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Because of the infinite number of stupefying things we’ve witnessed from Patrick Mahomes, because of all the no-look and anti-gravity connections and those miracle comebacks to lead the Chiefs out of 50 years of futility, we’ve come to expect breathtaking moments any time he plays.
We got a fresh heaping of that on Sunday at FedEx Field, where Mahomes uncorked something astonishing once again.
And we don’t mean the berserk against-the-grain pass to Tyreek Hill that was negated in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ 31-13 victory over Washington in a deceptively lopsided final tally.
The jaw-dropper of the day came earlier in the game in what surely was his most reckless play as a Chief.
It was a snapshot radically out of character for someone whose decisions may at times appear impulsive but that typically are dictated via a sophisticated calculus, a mindset that one of his first coaches and longtime family friend refers to as a “geo-spatial magic box.”
But late in the first half against Washington, the normal parameters and filters and safeguards that normally inform Mahomes’ judgments suddenly went on the blink … and epitomized what increasingly has been looking like a season on the brink.
On third and 1 at the Washington 20-yard line with 31 seconds left in the first half and the decidedly languid Chiefs trailing 13-10, a slapstick sequence began with Mahomes losing the snap from center Creed Humphrey in his haste to pivot and hand off to Darrel Williams.
Then Mahomes picked it up and tried to scoot outside and flung it up with two men converging on him, making for as deserved an interception as he could provide.
“It was bad,” Mahomes said, managing a laugh and adding that the play probably will earn a place on ESPN’s “C’Mon Man!” segment.
Or as coach Andy Reid put it: “He was trying to make things happen, and he admitted that it was too much. Not that he had to admit it. It was pretty obvious.”
It would be one thing if it had been just a quirky moment amid the success the Chiefs generally have known in the Mahomes Era.
But it came with them wobbling at 2-3 in what figured to be, even needed to be, a feel-good/reset sort of game against a mediocre team.
And it came at a time when the Chiefs have been beset with turnovers, entering the game tied for the worst in the league with 11 and committing three more in the first 30 minutes while otherwise remaining largely unstoppable on offense.
So maybe the rosy, upbeat theme any Chiefs fan would hope came out of this game wasn’t quite here. But maybe, too, the Chiefs channeled something else out of this.
If you can’t always get what you want, like the Rolling Stones wrote, perhaps they still got what they needed.
Because they were staring into the abyss, really, staring squarely at 2-4 if they didn’t turn it around in the second half. It’s one thing to lose to three playoff-bound teams, as the Chiefs already had. Quite another to lose to a team like this, especially after being embarrassed a week ago by Buffalo.
“Things were kind of dead that first half,” Reid said.
Even if he apparently meant that more about the flow of the game, and not the season, per se, the two points might have been entwined if not for the Chiefs summoning what Reid would call a “kind of enough’s enough” mindset in the second half.
That, and some personnel and scheme changes, led to the best half of defense the Chiefs have played all season. They shut out Washington after the intermission.
But the resolve and resilience of Mahomes were just as crucial as the Chiefs outscored Washington 21-0 in the second half.
At a junction where he recognized everything could have “spiraled” on the Chiefs, Mahomes completed 19 of 24 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to finish with 397 passing yards … the sixth-most in his NFL career.
“You’ve got to bounce back in this league,” Mahomes said.
Simple as it sounds, it’s also 100% true.
And not that Mahomes was rattled, but in this case his tenacity also was fortified with a little help from his friends: teammates Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Orlando Brown, perhaps among others, “came right up to me” after the play, Mahomes said.
“‘You keep being you’” was the message he received. “‘We know you’re competing. We know who you are. Don’t let that one (play) affect you.’”
And it didn’t. At least not adversely.
When asked how he processes that kind of moment, whether he finds a compartment for it or is fueled by the anger at himself, Mahomes essentially just shrugged and said, “I move on to the next play.”
So he did, next plays that included another in his memorable repertoire when he connected with Kelce by pitching the ball to his right as he ran left. And that also featured that pass to Hill that was taken off the books by a penalty but still was indelible with so much momentum to his right as he zipped the ball in a way that few if any humans could muster.
There were plenty of other highlights, too, like his artful 49-yard pass to Mecole Hardman in the first half and a 24-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson to put it away.
On this day, though, the play we’ll remember most is the one that was the most exasperating … and the one from which the Chiefs basically pushed off bottom, too.
Guys had to “dig deep” after halftime, Mahomes said, himself included.
Now, turnovers still are a bizarre twist in the operation, completely opposite of the modus operandi of Reid’s previous Chiefs teams. Instead of being among the league leaders, the Chiefs are alone at the bottom of the NFL with 14 giveaways … including eight interceptions by Mahomes (at least three of which went off a receiver first).
Meanwhile, this was a fine day for the defense, but there’s a much greater test ahead next week at Tennessee — especially for a unit so susceptible to the run.
So only time will tell whether this was a blip or a reboot or something in between.
But it’s also true that as they looked right in the grill of a wretched defeat that would have suggested a team in freefall, they bristled and distanced themselves from Washington.
In the process, the quarterback who has spoiled us with his knack for the spectacular did something special again: by shrugging off the worst play of his career and igniting the way back.