In the Kansas City Chiefs’ 35-9 win over the New York Jets, quarterback Patrick Mahomes had his most productive game of the season. He earned 416 passing yards and threw five touchdowns, with a few incredibly accurate deep passes worthy of a place on the career highlight reel.
However, Mahomes didn’t make the most significant throw of the day for the Chiefs. It was rookie Tommy Townsend’s 13-yard completion on a fake punt in the first quarter that earned the title.
The play occurred on a fourth down at midfield, with the Chiefs leading 7-3. Townsend took the snap, mimicked a punt for a split-second, then fired it to gunner Byron Pringle for a first down.
It was a gutsy call by head coach Andy Reid and special teams coordinator Dave Toub. A failure to execute that play could have energized the underdog Jets and given them the ball with a short field. Instead, Townsend did his job — which lead to a 36-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the very next play.
The quarterback acknowledged how significant the fake punt was to winning the game.
“Those moments — especially in the beginning parts of the game — are huge moments in the game,” Mahomes told reporters in his post-game press conference. “Getting momentum in your favor, getting things going and putting points on the board. That changes the whole entire game.”
Townsend was excited to attempt the first fake punt of his NFL career.
“Running out there, of course I’m pumped if we have the opportunity to run a fake,” Townsend admitted in his post-game press conference. “I got out there, we got the look we wanted, from then on I was just thinking ‘don’t baby it, get it out there to him.’ I got it out to Pringle, he made a nice catch, and got a couple yards.”
The throw was a little high — Pringle had to leap to catch the ball — but it got there in a hurry. Mahomes recognized the punter’s bullet pass.
“I thought it was sweet; he ripped that thing,” Mahomes raved. “It wasn’t a lollipop at all, he caught it and ripped it over there. It was pretty impressive.”
You could say Townsend channeled his inner-Mahomes on the play. In fact, he may have snuck some Mahomes magic away from the quarterback in the locker room.
“We have lockers right next to each other so I can’t help but say that it rubbed off a little onto me on that throw,” Townsend joked. “It’s pretty cool anytime you get recognition from Pat or any of these leaders or big-name guys on the team — especially as a rookie, it’s really something cool.”
As far as comparing their arms, Townsend didn’t want to do it — until he sees the results from the radar gun.
“That’s a tough question,” Townsend responded in jest when asked about his arm strength compared to Mahomes’. “He has one of the strongest arms in the league, and I was just thinking of getting it out there to him. I would like to check the velocity on both of our passes, then compare them.”
In all seriousness, it takes trust in your punter to call a fake punt — even in a game where the Chiefs would have likely overcame a failed attempt anyways. Reid and Townsend both acknowledged that the unit has been practicing the play for weeks, but it still has to boost the confidence of the rookie punter that the coaches believed he would execute it in-game.
In a season where tons of Chiefs rookies have shined, Townsend is making as big an impact on winning as any of the others. The decision to move on from long-time punter Dustin Colquitt this offseason was tough, but the play of Townsend has justified it — and it’s yet another feather in the cap for general manager Brett Veach.