KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It is so easy to get caught up in the sizzle of Patrick Mahomes. This was on display again Sunday night during the AFC title tilt at Arrowhead Stadium that was essentially a high-stakes rebound game for the Chiefs quarterback, a week after he left the same field dazed by a concussion.
Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three TDs. He scrambled out of danger, threw dimes on the run. He looked cool and composed in the process.
Same ol' Mahomes, even with the double dose of worry because the concussion was accompanied by a turf toe injury.
“I feel like I was myself out there,” Mahomes maintained after the 38-24 victory against the Bills.
If Mahomes says he’s good, who can argue? He’s sparked Kansas City to a trip to Super Bowl 55 with a chance to become the NFL’s first repeat champion since the 2004 season.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is heading to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. (Photo: Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports)
Besides, we saw some sizzle for ourselves as he shredded the Bills' defense.Yet for all of the highlight moments that Mahomes added to his extensive collection, they were raving about the grit in the aftermath of yet another big victory.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid seemed a bit amazed at the improvement with Mahomes’ injured toe. He still had the vision of the toe from a week earlier imprinted on his brain Sunday night, as he praised the quarterback and training staff.
“That was an amazing-looking thing, black-and-blue,” Reid remembered. He was also happy to report that by the next day, last Monday, the swelling had subsided and the color was returning to normal. Ah, the benefits of modern medicine.
The fast healing might have been an omen. Even with the toe presumably at less than 100%, Mahomes still functioned at his ultra-high level, with the Chiefs significantly scaling back the read-option plays and sprint-out passes. The toe was good enough.
Add the toe to a laundry list of injuries the quarterback has endured during his four NFL seasons. Chiefs GM Brett Veach took a moment on Sunday night to recall a few of the setbacks as proof of why he didn’t worry that Mahomes would be up to snuff with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. There were the shoulder and ankle injuries and in 2019, the knee injury that knocked him out for several weeks.
Let Veach tell you about Mahomes’ toughness.
“Shoot, the guy came back (in 2019) from a dislocated kneecap and two days later, he was in the pool doing dips," Veach said.
No doubt, there is much grit behind the sizzle.
Still, Mahomes was limited in practices last week and wasn’t cleared from concussion protocol until Friday after engaging in the step-by-step evaluation process. Many must have wondered: If Mahomes wasn’t himself, would the Chiefs' chances for a repeat crown go up in smoke?
Turns out that was quite the stretch. When someone asked Tyrann Mathieu if there was a moment during the week when he knew Mahomes would be his normal self, the Chiefs safety chuckled.
“I knew after the last game,” Mathieu maintained, recalling the aftermath of the divisional playoff win against the Browns, when backup quarterback Chad Henne came off the bench to help secure the win. “He was in the locker room. He had that look in his eye, like, ‘Don’t forget about me.’ "
Besides, Mathieu knew there was another factor that sums up Mahomes. “He’s a gamer,” Mathieu said.
Travis Kelce, the all-pro tight end, was never worried. Like Mathieu, Kelce drew on his observations from the previous game. Kelce remembered how excited Mahomes was after the victory against Cleveland and believed it was a good indication that he would recover from the head injury.
“I knew he had to go through the protocols, but he never seemed like he wasn’t himself," Kelce said.
That extended to Sunday night, as the same ol' Mahomes has taken the Chiefs to the same ol' place — one Super Bowl victory from the top of the NFL mountain.
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