The quarterback who has been putting up video-game numbers could have had two more touchdowns in the loss in Seattle.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Patrick Mahomes stood on the sidelines of CenturyLink Field with his hands on his hips unable to change the outcome.
As the Seahawks took a knee three times and iced a stunning 38-31 victory over the Chiefs, ensuring a berth in the playoffs, Mahomes could only lament what might have been if perhaps just two plays had been different.
The young quarterback, who has risen to NFL stardom at a speed faster than one of his bullet passes, lost back-to-back games for the first time this season and was also held under 300 yards passing for the second consecutive game — another first this season.
“We have to find ways to win these games,” Mahomes said. “And we haven’t been lately. That’s the most frustrating. Everybody has to step up.”
Mahomes finished with 273 yards on 23-of-40 passing with three touchdowns for a 103.4 passer rating. That’s a solid game for any quarterback. And yet, given the type of video-game numbers he’s put up all season, it’s not unreasonable to expect more from Mahomes. He came into the game with 4,543 passing yards and 45 touchdowns.
But the combination of the Seahawks pass rush and the Chiefs’ own mistakes — two fumbles and costly penalties — limited Mahomes to just 6 of 13 passing for 83 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Chiefs never stayed on the field long enough to develop any rhythm on offense.
“You can’t have those things, you can’t have turnovers, you can’t have penalties when you are playing good defenses,” Mahomes said. “We did early, and it stalled out some of those drives.”
Mahomes admittedly missed an easy touchdown pass on the Chiefs’ second drive of the game when he badly overthrew tight end Travis Kelce, who was wide open and behind the Seahawks defense.
“The ball to Trav, I was actually thinking of throwing it to Tyreek (Hill), and he got bumped off his route,” he said. “Trav came open and I’ve got to find a way to get the ball to him there. I have to make sure that when I get those opportunities that I capitalize on them.”
The Chiefs settled for a 54-yard Harrison Butker field goal.
Early in the fourth quarter with the his team trailing 24-17, Mahomes threw a pretty pass on third down into the end zone to receiver Kelvin Benjamin on a post pattern. But Benjamin dropped the sure 10-yard touchdown pass, and the Chiefs again had to settle for a field goal.
In a game where touchdowns were needed, the Chiefs left two on the field.
“It’s frustrating that we’ve been so close and losing these games,” Mahomes said.
He credited the Seahawks defense with some of the struggles. He was sacked once and hurried 11 times and took multiple hits.
“They’ve got a good defense, and they’ve been good for a long time,” Mahomes said. “They stopped us on some of those drives. You don’t want that to happen and sustain drives. We have to find a way to have success. They have good pass rushers. We knew that coming in.”
But had the Chiefs converted an onside kick in the game’s final minutes, it’s easy to believe that Mahomes would’ve made things interesting.
“I thought he did some good things, and he gave us a chance there at the end,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He’s done some phenomenal things throughout the year. And he’ll continue here as we finish up. Things that have never been done before. My hat goes off to him for that.”
One of those phenomenal things came in the third quarter and will be replayed over and over on highlight reels.
On a first down pass play from the Seahawks 25-yard-line, Mahomes dropped back to pass but was immediately flushed from the pocket. As he sprinted to his left, he spotted Charcandrick West to his right with a step on two defenders. The angle seemed impossible. The throw seemed illogical. But Mahomes whipped an off-balance sidearm throw to West, who never broke stride and sprinted into the end zone.
Think about a shortstop throwing back across the diamond to first base on a slow roller up the middle. It’s sort of fitting since his Mahomes’ father, Pat, was a Major League Baseball player. But he was a pitcher.
“They played good coverage versus the play we had called,” Mahomes said. “I just scrambled to the left and Charcandrick came back with me and I found a way to throw him the ball and he made a great play.”
Mahomes downplayed the difficulty of the throw. Most quarterbacks would never attempt such a play because they know they don’t have the arm strength or athleticism. But Mahomes has been making these sorts of preposterous plays all season as he redefines the limitations of what a quarterback can and can’t do.
But style points don’t figure into the actual outcome and the Chiefs failed to clinch the AFC West title for the second straight week.