This is the moment Kansas City Chiefs fans have waited for all season. The opportunity to go back to the AFC Championship game to play for the right to fight it out in Arizona for a ring. The status of Patrick Mahomes may be in question for right now. However, Chiefs fans know he will not miss playing if he is healthy enough. Let us look at what happened this past weekend and what will be going on next week.
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Dramatic Win Over the Jaguars
In what was sure to be an exciting game, the Kansas City Chiefs faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the winner advancing to the AFC Championship game. The Chiefs came out victorious 27-20. If that sounds like a close score, you would be correct. Despite the celebration, those rooting for the Chiefs will spend the week worrying about Mahomes and his ankle.
Near the end of the 1st quarter, Mahomes had just completed a pass to Blake Bell when Jaguars outside linebacker Arden Key landed on Mahomes’ leg/ankle. It was apparent that Mahomes was in pain, limping and hopping on one leg. But, like the competitor he is, he stayed out there to finish through the end of the first and into the second. Not too long after the field goal by Harrison Butker, Mahomes was forced to go to the locker room. He would come back out before the end of the quarter, but he didn’t play again until the second half.
In the second half, it was apparent Mahomes was still in pain. He had difficulty planting his foot to be able to throw, and it showed. Before the injury, Mahomes was 11 of 12 for 77 yards and a touchdown. Overall he ended up being 22 of 30 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. That is very un-Mahomes-like. Also, his mobility was extremely limited. However, his offensive line did an excellent job of protecting him.
Talent is Good, But Experience is King
On both sides of the ball, the Chiefs have a mixture of veterans with postseason experience and players unfamiliar with how different the playoffs are. That was evident in the way the offensive line protected Mahomes. Also, no one is disputing that Doug Pederson has the experience. He was on the Chiefs’ coaching staff at one point in his career. He also has a nice shiny ring to display or wear as well. There is no doubt that the Jags have talent. You can see it in flashes. The issue is consistency. Without that consistency, the experience of the Chiefs, even with an injured Mahomes, was still a factor.
The Chiefs did not panic too much when he was injured because they knew they had Chad Henne, who could take over. While Henne is no Mahomes, he is an experienced quarterback who can fit into the offensive system the Chiefs have. This was evident on the 98-yard drive he led, which resulted in a touchdown.
The Jags did not take advantage of opportunities. They should have put more pressure on the injured Mahomes and forced him to be mobile. It was apparent mobility was an issue for Mahomes. In addition, they didn’t keep a closer eye on Kelce. The Jags have had problems with covering tight ends. However, they should know how much Kelce is a go-to for Mahomes. The Chiefs were able to take advantage of the Jags leaving Kelce open. Multiple times. The Jags should have also put more pressure on the Chiefs’ offense when Henne was manning the helm. They tipped a pass and almost had an interception, but they did not do enough.
Jacksonville was too conservative in the third with the players they were calling. Trevor Lawrence is a good quarterback who has the ability, but for some reason, the coaches chose not to take a chance. He was 24 of 30 for 217 yards and was sacked twice during the game. Thanks to the pressure the Chiefs were putting on the offensive line, he appeared to struggle. With about four minutes left in the game, Lawrence threw a pass intended for Zay Jones, but it was intercepted by Jaylen Watson, essentially ensuring that the Chiefs would win. The Chiefs’ defense had been getting pressure all game, and they came through when Mahomes and the offense needed it most.
Chiefs Face the Bengals in the AFC Championship
We have seen this movie before. Perhaps the sequel will be better than the original? After soundly defeating the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals will face the Chiefs for the chance to play in the Superbowl. This is sure to be a spectacular game, but questions about Mahomes leave this game in the unknown. At least for right now.
How Can the Chiefs Win?
They need Mahomes to be able to play. And not just hobble on one and a half legs. He will need to be able to complete passes, both long and short. The Chiefs will also need to improve on third downs. Especially third and short. They will need to pressure and sack Joe Burrow on the defensive side. Getting pressure on the offense worked against the Jags, but they will need to apply much more against the Bengals.
Can They Stop the Bengals?
The Bengals are rolling right into this rematch at full speed. Since Burrow has been the quarterback for Cincinnati, they are 3-0 against the Chiefs. Those are not very good odds on top of an injured Mahomes. The Chiefs will need to find their inner 2019-2020 season. There are still players for that team on both sides of the ball, and they need to find that moxie and drive. If the Chiefs do not shoot themselves in the foot, they stand a chance to beat the Bengals. Kansas City has the home-field advantage, and revenge would be a perfect ending to the game.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images