Late in their game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, Patrick Mahomes II and the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves in an unfamiliar position: losing.
Even weirder than the Chiefs being down 24-17 was that the Chiefs were trailing to a team that ran the ball and played defense (so 2006)—a far cry from the teams that Kansas City had lost to this season, the Patriots and the Rams. Yet there the Chiefs were: down seven points with less than two minutes to play and facing a fourth-and-9 on their own 40-yard line. But, as he had done so many times this season, Mahomes conjured up a truly MVP-caliber play: This time it was a cross-body throw that went more than 30 yards and fell into Tyreek Hill’s breadbasket to get the Chiefs to the Baltimore 12-yard line.
Mahomes is a wizard, I swear. What a beautiful play. pic.twitter.com/ERnx6hffmw— Tony Dombrowski (@tonydombrowski) December 9, 2018
Four plays later, Mahomes threw another fourth-down pass, this one a touchdown to running back Damien Williams that tied the game with less than a minute to play. The Chiefs would ultimately win 27-24 in overtime, as Mahomes finished with 35 completions on 53 attempts for 377 yards (7.1 yards per attempt), two touchdowns, and one interception against Baltimore’s fourth-ranked defense by DVOA. The lasting memory will be his desperation throw to Hill that saved the game and may have put him back in the driver’s seat for the 2018 MVP award, but there were other moments outside of the game-tying drive that highlighted how special the 23-year-old has been this season.
Even when the plays didn’t end in a touchdown, Mahomes looked great. He channeled his inner Luka Doncic and delivered a no-look pass to receiver Demarcus Robinson.
Patrick Mahomes' no-look pass. He's just different pic.twitter.com/oZxehCHXbg— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 9, 2018
On second-and-18 early in the fourth quarter, Mahomes scrambled right, doubled back to his left, and rocketed a pass across his body toward the middle of the field to Travis Kelce for 17 yards.
For any other quarterback, a pass across your body like this is a 101-level Do Not Do.
Yet Mahomes makes this kind of play routinely; it’s a demonstration of a crucial form of mastery: understanding when and how to break the rules. It’s fair to wonder at this point whether he is better at throwing while running to his non-throwing side than any other quarterback in NFL history.
Every week, Patrick Mahomes does a bunch of things that shouldn't be possible for a human pic.twitter.com/GpBRykJJE7— Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin) December 9, 2018
Still, Mahomes was far from perfect on Sunday. He almost literally gave the game away in overtime when he dropped the ball in the backfield deep in Baltimore territory, but tackle Eric Fisher recovered the ball amid diving Ravens defenders. He also had a bad interception in the third quarter that led to a Baltimore touchdown drive that brought the Ravens back into the game.
Still, when Kansas City needed him, Mahomes came up big—and they need him as running back Spencer Ware left with a shoulder injury and Hill was in-and-out of the game with a heel injury. Head coach Andy Reid said after the game that besides the interception, this was the best game of Mahomes’s career.
It was a tough loss for the Ravens, who hung around all day with one of the league’s premier teams and held them to their second-lowest point total all season but failed to seal the deal once the game got real. They rushed for 198 yards on 39 carries (5.1 yards per attempt) on Kansas City’s 32nd ranked rush defense by DVOA, coming 2 yards short of posting their fourth straight game with more than 200 rushing yards. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson made some critical drive-extending plays with his legs and his arm but struggled passing the ball late in the game when the Ravens couldn’t rely on the run. Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston strip-sacked Jackson in a would-be game-sealing play if not for a missed field goal from Kansas City’s Harrison Butker. After Kansas City settled for a field goal on its first drive of OT, Jackson was injured on a sack from Houston and Dee Ford on Baltimore’s third-to-last play in overtime; Robert Griffin III took over for two fruitless pass attempts.
Kansas City clinched a playoff berth with the victory and also took one step closer to putting a bow on home-field advantage in the AFC. On Sunday, the Texans lost to Indianapolis and New England suffered a stupefying loss to Miami that knocked both New England and Houston to 9-4. Meanwhile, the Chiefs moved up to 11-2 giving them a two-game lead for the 1-seed with three weeks left to play (the Patriots have the head-to-head tiebreaker). Now Kansas City has plenty of breathing room atop the conference and could have a pair of home games leading up to the Super Bowl.