The Kansas City Chiefs survive an early injury to Patrick Mahomes to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and advance to a fifth-straight AFC Championship Game.
Late in the first quarter, the collective heart of Chiefs Kingdom stopped when quarterback Patrick Mahomes had his right ankle rolled under defensive end Arden Key. Mahomes stayed in the game despite being in visible discomfort. Backup Chad Henne would eventually supplant the MVP odds favorite and acquit himself fairly well for the remainder of the first half. Henne was 5-for-7 for 23 yards and one touchdown (to tight end Travis Kelce).
The touchdown drive was even more impressive when you consider the fact that it started at Kansas City’s own 2-yard line. The highlight of the possession was Isiah Pacheco’s gritty 39-yard run deep into Jaguars’ territory. The rookie running back appeared to be on the verge of being tackled for a loss when he cut back to the left and turned on the afterburners up the boundary. He’d gain another three yards to get the Chiefs down to Jacksonville’s 1-yard line before ultimately punching it in on the short pass to Kelce.
We may have seen the coming-of-age of Kansas City’s seventh-round pick today. The run that set up Kansas City’s second touchdown of the day breathed life into the team at a very uncertain time. Pacheco would go on to rack up 95 rushing yards on just 12 carries. It was an inspiring performance on a day where fate may have delivered a knockout blow to the Kansas City Chiefs’ hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.
For now, the Chiefs should take a moment to celebrate a championship level of resiliency. When play resumed in the second half, Patrick Mahomes returned to the field. At halftime, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that while Mahomes’ x-rays were negative, the belief was that he’d suffered a high-ankle sprain. That’s a testament to the toughness of Kansas CIty’s unquestioned leader. Time will tell if he’ll play in the AFC Championship game, but for now, it’s impossible not to take note of the character this football team showed today.
The Chiefs’ defense answered the bell when it was clear the offense might be limited without Mahomes. Kansas City wasn’t as successful at pressuring Trevor Lawrence in this matchup but did manage to provide enough heat to make him uncomfortable in key situations. They also managed to do something they had struggled to do all season — create turnovers. The Chiefs forced turnovers on back-to-back fourth-quarter drives by Jacksonville. The first of which was a Jamal Agnew catch-and-fumble in the red zone. One series later, Trevor Lawrence was pressured by safety Justin Reid and lofted a pass that was ultimately picked off by rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson.
The next several days will be agonizing at One Arrowhead Drive as the team will wait, with bated breath, for Patrick Mahomes’ prognosis. A less mobile Patrick Mahomes could seriously alter the Chiefs’ trajectory for the rest of the postseason. If he does in fact have a high-ankle sprain, the Chiefs may be forced to alter the gameplan versus an opponent with more firepower than the Jaguars. It’s not worth speculating about at this point, but this was the stuff of legend for Patrick Mahomes. Not only did he play through an injury that might’ve sidelined most quarterbacks, but he played well.
In the second half, Mahomes went 11-for-16 for 115 passing yards and one touchdown. He completed every one of his last five throws. Today’s performance won’t factor into the MVP equation, but it puts a golden exclamation point on his 2022 campaign. This is one of the games he’ll be remembered for when his storied career is over. It was his version of the famed Game 7 for New York Knicks great Willis Reed. Mahomes is celebrated for his ability to improvise and do the unthinkable, but today proved he’s one of the toughest quarterbacks in the National Football League.
Time will tell if it the Chiefs’ season ends here, but this was a statement victory by a team that has proven it’s as resilient as they come in this league. A lot of teams fold in the face of this kind of adversity. Today, the Chiefs refused and the entire football team picked itself up and went about its postseason business. We’ll soon learn if that’ll be enough to get them through the next round, but for today, Kansas City has earned high praise.