Mahomes: ‘Didn’t feel good’ but did enough in end

  • Covered Chiefs for 20 seasons for Kansas City Star
  • Joined ESPN in 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes made a lot of plays Sunday night that helped boost the Kansas City Chiefs into Super Bowl LVII, but the one they’ll be talking about the longest was a seemingly simple 5-yard scramble on his last snap of the AFC Championship Game.

The run, combined with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai, put the Chiefs in position for a 45-yard Harrison Butker field goal with 3 seconds left that secured the 23-20 victory and landed Kansas City in the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons.

The play came with Mahomes hobbled by a high ankle sprain. He wasn’t as mobile as he usually is, but still threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns.

But it was the scramble that impressed the Chiefs the most.

“People don’t realize how hurt he was,” general manager Brett Veach said. “We all saw the injury. High ankles are terrible injuries and sometimes guys miss two, three weeks, and he was out there and running for a first down and a big play in the game that got us in field goal range.

“But, it just adds to an already great legacy.”

Mahomes declared shortly after injuring the ankle in last week’s divisional round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that he planned to play Sunday night. He then took his usual workload in practice during the week, so there was never much drama surrounding whether he would be in the Chiefs’ lineup.

The bigger issue was how effective he could be. The Chiefs were quietly confident — not because of any feat he performed in practice, but just from the fact he was there and working despite the injury.

“He gave me no opportunity to think that he wasn’t going to play,” coach Andy Reid said. “He never missed a snap.”

Mahomes led the Chiefs to scores on each of their first three possessions, the first two ending in field goals and the last a 14-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce.

Mahomes wound up 29-of-43 passing with no interceptions. He did fumble once, with the Bengals recovering and eventually turning it into a touchdown.

“I just tried to do whatever I could to win, and obviously there were times where you could see that it wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to,” Mahomes said. “But I was able to do enough on that last play to get the first down and get myself out of bounds and try to give Harrison the chance to win. Obviously we got the flag and [Ossai] pushed me, pushed me pretty late there.

“I definitely didn’t feel good. I think the worst one was when I fumbled. I tried to pick it up and that was probably the worst I tweaked it during the game. They got me close as they could to 100%. Then I just battled through and I’ll have a few more weeks to get it ready.”

Mahomes later threw another touchdown pass, this one 19 yards to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

His game, though solid, still lacked a signature moment until he took his final snap with 17 seconds remaining, scrambled on his gimpy right ankle to the right sideline for 5 yards and was shoved well past the boundary by Ossai.

Kelce said he was waiting for that moment of something special from Mahomes.

“Sure enough, on that last play, you saw it all come together,” Kelce said. “Moments like that just make it that much more special to be his teammate.”

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