Because of Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs stay a lower above the remainder of the AFC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In a single play, Patrick Mahomes reminded his Kansas Metropolis Chiefs of the explanation for his or her unfailing perception.

The soccer membership regarded by many as the category of the AFC and top-of-the-line of the Nationwide Soccer League had regarded like something however because it kicked off the 2021 season in opposition to the Cleveland Browns.

The visiting Browns, in the meantime, had turned in a largely masterful efficiency for three-plus quarters and seemingly discovered themselves on the verge of a press release victory whereas aiming to avenge a 2020 divisional-round playoff loss to the Chiefs.

However then got here the play that in a single fell swoop ignited a barely off-kilter and sluggish squad. The achieve bailed out a bunch that, from prime to backside, had been outplayed and out-schemed. It spurred the Chiefs on to a 33-29 victory and signaled to the remainder of the league that the Chiefs stay as imposing as ever.

Down 29-20 with 10 minutes left, Mahomes took the snap and with the pocket collapsing, he escaped to his proper, sideline approaching however eyes darting. There. He noticed vast receiver Tyreek Hill, chucked the ball again throughout his physique 45 yards downfield and into the fingers of Hill, who had slammed on on the brakes, modified instructions and shook Cleveland security John Johnson III. Reception made, Hill raced the remaining 30 yards of actual property and crossed the purpose line. A 75-yard, one-play, 14-second scoring drive.

Such heroics – Mahomes’ coaches, teammates, followers and opponents remembered – are why you may by no means depend out the Chiefs.

The squad rolled from there. A ferocious defensive stand. A clutch particular groups cease after a painful Browns gaffe. One other landing drive by Mahomes. And a game-sealing interception. The win. And message despatched.

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Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Trey Smith #65 after throwing a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs celebrates with Trey Smith #65 after throwing a landing go through the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri.

The Chiefs’ victory over a Browns squad that many pundits view as Tremendous Bowl contenders mirrored how massive a margin actually separates Kansas Metropolis from the pack.

Even on a lackluster day, the Chiefs all the time have an opportunity and 9 instances out of 10 will discover a method to prevail.

From begin to end, the Browns had remained one step forward of the Chiefs. Coach Kevin Stefanski delivered an aggressive recreation plan crammed with gutsy calls, inventive play designs and pristine execution that saved the Chiefs off stability.

However it nonetheless wasn’t sufficient. The Browns wanted perfection to provide themselves their greatest likelihood to defeat their hosts, and it nonetheless may not have been sufficient.

They’ll by no means know, although, as a result of three late-game Browns hiccups opened the door for the Chiefs, and Mahomes and his squad snatched away the “W.”

“What a recreation,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid mentioned earlier than joking that he was getting too outdated for nail-biter video games like this one.

However then he counted his blessings, probably the most distinguished, after all, being Mahomes, who on Sunday led his workforce again from a double-digit deficit for the tenth time since changing into Kansas Metropolis’s beginning quarterback in 2018.

“You’re keen on his angle, as a result of he all the time appears like we’re in it and he does such a terrific job with the blokes round him,” Reid mentioned. “He’s a terrific communicator throughout robust instances on the sideline. … After which to make that form of throw, working full velocity and throw again throughout his physique. What number of instances have we seen that now?”

Hill echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying, “It was simply Patrick Mahomes being Patrick Mahomes.”

And cornerback Mike Hughes, who intercepted Baker Mayfield with 1:16 left to snuff out Cleveland’s final hope for a game-winning drive, credited Mahomes’ game-changing landing for the defensive rebound.

“That was big. It was a giant momentum shift. Late within the recreation, we would have liked that, particularly on the defensive facet,” Hughes mentioned.

The Chiefs’ future opponents ought to discover it scary that this squad once more possesses the power to flip the change and erase double-digit deficits at just about any level of a contest.

The collapse definitely had a really conventional Cleveland really feel to it. Operating again Nick Chubb (after speeding for 2 touchdowns earlier within the recreation) fumbled late within the third quarter, and Kansas Metropolis finally cashed that in for a 43-yard area purpose. And after that 75-yard Mahomes-to-Hill bomb, Stefanski did get away from the run whereas nonetheless clinging to a lead. Jones got here up big, sacking Mayfield deep in his territory. And on the following play, Browns punter Jamie Gillan fumbled the snap and tried to run relatively than try a rushed punt, and the Chiefs mobbed him for a turnover on downs. Two performs later, Mahomes linked with Travis Kelce for the tight finish’s second landing of the day and Kansas Metropolis’s first lead of the competition.

However regardless of all that, the Browns certainly displayed progress from a yr in the past. Cleveland appeared to validate beliefs that the workforce can be a part of the ranks of contenders this fall.

If the Browns had been in a position to carry out like they did regardless of lacking star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (nonetheless a bit of methods off from his return from season-ending knee surgical procedure), expectations of much more creativity and explosiveness appear life like.

However the Browns nonetheless simply aren’t on the extent of the Chiefs, and Mayfield isn’t nonetheless able to Mahomes’ stage of magic. Few groups and quarterbacks are.

So long as Mahomes stays wholesome, there’s no motive why the Chiefs gained’t face robust odds of reaching the Tremendous Bowl a 3rd straight yr. The motivation runs too robust inside the younger quarterback, and the assumption runs too robust all through his locker room. And he, in flip, believes in them.

“It’s simply form of, I’ve been via these conditions earlier than – with these guys,” Mahomes mentioned. “We clearly have new O-linemen and new gamers. However the core, we’ve the core guys who’ve discovered methods to win. If it was the playoff recreation in opposition to the (Houston) Texans (in 2019), or the Tremendous Bowl, or final yr once we got here again and gained all these video games. We’ve discovered methods to win, and on the finish of the day, you simply have that perception in one another, which makes you consider you may win each single recreation.”

Observe USA TODAY Sports activities’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Chiefs present they are a lower above in AFC due to Patrick Mahomes

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