The last time the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Detroit Lions prior to Sunday, it was the year 2015. The game was held in London, and the Chiefs won 45-10. Then-Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had 145 yards and two touchdowns in the win. That night, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series.
Fast forward to Sunday.
Ned Yost, the leader of that Royals championship team, managed his last game. The Chiefs beat the Lions again—with one major difference.
That era’s Chiefs, the previous one, would have never, in a million years, won a game like Sunday’s. And as usual, it is because of No. 15.
“He never gave up, first of all,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the game. “He exuded that [on] both sides of the ball. Very easily a young guy can get in the tank if the things aren’t going right. Whether it’s his problem or somebody else’s problem, you start pointing the finger or – pardon, you point the finger at yourself when you go in the tank. He didn’t do that at all. He just kept it going.
“He said, ‘We’re going to win the game, we just have to kind of get rid of some of this garbage here.’ Whether it’s his or whether it was somebody else’s – whatever it was, just get rid of it and keep moving forward.”
Matt Stafford (who by the way, was also the losing quarterback in that ‘15 game) played marvelously Sunday, doing all the right things as he pushed through a hip injury that reportedly almost cost him his first start in more than 130.
The injury seemed to matter very little, especially as Stafford found wide receiver Kenny Golladay with a touch pass in the back left of the end zone. The score was Golladay’s second of the day and gave the Lions a 30-27 lead with less than 2:30 to go.
“I think the whole message that I had the whole second half to my teammates and in the huddle was, ‘Be who we are,’” Patrick Mahomes told the media after the game. “It’s not about someone having to do something spectacular, it’s not about someone having to do and be more than themselves. It’s about believing in each other and just being who we are and then letting everything fall in line whenever you follow those footsteps.”
Mahomes and the Chiefs started at their own 21 and only managed to push the ball 13 yards before facing fourth-and-8. Because the two-minute warning had already passed, Reid’s second timeout meant that if the Chiefs did not convert, they would surely lose the game.
Out of the shotgun, Mahomes took a five-step drop, but wasted no time. He saw a window and scrambled 15 yards for the first down—and the Chiefs’ life.
“He’s a great player, he saw it, and he just took it right away,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. “We had a particular call, and they came in with a bigger personnel group, and they did a good job with the protection on it, and really kind of doubled down on some of our guys, and shipped them out of there, and opened up a big hole, and I think it was probably a quick reform, whether or not it was there, take off, if not, throw it and it was there for him and he took advantage of it.”
“They had doubles on, so when they start doubling people there are going to be some lanes, and he knew that,” added Reid. “He had the big fourth-down play, so that was as big as they come right there. That’s one of the things, if you are going to double people, you have the chance of giving that up and rushing three.”
And Reid was right—the play was as big they come.
“That was the game,” Lions linebacker Devon Kennard acknowledged in the locker room.
The Chiefs and Mahomes never saw another third down, and eight plays later, Darrel Williams rushed one yard for the game-winning touchdown.
Despite his team losing three fumbles, despite not getting in the end zone (passing or rushing) for the first time since his first start in 2017 and despite his team being playing its worst game in recent memory, the reigning NFL MVP refused to lose.
“You fight through adversity,” he said. “It wasn’t just the offense, wasn’t just the defense, it wasn’t just special teams – as a whole, we just found ways to pick each other up whenever the other was struggling. In this league, it’s not always going to be pretty, it’s not always going to be 50 points and three-touchdown wins.”
Mahomes finished 24 of 42 for 315 yards and six rushes for 54 yards. But his most significant stat was the 13-play, 79-yard drive that led to the W.
“You’re going to have to find a way to win these games against great teams. So for us, we know that this win, of not playing our best football and finding a way to win, is going to help us tremendously as we get to the end of the season.”
It’s not 2015 anymore, and it’s OK to get used to that.