To seal the Kansas City Chiefs’ 23-20 victory over the New York Jets in Week 4, quarterback Patrick Mahomes did not use his famous golden arm. Earlier on Sunday night, it had already failed him twice; he had thrown two ugly interceptions that had kept the game closer than it should have been.
So on a third-and-8 from the Jets’ 11-yard line with 2:00 remaining, Mahomes scrambled past the line of scrimmage and the first-down marker — and then went to the ground two yards short of the goal line. New York was out of timeouts, so the team only had to run two kneel-downs to close out the game.
It was the latest of four impactful runs Mahomes made on Sunday night.
The league’s reigning MVP finished with 51 rushing yards on seven attempts. The biggest had come earlier in the same drive. Needing 22 yards to convert third down from the Chiefs’ 40-yard line with 6:25 remaining, a patient Mahomes was unable to find an open receiver, so he converted with a 25-yard scramble.
“We needed that play at that time,” Mahomes told reporters in his post-game press conference. “We were trying to get into field-goal range; we were trying to do what we can to keep the defense off the field [because] they had been playing their tail off in the second half.
“[I was] little upset. I kind of stumbled; I was thinking I could maybe get around the side a little bit.”
Underrated part of Mahomes' 25-yd scramble in 4th quarter: He had to do it again after diving for a first down on 3rd & 12— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 2, 2023
After the holding penalty, he wanted to find a throwing window downfield -- but eventually saw taking off as the best option
Shades of Super Bowl LVII pic.twitter.com/og1cQcDLh9
Considering it was the second consecutive play in which the gunslinger had sprinted upfield for a long run, Mahomes’ issues with his footing might have been caused by fatigue. The initial conversion had been wiped away by a holding penalty — but that just set the stage for the quarterback to show off his underrated speed. Just like the “church play” that ended the contest, the 25-yard scramble reminded watchers of a similar game-defining play in Super Bowl LVII.
“I’ve told a lot of people: I’m faster than people think,” Mahomes laughed. “I don’t run pretty — so people think I’m slow — but I move a little bit better than people think.”
Mahomes was forced to run because the Jets had covered up his receiving options — which had been a theme throughout the night; the Chiefs’ quaterback had only rarely been able to connect with his wideouts. His two picks had come on forced throws to tight ends Travis Kelce and Noah Gray.
So on the 25-yard scramble, Mahomes simply turned the tables, weaponizing the Jets’ coverage — which was focused on Kelce — against them.
“It kind of opened up, there was a lot of attention on Travis, which is why there was a flag,” Mahomes explained. “Once he went to the right, he took three people with him — and it opened things up for me.”
Mahomes' 25-yard scramble was just 1 of 4 times he— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 2, 2023
earned a new set of downs with his legs
(One was the fumbled snap he gained 3 yards on)
He gained 12 yards to extend a TD drive in the 1st half
Then sealed the game when the defense overflowed to Kelce's side pic.twitter.com/FTVAbrozds
Aside from the scrambles on the game-deciding drive, Mahomes moved the chains himself two other times: once in the first quarter with a 12-yard, second-down run — and then in the third quarter, when he picked up a fumbled snap and converted with a two-yard run up the middle.
In the rougher games of Mahomes’ career, this has been a common theme. It’s the eighth time he has totaled over 50 rushing yards in a regular-season game. In none of those games did the quarterback have a completion rate higher than 63% — and in only one did he have a passer rating above 94.
It’s because the 28-year old has learned to only make these runs when he needs them. The space to run is often there; defenses simply can’t account for every single way to slow him down. In fact, if a defense chose to specifically prevent Mahomes from running, he would feel honored.
“Maybe one day, I’ll get a spy,” Mahomes smiled. “That’s my goal: if I get a spy, then I’ll know I’ve made it.”
The two-time MVP has become more and more disciplined at staying within the called play — but when it’s not working, he can easily flip the switch, returning to the instinctual backyard playmaking for which he has become famous. It’s why he’s often just fast enough to outrun whatever defender is chasing him — or savvy enough to snake his way through bodies in the open field.
For the offense as a whole, it’s not encouraging that the New York defense was able to force Mahomes to throw that particular switch. But it wasn’t the first time an opponent has clogged the superstar quarterback’s passing lanes — or the the first time he has used his underrated running ability to turn that against them. In those eight games in which Mahomes has gained 50 or more yards, the Chiefs are 7-1.