Chiefs-Titans: Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid explain incredible win
In one of the few strikes of the night, the Titans rushed for five. DeMarcus Walker tackled right tackle Trey Smith, sacking the quarterback for a seven-yard loss. That meant third-and-17 — with the Chiefs’ hopes of a victory all but lost.
On the next play the pocket collapsed. Mahomes took off — and after cutting through three Titans defenders, he gained 20 yards and another set of touchdowns.
“That was good,” head coach Andy Reid recalled after the game. “They turned their backs on him – they played man coverage. And so they turned their backs and he did some things.”
Mahomes explained what he noticed in what ended up being the first real step in the Chiefs’ miraculous comeback Sunday night.
“I definitely saw the tape to get close enough that I thought we were going to be able to go for it,” he said. “When you’re in a situation like that, you know if you can get to the quarter and 5, fourth and 4, coach Reid is probably going to give you a chance there. And then as I was running, I felt – I think it was a safety – kind of over-pursued, so I kind of hit my shot and got out there. I actually tried to go outside again which didn’t work; I’m not fast enough. But it was a good game and like I said, we just battled at the end of the day. It wasn’t like we designed it, we just went out and tried to make things.”
After a fumble by tight end Noah Gray, Mahomes threw three consecutive first downs to Marquez Valdes Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jerick McKinnon. The Chiefs turned on McKinnon on the next two plays, but managed to gain just one yard, bringing it up on third-and-9 at the Titans’ 14.
Mahomes glanced to his left and then saw nothing but green grass to his right. He’s already done it against the Titans on a much bigger stage – why not get into the end zone? Mahomes hauled in a defensive tackle by Jeffery Simmons — who had a snap — and then weaved his way through two more defenders for a touchdown.
A few penalties (of many on the night) later, and Mahomes went left for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
“[The Titans] had good plans,” Mahomes said. “They did a good job. A touchdown run? I probably could have just thrown it to JuJu, but at that point I was completely committed to running.”
Smith-Schuster saw what Mahomes saw.
“I made eye contact with him, I thought he was going to throw it, but he just put it in,” Smith-Schuster said. “A touchdown is a touchdown at the end of the day. I knew it was a man [coverage] — and at that point, I was just trying to get a block. I got a block for him, he missed one guy, hit it, then came back for the two-point conversion and kind of did the same thing on the left side. I’m making blocks, man.”
“We really battled at the end of the game,” Mahomes added. “We were just trying to find a way to win, and our defense kept us in the game long enough to do that.”
As the offense struggled most of the night, the defense made the appropriate adjustments to ensure Mahomes would have a chance. Allowed just 10 yards and one first down the entire second half.
That gave Mahomes plenty of time to find his… inner Mahomes. In overtime, Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce on second-and-11 for 18 yards despite a dangerous throw as he fell to the ground. Kelce tensed his body back to make sure he made the catch.
“[Kelce’s] the first read — but the way they played, I thought they were going to double it somehow. So I looked at Skyy [Moore] and they left with Skye. So I threw it late. That’s what makes Travis so great: I threw it late — he probably had a chance to get picked off — but he came back to the ball and made a good catch. For him to still be there, it’s like every single play and fight, it was a big play for him – and he ended up making a lot of big plays.”
Later in overtime, Mahomes turned to his much less talked about tight end Noah Gray for a 27-yard gain to put the Chiefs in field goal range. Gray took the ball high, picked it up and knocked it down in what had to be the biggest moment of his young, two-year career.
“It’s funny,” Mahomes began. “I think I said it in training camp: I feel like I don’t target Noah enough because he gets called up a lot of times or he’s one of the options that I can give him a chance. And it looks like I’m not throwing it at him. He’s always open — and as the season goes on and our careers go on, I want to give him more and more chances because I think he can be a big part of this offense.
“That whole closed room has been great for us this season. But for [Gray] to catch that catch at that moment? I mean, that was a tough catch he made; that was big for us. That was probably the reason we were able to go down and win.”
Somehow, someway, using their full collection of pass catchers to match 68 career touchdown passes, Mahomes and the Chiefs willed their way to victory.
It wasn’t pretty, but the best teams win when they don’t have their best night. That was an understatement for the Chiefs against the Titans.
“You have to be able to win a game like that,” Reid said. “Where everything is just not perfect and your emotions are up and down. You have to fight through it, persevere through it and be able to pull yourself together. Some of these guys step up and get together.
“We’ve been so close on so many plays — and instead of being frustrated, step up and let’s go.”
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