid said. “When they do that … it just leaves an open door there. For him to be able to see that in the heat of it is something. He’s got great eyes, great vision, which we know from the passing game. But he sees the whole picture and he’s able to find spots.”

He isn’t perfect at this rushing thing yet, though. Mahomes bobbled the ball just as he was crossing the goal line after Titans defensive back Tramaine Brock tried to strip it from him. That didn’t escape notice from offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“I just told him if he’s going to lead us in rushing, let’s make sure we continue working on ball security with the running back coaches and get your neck roll ready because you’re going to have to pound it a little bit for us,” Bieniemy said.

Mahomes’ running was as deflating to the Titans as his passing. He had six carries, not counting two kneels to kill the clock at the end of the game. Four either went for a first down or a touchdown.

“That’s what led them to getting victories, [Mahomes] escaping the pocket,” Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “He’s a deadly quarterback outside of the pocket. He can make throws, the same throws outside of the pocket that he makes in the pocket … and that’s why he was able to get rushing yards and almost 500 of total offense.

“We knew exactly what they were going to do. If guys weren’t open right away he was going to scramble and make something happen with his feet and look down the field to take a shot.”

The Titans had beaten the Chiefs 35-32 in Week 10 in Mahomes’ first game after missing 2 1/2 games with a knee injury. The Mahomes they saw in the playoffs was different.

“We knew he could scramble around and make plays with his feet,” Tennessee safety Kevin Byard said. “We knew the last game he really wasn’t using his feet like that due to the knee injury.”

It appears the quarterback who has never lost a game by more than one score is getting better.

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