Eric Fisher tried to play through a groin injury but was quickly replaced by Cam Erving. The Chiefs offense looked out of sync — and so did Patrick Mahomes, who had sprained his ankle against the Jaguars. The Chiefs punted two times in a row to start the game.
Meanwhile, Derek Carr and the Raiders scored on their first two possessions, leaving fans wondering if the Chiefs knew how to handle Tyrell Williams.
Then something changed.
It felt like magic, but in Kansas City, that has become the norm. The Chiefs lined up for first-and-10 at the Oakland 44-yard line, and thanks to an obvious miscue in the Raiders secondary, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was left wide open about 35 yards down the field.
That’s just a flick of the wrist for Mahomes.
“He had red in his eyes,” rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman said of Mahomes after the game. “He was telling us to let’s go out here and have a good quarter and get in the end zone. Let’s just try to kill their pride. He was hot then, he was dead on every pass, and he definitely put it out there so that we can make a play.”
Hardman can attest. Because a few minutes later, with the Chiefs facing third-and-20, Hardman beat the Raiders defenders on a double move, leaving him open by a step. Mahomes, about 55 yards away, hit the rookie in stride for his first NFL touchdown and a lead the Chiefs would never lose.
“My emotions were running high,” Hardman said. “I wanted to get in the end zone this week. I was practicing hard and had a good week of practice. To get in the end zone is a dream come true, but we have to continue to work and I have to get in there some more.”
The Raiders offense, now playing from behind, was forced to a three-and-out by the Chiefs defense. And when Mahomes and the Chiefs got the ball back, it was more of the same. Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a 27-yard score to extend the lead.
“He was hitting on all cylinders,” Kelce said. “You know he does an unbelievable job at staying true to his reads. You know some quarterbacks might be…they might want to hang on to a certain guy in terms of reads. Just because of how good he is, a guy like Sammy had 200 yards last week. Pat could have came in this game and tried to feed Sammy knowing that you know he’s on a roll right now, but he stayed true to his reads and that’s hats off to him. And hats off to Reid and his system and [Brett] Veach for bringing in the players to be able to, you know no matter where we are on the field, we got guys that are winning their matchups.”
Mahomes’ last four downfield throws of the quarter went as follows: Mahomes to Damien Williams for 37 yards, Mahomes to Robinson for the 43-yard touchdown, Mahomes to Kelce for the 27-yard touchdown and finally, Mahomes to Robinson again for the 39-yard touchdown. This time, Robinson’s catch was just as impressive as Mahomes’ throw.
The fourth-year receiver would go on to finish with the best game of his career: six catches on six targets for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson’s game came one week after Sammy Watkins’ best career game, when he exploded for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
Back-to-back career games to two different receivers was no coincidence.
“I thought that they focused on trying to take away Sammy after his big game last week and that gave other guys opportunities to make plays,” Mahomes said. “That was how we rolled on offense. Every week it’s someone else who makes plays, and if we can keep doing that, then hopefully we’ll keep having success.”
“Every week can be a big week for us,” Robinson, in tune with the team mentality Andy Reid preaches, added. “We don’t go out thinking it’s Mecole’s week or Kelce’s week, or Sammy’s week. It can be all of our week.
“Like today a lot of us got into the end zone. We made a couple of plays.”
The wildest part of it all shouldn’t be missed.
Mahomes does not just win many more games than he loses; he has changed the way fans view football in Kansas City. Truth be told, his second quarter Sunday was not all that surprising, and that is by far the most impressive thing about it.
“We see it all week during practice,” Watkins said. “I think this is the time where people be like, ‘Oh wow,’ but all week he goes through practice, tries these hard throws, and he comes into the game and literally he’s on point.
“We just looking like ‘oh yeah that’s just Pat being Pat.’”
Pat being Pat.
Patrick Mahomes, who has played 19 games, recorded his sixth game with at least 300 passing yards and four TDs, surpassing Hall of Famers Dan Marino (five games) and Kurt Warner (five) for most games with at least 300 yards and four passing TDs in a player’s first 40 NFL games.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 16, 2019
After the game, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said that the 23-year-old (24 on Tuesday) “can reset and throw the ball from any platform I’ve ever seen.”
That raw talent, parlayed with Reid’s scheme and positioning, has made the extraordinary seem quite ordinary. But Reid, who has coached the likes of Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Alex Smith, tries not see it that way.
“I never take it for granted. Some of these throws, I’ve told you this before, some of these throws he makes, you just say, ‘All right,’ and buzz right through it. Like it happens every day, it kind of does happen. That’s what makes him unique, and the fact that he’s willing to continue to work on his game the way he does is also very important.
“In this league if you let off an inch, then you’re going to fall. He stays right on top of that in everything that he does.”
Some NFL analysts this offseason suggested Mahomes would regress to the mean because he had to, right?
So far, apparently not.