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In football, the playoffs — and life — Patrick Mahomes seeks balance

As his team prepared to host Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Kansas City quarterback talked to reporters.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs will open their 2021 postseason at Arrowhead Stadium in a Wild Card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers — an opponent that the team thoroughly trounced 36-10 on the same field just two weeks ago Sunday.

Because of the short time between the two games, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes compared the game to a division matchup.

“You keep a little bit of stuff here and there, but you have to come with a different game plan, for sure,” Mahomes told reporters on Wednesday. “They’re going to go through, and they’re going to watch the [previous] game plan and try to take away that stuff that we had success with the first time. We’ll definitely have some elements of it there, but we’ll definitely have something [that’s different] from what we had the game before.”

So, in a game against a familiar opponent, it’s about discovering the right balance between the things that worked before and the new things the opposing defense won’t expect. Finding an appropriate balance is something that Mahomes — as a new father to his baby daughter Sterling — has already had to do quite a bit this season.

American Century Championship - Round Two Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

“I’ve definitely learned different things as the season’s gone along,” he said. “Trying to find time so I can be at home and be with Sterling — and hanging out with her — but still at the same time, getting in all the work that I have to do.

“So that’s been getting to bed a little bit earlier — and getting up in the building a little bit earlier — just so I can make sure that I’m getting all the work that I’ve usually done and still get to spend that time with her.”

Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said that for Mahomes, it’s just another one of the competing interests that his young star has been learning how to manage — just as quarterbacks like the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (and many others) have done.

“He came here as a young guy, and he’s still not old — in our comparison,” chuckled Reid. “But he’s mature for his age. He continues to experience these things [in] life that kind of present themselves when you are famous and when you are a new dad — all the things Ben has already gone through.

“What he’s kind of experiencing now is like what Ben went through — and some of these other quarterbacks — but it’s a unique position because you’re the face of the organization. It’s important how you handle that — and he does such a nice job with it — and we’re grateful that he’s matured.”

Mahomes — now entering his fourth postseason run — said that there are some aspects of a playoff run where balance is also important. Despite all the effort that his head coach puts into making sure his players treat every game the same way, Mahomes said that he’s learned the postseason is different.

“You just have to bring a little bit different intensity,” he noted. “Obviously, you go through the same process that you would do [in] every single week of the entire season because you want to treat every single week like it could be your last. You go through the week the same way — but when you get to that playoff game day, you’ve got a little bit of different intensity, knowing that every play is critical, and you could really end your season by making a mistake.

“But at the same time, you want to be loose; you want to have fun, and you want to enjoy it — because you don’t know how many more of these games you’re going to get in the playoffs. I want to be sure I’m ready to enjoy all of them.”

The trick will be to balance that looseness with the intensity that playoff games will require.

“This is a good defense,” insisted Mahomes of the Pittsburgh unit he carved up just weeks ago. “They’re going to come with the answers. They have great coaches that have coached for a long time and had a ton of success.

“So we know it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a battle for us each and every play. We’ll come in a mindset knowing that if we don’t play our best football, we’ll be at home the next week.”