DENVER (TNS) — Thank you, Patrick Mahomes. You are everything I expected.
You and I might disagree on Mahomes’ best moment. For me, it was rolling right, pressure in his face, throwing off balance over the linebacker and in front of the safety and away from the cornerback for a completion to Demarcus Robinson on what turned out to be the game winning drive.
But that’s just me!
Maybe you preferred his very first completion, a perfect throw down the seam, placed high and on time 30 yards downfield to Demetrius Harris.
Or, maybe you liked him backpedaling against an unblocked blitzing safety, who wrapped around his waist as the quarterback threw a dart ... off his back foot ... through a tight window to Albert Wilson ... converting third and long.
Or, maybe you liked him backpedaling against pressure, perfectly lobbing a ball downfield for a 19-yard gain to Wilson.
Or, maybe you liked him sensing pressure from both edges, and buying time inside the pocket to wait for Wilson to clear a linebacker in zone coverage for a 19-yard gain.
Or, maybe you liked him running away from the line of scrimmage against pressure and unleashing a bullet to Demarcus Robinson.
Or, maybe you liked him waiting out an ublocked linebacker until the last step, lofting a strike into Anthony Sherman’s hands in the flat.
Or, maybe you liked him rolling right, pressure in his face, throwing off-balance over the linebacker and in front of the safety and away from the cornerback for a completion to Demarcus Robinson late in the fourth quarter.
The point is, we saw it. We saw the flashes. Saw the brilliance. Saw the improvisation. Saw how he can make broken plays great plays. It was there, in front of us, captured on video and everything.
Wasn’t just the highlights, either. He never appeared fooled by anything the Broncos did to him. Did not appear to panic, didn’t break the pocket too early, didn’t forget the plan and default to his arm.
This was far from perfect. His interception was horrendous, airmailed way over De’Anthony Thomas’ head and directly into the hands of safety Darian Stewart for an interception. Thomas was open on the play, too.
There were others. Short passes thrown just off target enough to make yards after the catch unnecessarily difficult, some plain misses, and plays he appeared either indecisive or expecting a different route than his receiver ran.
The final numbers: 18 for 30, 232 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception playing without Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and most of the rest of the starters against one of the NFL’s better defenses.
His receivers dropped too many passes, and a snap went high over his head, and the protection was pretty bad. I have been downright giddy about Mahomes since draft night, so I might have some bias here, but I don’t know how you could not be impressed with the kid’s first start.
That was fun. The future is here. Almost.
But first, some playoffs.
▪ No matter what happened here, this was always going to be something like a drink with your friends before you head across the street for dinner: fun, perhaps even memorable, absolutely no pressure, and absolutely not the main course.
As I’m typing these words, the Ravens are down but still playing, so the Chiefs’ opponent for a wild-card game at Arrowhead Stadium is still to be determined (Baltimore lost, and eliminated from playoffs; the Chiefs host Tennessee on Saturday at 3:35 p.m.).
Mahomes Day was a nice distraction, a fun moment in a wild season, but this group will be fully and fairly judged on what’s coming now.
There was a time that this would’ve been enough, saving a season and earning a home playoff game, but that time is long gone. This group put itself in an unnecessarily difficult position, needing to win twice to better last year’s playoff finish and three times to be truly proud.
This isn’t enough, in other words.
Regardless of who they play in the wild card round, the Chiefs will be judged on whether they can win at Pittsburgh or New England the weekend after.
That’s a big ask for this group.
▪ Dustin Colquitt’s 77-yard punt, downed at the 3 after the Broncos used all three timeouts to get the ball back at the end of the first half, was amazing.
▪ Please take all of this for what it’s worth, which is not much, because I really want to watch a replay before making any legitimate opinions, but this here is Insta-reaction so here goes: Akeem Hunt and Tanoh Kpassagnon were among the backups who impressed.
Ramik Wilson whiffed what should’ve been a fairly routine tackle on (third stringer) De’Angelo Henderson for what turned out to be a 29-yard catch-and-run.
The offensive line looked very much like backups.
Terrance Mitchell had a busy and very Terrance Mitchell day — allowed a long pass and was (justifiably) called for pass interference on the same play, and an interception and some really nice moments.
Hunt ran with a lot of — *Terez voice* — juice, and Kpassagnon was in on three sacks.
Even if I have the same opinion after watching the game again, and even if that opinion means something, I’m still not sure what it means. Weird game. Fun game. Mahomes game.