Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon is an anomaly. He’s on the wrong side of 30 years old. He has an extensive injury history that caused him to miss the entire NFL season in both 2018 and 2019.
Now in his ninth NFL season, he’s making history with one of the most productive pass-catching seasons the league has ever seen from a running back.
In Kansas City’s 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, McKinnon finished the game with five catches for 52 yards. More significantly, he added two receiving touchdowns, giving him a staggering seven scores through the air in the last five games.
McKinnon became the first running back in the Super Bowl era to record a receiving touchdown in five consecutive games — an accomplishment that he insists is due to his circumstances.
“It’s play-calling,” McKinnon said after the game. “It’s Pat [Mahomes] finding me and it’s the offensive line blocking super well up-front. It’s a collection of everything.”
With eight receiving touchdowns this season, McKinnon passed Jamaal Charles for the most receiving touchdowns by a Chiefs running back in a single season. He also sits just one behind the NFL record set by Chuck Foreman in 1975.
McKinnon has become a reliable weapon in Kansas City’s passing game, which head coach Andy Reid believes is more than just a happy accident.
“He’s so patient,” Reid told reporters after the game. “I mentioned to our guys that [he was] a quarterback — a legitimate quarterback — in college, so he kind of knows how the game works as a whole, and he’s patient with that. So I think that helps him in the run game knowing how gaps are set up, knowing how secondaries fill in for the run. And again, he just can catch the ball on top of all that. [He’s a] good runner [and a] good catcher.”
Much of his production has come in the red zone, where the Chiefs have been lethal this season. Kansas City entered Sunday’s game ranked fourth in the league in red zone touchdown percentage They continued that success by going 4-for-5 five against the stingy Broncos defense.
Meanwhile, McKinnon raised his total to six red-zone receiving touchdowns — second in the league behind his teammate Travis Kelce. The veteran running back has clearly earned the trust of quarterback Patrick Mahomes — something Mahomes attributed to McKinnon’s uncanny playmaking ability.
“He just finds a way to get in the end zone,” said Mahomes. “[In] a lot of those things he’s not the first read, he’s not the second read... I think the fact that he’s able to just be in the right spot at the right time whenever I need to hit a checkdown, I can get it to him — and then he makes the most of it by getting into the end zone.”
Whether it’s a screen designed for McKinnon — or if he just happens to be the safety valve on a play where nobody can get loose downfield — the fact remains that McKinnon has proven to be a valuable asset for the league’s top passing attack. That’s something that is rarely said about over-30 running backs.
Mahomes knows McKinnon’s rare feat is something to be cherished by a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
“It’s cool to see — because he just does his job,” noted Mahomes. “I think that’s the biggest thing: he does his job to the best of his ability — if that’s protecting, if that’s running the route, whatever that is, running the football. And those are the guys that you need to go out there and win football games. You just want other guys to keep doing that because he does it to the best of his ability every single time.”
Although McKinnon has already made history in 2022, there could still be more to come. Starting on Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders, he’ll be trying to add new chapters.