Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is back in the Super Bowl and can’t ever be counted out — Andscape
BALTIMORE – The caller had planned to initiate a thoughtful discussion about the showdown between Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
On answering the phone after the Chiefs’ 17-10 victory, however, legendary passer Doug Williams took charge as he did long ago will operating within the pocket.
“Let me tell you something: You cannot ever – and I mean ever – count out Patrick Mahomes,” Williams told Andscape Sunday night. “All that talk about what the Chiefs didn’t do this season … it just doesn’t matter to him. All that talk about the [problems with] Chiefs’ offense. Man, Patrick isn’t worried about any of that. Patrick is the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.
“And you combine that with how much Patrick loves this game, and I don’t know many people who love the game of football like Patrick does, and you have the perfect guy to lead you no matter what’s going on in a season, a game or a quarter. Really whenever. If you count out Patrick Mahomes, man, you are making a really big mistake. We clear?”
Yet again, the NFL’s best player proved the doubters wrong in leading the Chiefs to their fourth Super Bowl appearance during the last five seasons. In NFL history, the only other two franchises to accomplish the feat are the New England Patriots (Super Bowl appearances in 2015, 2017-19) and the Buffalo Bills (1990-93).
While standing on another makeshift stage with the AFC Champion logo behind him, Mahomes appeared at home.
“I knew going on the road we were going to be OK,” said Mahomes, who with 14 playoff victories leads all active quarterbacks. “We have a lot of dogs in that locker room.”
Mahomes outplayed his superstar counterpart Jackson (more on him in a moment), completing 30 of 39 passes for 241 passing yards and a touchdown with no interceptions on Baltimore’s home field. Typically superb in the intermediary passing game, Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce 11 times for 116 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
With 2:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs at their 46-yard line and in position to all but finish the game, Mahomes connected with wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a deep pass in the middle of the field for a 32-yard gain. At Baltimore’s 22-yard line, the Chiefs went into the “Victory Formation.”
Mahomes kneeled down three times to run out the game clock, dispatch the team with the NFL’s best record during the regular season and send the defending Super Bowl champions to Super Bowl LVII against the San Francisco 49ers. Williams is a big fan of the Chiefs’ long-running hit.
“For Patrick, the Super Bowl is just like a regular-season game now,” said Williams, the first Black quarterback to start in the Super Bowl and win the game’s MVP award. “If he doesn’t get to the Super Bowl, it’s like the season is a disappointment to him.
“That’s the way he approaches it. And when you think about what they [the Chiefs] have done since Patrick has been starting, you can see why he thinks that way. And what’s really important, he’s the reason all those guys on that team think that way also.”
For the sixth consecutive season with Mahomes as their starting signal-caller, the Chiefs reached the AFC Championship Game. The only streak longer is the New England Patriots’ remarkable run of eight in a row from 2011 to 2018.
And there’s no doubt about it: Mahomes was at his best in directing this season’s AFC Championship run.
The Chiefs led the NFL in dropped passes. Often, their once high-powered offense stalled. What’s more, for the first time in the Mahomes era, the Chiefs took to the road in the postseason. Well, sort of.
Since the Hall-of-Fame-bound passer became their starter, the Chiefs have participated in three postseason games away from their home field: all in the Super Bowl, which is considered a neutral site.
During the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Chiefs traveled to Orchard Park, New York, to face the then-surging Buffalo Bills. Final score: Chiefs 27, Bills 24.
To hear many NFL observers tell it – and especially those who root for the Ravens – the Chiefs’ title defense would end Sunday on a wet field at M&T Bank Stadium. To be sure, it wasn’t crazy talk.
Not only did the Ravens have the league’s best record, they also were ranked first defensively and, most importantly, they have Jackson.
The greatest dual-threat quarterback in NFL history, Jackson is expected to win The Associated Press MVP Award for the second time in his first six seasons. The only players to win a second MVP award before turning 28 are Jim Brown (22), Brett Favre (27) and Mahomes.
Jackson, who has continued to develop as a pocket passer since entering the league, completed a personal-best 67.2% of his passes this season en route to being selected a first-team All-Pro for the second time in his career. This, Ravens fans believed, would be Jackson’s year to lead the team to the Super Bowl and silence his critics.
Once again, though, Jackson and the Ravens will be left wondering about what could have been. For the second time in five seasons as the AFC top-seeded team, the Ravens failed to reach the Super Bowl.
Fact is, Jackson didn’t play well Sunday against the Chiefs.
After the Chiefs went ahead 14-7 on a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Isiah Pacheco early in the second quarter, Jackson fumbled while being sacked by Chiefs defensive end Charles Omenihu and the Chiefs recovered the ball.
With less than 7 minutes remaining to play and the Ravens trailing by 10, they moved the ball from their 1-yard line to the Chiefs’ 25. Then, inexplicably, Jackson tried to connect with tight end Isaiah Likely, who was triple covered in the end zone. Chiefs safety Deon Bush intercepted the pass.
Overall, Jackson completed only 20 of 37 passes with the two turnovers. Although he had a 32-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Zay Flowers and finished with 272 passing yards, Jackson wasn’t sharp. For most of the game, Jackson was held in check by the Chiefs’ formidable defense, which finished second to the Ravens in points allowed per game.
In fairness to Jackson, the Ravens also lost their composure and committed many boneheaded penalties. At the start of the fourth quarter, Flowers fumbled going into the end zone and the Chiefs recovered the ball.
“Now, this wasn’t all on Lamar,” Williams said. “The Ravens didn’t keep their composure. That’s not on Lamar. I’m happy for Patrick, but I feel horrible for Lamar.
“The thing is, when you’re a quarterback, you understand how it is. You understand how you’re gonna be looked at if your team doesn’t win. And going against Patrick anytime and especially in the playoffs, well, that’s never easy.”
For a quarterback, trying to outduel Mahomes at this time of year is as tough as it gets. Just ask Jackson.