On Saturday, Patrick Mahomes had one healthy leg. But luckily for the Kansas City Chiefs, Mahomes can throw touchdowns without touching the ground with his feet. With just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Mahomes and his sore ankle stepped (hobbled?) into his pocket, half jumped into the air, and found Marquez Valdez-Scantling at the end of the end zone. to give the chieftains a 10 point advantage.
The touchdown buried the Jaguars, who made a field goal to take the lead but ultimately lost 27–20, the same score they had beaten the Jaguars in Week 10. The Chiefs earned their fifth straight conference title. playing spot, sharing the second-longest streak in the Super Bowl era behind the New England Patriots.
But while the Chiefs were able to defeat the Jaguars on Saturday, it will be another challenge to topple the Bills or the Bengals in the AFC Championship game. The fate of AFK largely depends on Mahomes’ ankle joint.
Mahomes looked mythical before Saturday’s injury. On the first drive in Kansas City, Mahomes converted the first down with a veer variation, a jump pass to Travis Kelsey, unleashed a pistol shot to Juju Smith-Shuster, and completed the pass on Kelsey’s 3rd and 6th during the spin. to the ground by a linebacker. Mahomes ended the game with a light touchdown to Kelce in the middle, and the score increased to 7-0.
But the whole game changed during the Chiefs’ second drive. On first and tenth on the Jacksonville 49-yard line, Mahomes pulled back and completed a pass to Blake Bell’s tight end. But Jaguars linebacker Arden Key dropped the weight of his body onto Mahomes’ right ankle, causing immediate pain for Mahomes.
— Jared Koller (@JaredKCTV5) January 21, 2023
Mahomes limped off the field for medical attention, sat on the bench, and then ran back to the field before his ankle was properly assessed to prevent him from missing the game. He took advantage of the break between quarters to check on his ankle, but when Mahomes returned, the mobility that defined his first ride was gone. Mahomes no longer had his signature pocket run or ability to effortlessly fight for first downs.
This angle does a good job of showing how limited Mahomes has been since his ankle injury. Obviously an easy first down if he’s healthy. pic.twitter.com/kqqWkGnuDJ
— Danny Heifetz (@Danny_Heifetz) January 21, 2023
Mahomes was briefly replaced by Chiefs quarterback Chad Henn, while Mahomes threw his coat to the ground in desperation as he was sent back to the locker room (Henne did watch for a 98-yard touchdown in the second quarter).
After the game, Mahomes told NBC’s Melissa Stark that he did not want to go to the locker room, but the staff gave him an ultimatum, saying that he would not be allowed to enter the game again until he went to the locker room. and they took x-rays.
Mahomes returned from the break, and Kansas City’s offense looked limited. Mahomes seemed to be in pain every time he had to pass the ball under the center, often approaching his running back during the pass, visibly limping or bouncing on one leg, and continuing to do so on his way back to the crowd.
The Jaguars raised their guards and challenged KC’s receivers at the line of scrimmage, knowing that Mahomes could no longer try to extend the game. But the Jaguars had a complete inability to put pressure on Mahomes. Jacksonville’s blitzers were picked up by great blockers, including running back Jerich McKinnon, while Kansas City’s blockers were more physical than Jacksonville’s pass rushers. The Jags, who averaged more than two sacks a game in the regular season, scored zero on Saturday.
While the Jags’ defense has been solid throughout the season, this year they have been one of the worst groups in the league in tight-end defense. On Saturday against Chiefs tight end Travis Kelsey, it was like an unstoppable force against an extremely mobile object. Kelcha managed 14 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, the most catches in a tight end in a playoff game in NFL history. He also fell short of the record for most catches in playoff games by any player. period. And he reached those marks almost 10 minutes before the end of the fourth quarter.
Kansas City was able to send the Zubtsov, but they face a much tougher test in the AFC Championship game. Whether the Bengals or the Bills win on Sunday, the Chiefs lost to both of those teams during the regular season. Mahomes has never defeated Joe Burrow, including last year’s AFC Championship game. If the Chiefs play the Bills, they won’t even get home advantage because the Bills-Chifs game will be played at a neutral venue in Atlanta (a resolution the NFL passed after the Bills-Bengals were announced failed). at 17 weeks). Either way, the Chiefs will be up against two of the league’s most battle-hardened and explosive teams, and they can do it with the lame Mahomes.
“He’s our fearless leader,” Kelsey said of Mahomes after the game. We’re going the same as him.
Mahomes still carried the chiefs on his shoulders. But to get to the Super Bowl, they need Mahomes to keep hovering over the fight.