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Patrick Mahomes explains how Marques Valdes-Scantling, Isiah Pacheco improved throughout the season

Mahomes discusses the improvement of Valdes-Scantling and Pacheco as it culminated into a big victory against the Bengals.

NFL: NOV 13 Jaguars at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs are a week away from their Super Bowl matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. They faced a lot of adversity to get there, overcoming a litany of injuries to grit out a narrow 23-20 victory against the Cincinnati Beagles during last weekend's AFC Championship game.

With superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes ailing from a high ankle sprain and several key pass-catchers — including All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce — banged up, the once-vaunted Chiefs passing attack was in dire need of offensive playmakers to rise to the occasion.

Fortunately, they got just enough thanks to two players: wide receiver Marques Valdes-Scantling and rookie running back Isiah Pacheco.

Upon signing a contract with the team this past offseason, Valdes-Scantling — known for his speed and field-stretching ability — was given the impossible task of replicating the deep-threat prowess of former Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill. Once synonymous with the Kansas City offense, the long ball was now a work-in-progress, as he and Mahomes attempted to get on the same page throughout the season.

Although the growing pains were both frustrating and prevalent, Mahomes believed in his receiver's talent and knew that the big plays would eventually come for the pair.

"[Marquez Valdes-Scantling] works extremely hard, [and] he's extremely talented," Mahomes told reporters on Thursday. "Whenever you get a new guy, you have to get on the same page. I think you all saw that throughout the season. But at the end of the day what I saw was he was getting open, and I just had to make the throws. Even in the game last game, I feel like there was throws that weren't necessarily the perfect passes and he was able to make plays happen."

With injuries taking wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman all out of the game, Valdes-Scantling stepped up with his best game as a Chief. He finished the night with six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly, Mahomes says it was the wide receiver's veteran leadership amongst the young players and knowledge of the playbook that helped them secure the victory.

"[Valdes-Scantling] does a good job of not only running his own routes, but when he was kind of that last guy out there, he was helping other guys get in the right position, Mahomes explained. "So, that's a testament to him studying the game plan and knowing the entire concept of the game plan and not just his routes."

Just like Valdes-Scantling, Pacheco was critical to the Chiefs' victory on Sunday. Although he's usually known for his physical playstyle on the ground, Pacheco made his biggest impact in the air as he caught five passes for 59 yards and was the Chiefs third-leading receiver.

Pacheco staying on the field on passing downs shows the coaching staff's trust in his abilities as a pass protector as well as being a capable outlet receiver, something Mahomes says was only a matter of time for someone like Pacheco.

According to Mahomes, the rookie combines talent with a commendable work ethic.

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

"He was extremely talented and had all the tools and wanted to work," Mahomes said. "I think that was a big thing. As he learned patience and able to hit the hole and still get those extra yards but having patience – you saw the run game take off. And then protection-wise, he's gotten better and better and doesn't make the same mistake. "

Pacheco's improvement doesn't happen overnight; it happens fighting through the weekly struggles of a long and rigorous NFL season. The seventh-round running back started off at the bottom of the depth chart and was benched at one point for ball-security issues.

Despite the struggles, Pacheco was still among several rookies who stepped up big on Sunday. It's not easy to overcome such adversity for a young player, but Mahomes says the Chiefs have the leadership in fostering talent into being part of a great and potentially Super Bowl-winning team.

"It took all of us to help [Pacheco]," Mahomes noted. "I had some impact there, but I think Jerick McKinnon was probably the biggest impact for him. He was willing to teach, and y'all see Jerick blocking and running routes and running the football and how much of a veteran presence he is.

"He's basically like a coach, too, because he can coach those young guys up and get them in the right position as well. It takes great leaders like that in order to have a great team."

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