Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs suffered an early-season home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that helped set a frustrating tone for the first half of the season.
Through much of Thursday night’s contest between the two teams at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs appeared set to take an even more disheartening home loss to their AFC rivals before the Chiefs took the lead in the fourth quarter and held on to win 27-24.
Though the game was won mainly by one of the top defensive plays in franchise history, the offense situationally stepped up down the stretch after struggling through much of the first half. On a night no one will mistake for his best film, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was satisfied by doing enough to clinch a crucial early-season win, while crediting the defense for keeping the offense in the game on an off-night.
“I think it was something where we’ve had guys that’ve been in big games, so we know how to not let it overwhelm you,” Mahomes said in his postgame remarks. “Not let the moment — when it’s not going well — just change it. I mean you get down 10-0, [then] 17 I think to 7 against a great football team like that, sometimes it can get away from you — but I think guys kept it in prospective.
“We scored when we needed to score. I’ll just keep reiterating. I’m so proud of those young guys on the defense, man. You just don’t know until you get in these situations. And some games like that where the offense played like we did today, because we didn’t play our best football, a lot of times we’d lose those games and for the defense to keep us around it’s a big, big step I think in the right direction.”
With an essentially new group of receivers, some early-season growing pains should be expected. Mahomes explained that after looking out of sync for two quarters, the offense took a more patient approach after halftime.
“Pretty much the first half, we were trying to protect the ball, come out fast and do stuff like that,” he recalled. “I just felt in the second half we trusted in our O-line. We gave them a few chips, a few receivers hitting, tight ends kind of doing stuff to help them out. I thought they did a great job of giving me that time too, enough time to make those throws — but that’s a great defense, and I thought we battled and found a way to get the win.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid also noticed his quarterback’s patience as the game went on. He also noted that Mahomes waited through plays longer rather than defaulting to scrambling as he did earlier in his career.
“He did it when he needed to,” Reid said after the game of Mahomes choosing to run. “He had a couple where he could’ve gone and he had some nice throws — a couple of those throws were unbelievable. But I thought he did a nice job of moving up and out in the pocket which is new as opposed to just flurrying out. I thought he did a good job of that. [A] good feel in there, but he was completing balls down the field so that’s important.”
Reid also anticipates that Mahomes — soon to turn 27 — is still improving as a passer.
“Like I said,” the coach emphasized, “a couple of those throws were incredible — pushing up and throwing through traffic and getting his body in the right position. The ball didn’t sail on him. Sometimes if you get out of whack, you lose your core there and the ball will sail. He kept all that intact and on the move. It was impressive.
“As quarterbacks, it’s like being a farmer — the work’s never over. You just keep doing —working on something — all the way through your career. And when you stop, that’s when it goes downhill real fast. He’s relentless with that stuff. He always wants to know what he can do to be better.”
Prior to the Chiefs’ Week 1 victory against the Arizona Cardinals, Mahomes predicted that the deeper receiver room would result in different players stealing the show on a week-to-week basis — after years of the passing game primarily built around two players. He doubled down on those thoughts after Thursday’s game, referencing little-known wide receiver Justin Watson’s touchdown pass against Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson — widely considered one of the best in the league.
“I think that’s what we said going into camp — it’s going to be everybody,” the star of the franchise reiterated. “It’s not going to be one guy. Justin Watson came in when [Chiefs wide receiver] Mecole [Hardman] was a little banged up. And he got Mecole’s route, and he won against a Pro Bowl, All-Pro corner. So for guys like that to make their imprint on the game, that’ll help us out as we get into these tough games like this that we can get touchdowns and stuff like that from everybody.”