Overlooking Patrick Mahomes was a huge mistake.
The Buffalo Bills were the preseason Super Bowl chalk with Las Vegas sportsbooks, even after they lost to Kansas City in last year’s playoffs.
The L.A. Chargers were the media darlings of a stacked AFC West that was supposed to humble Andy Reid, Mahomes and a fading Chiefs team that lost Tyrann Mathieu and Tyreek Hill.
Russell Wilson got traded to the Denver Broncos. Davante Adams became a Las Vegas Raider.
The Chiefs’ run of four straight AFC Championship Game appearances, with two Super Bowl appearances and one championship, is over. Right?
Wrong. The Chiefs are already 2-0, outscoring their opponents 71-45, with a Thursday Night division win over Justin Herbert’s Chargers here in Week 2.
And making Mahomes an underdog was a bad idea.
“I always feel like I have something to prove,” Mahomes said after the Chiefs’ 44-21 thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals. “I’m just this guy from Texas Tech that they said couldn’t play in the NFL. So I always have that mindset of going out there and proving that we’re the Kansas City Chiefs and we still have a chance to go out there and win the AFC championship and win the AFC West and win the Super Bowl.”
This is not to minimize what Josh Allen’s Bills did to the reigning champion L.A. Rams in the NFL season opener. Buffalo definitely has the firepower to compete with Kansas City, as they demonstrated in that 42-36 overtime divisional playoff loss in January.
Mahomes and the Chiefs benefited from some terrible officiating Thursday night that robbed the Chargers of two interceptions, too. And Kansas City’s secondary on defense is young and suspect.
But Mahomes’ talent is enough to keep winning, along with the coaching of Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. And adding a chip to the former MVP’s shoulder gives him another reason to unleash fresh firepower on the league.
Mahomes received a confusingly low grade from Pro Football Focus in Week 1, for example, after completing 30 of 39 passes for 360 yards and five TDs against the Cardinals.
So on Thursday, after beating the Chargers, Mahomes cracked about one of his near interceptions: “I’m sure PFF will have me at a low grade for that, but I’ll keep it rolling.”
PFF returned with these numbers after the Chiefs beat the Chargers: Mahomes is 21 of 32 against the blitz this season for 231 yards, six TD passes and no interceptions. He is 12 of 13 out of the pocket for 121 yards and three TDs.
“A couple of those throws were unbelievable,” Reid said of his quarterback’s 24 of 35 passing for 235 yards and two TDs against the Chargers. “Pushing up and throwing through traffic and getting his body in the right position… It was impressive. And I know he works … He’s relentless with that stuff. He always wants to know what he can do to be better.”
Relentless is a good way to describe Mahomes’ attitude now in his fifth full season as a starter. He’s out to remind everyone who he is, who the Chiefs are – they are the team you were unwise to overlook.
STALEY SUDDENLY PLAYS IT SAFE
Aggressive, analytics-driven Chargers coach Brandon Staley unexpectedly morphed on Thursday into an alarmingly conservative game manager against the Chiefs.
Staley, whose calling card as a rookie coach was his aggressive go-for-it calls on fourth down, kicked an early field goal on 4th and 2 from the Chiefs’ 13-yard line. And he punted twice in the first half on 4th and 2 from the Chiefs’ 47- and 48-yard lines, respectively.
It appears Staley’s failed fourth down calls in late season losses to the Chiefs and Raiders led to a dramatic shift in approach in his second year.
Look no further than Staley’s unrecognizable explanation for his strategy: field position.
“Just wanted to give our defense a chance to compete,” he said. “I really loved the way we were playing. I felt like we were aggressive when we needed to be. We converted all four of our fourth downs. Just felt like with who’s over there and the way our defense was playing, I felt like the field position would be a big edge for our defense. To be able to pin them back there. And I like the way our defense competed tonight.”
Staley went for 34 of 108 fourth downs (31.5%, league high) last season and succeeded 64.7% of the time (fourth best). So hearing him speak this way was hard to believe.
The Chargers did convert a 4th and 1 Austin Ekeler run at the Chiefs’ 18 in the third quarter, leading to a Mike Williams touchdown on the next play. So maybe Staley will be able to find a middle ground rather than abandoning his principles.
Newly released text messages show that Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre may have been more involved than previously known in funneling millions of federal welfare dollars to pay for a new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played the sport, a lawsuit alleges.
The messages show that former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was aware of the arrangement and even guided Favre on how to submit a funding proposal. The text messages do not establish that Favre knew the funds were welfare money but clearly indicate he was aware of some impropriety.
“If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre allegedly texted Nancy New, the executive director of the education center through which the funds were funneled.
The money was originally intended to help low-income families in the poorest state in the country. Favre denied any wrongdoing in the past.
NFL ECSTATIC OVER OPENING WEEKEND
Pro sports leagues love parity. The NFL is no different. The league had seven games decided by a field goal or less in Week 1, the most on a kickoff weekend in NFL history. Five games were decided by a score in the final two minutes or overtime — the most in a Week 1 in 20 years. Eight teams won games with quarterbacks under 27 years old, the second most ever to open a season. And the NFL had more than 121 million viewers, up 5% from last year and the best opening weekend since 2016. The most watched game was the Cowboys-Bucs Sunday night game, which drew 23.3 million. … The league says the “guardian caps” worn over helmets by players up to the second preseason game had a positive impact on limiting concussions. The NFL said its average number of 23 concussions in that period decreased to 11 among the position groups who were required to wear the caps (O-line, D-line, tight ends and linebackers). And six of those 11 were determined as caused by blows to face masks, not to a player’s helmet. More than 200 players continued wearing the caps after the mandated period was over, as well.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: STEELERS LOSE WATT
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 1 upset of the Cincinnati Bengals was dampened in a big way by the loss of star pass rusher T.J. Watt. A torn pectoral muscle has the reigning NFL defensive player of the year out for at least six weeks, if not more. So it’s hard to see the Steelers, with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, dethroning the Bengals in the AFC North even after beating them head to head in the opener. … Jets coach Robert Saleh can’t say what he said on ESPN Radio, that the Jets were “worse than an expansion team” when Joe Douglas arrived as GM. Even if it’s true, it fires too many shots at people both inside and outside Saleh’s building. The Jets’ primary problem, like the Giants’ and other perennial losers of late, goes way above any GM or head coach. But Saleh puts a target on his back when he talks that way. And if the losing spirals, it will help turn him into the next scapegoat, while the real problem goes unaddressed. … Cooper Rush is quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys against Joe Burrow’s reigning AFC Champion Bengals this Sunday with Dak Prescott injured and out at least several weeks. It’s possible the Giants could be hosting an 0-2 Cowboys team on Monday Night Football in Week 3.
THEY SAID IT
“He didn’t urinate down his leg, man. That’s a great place to begin.” — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on rookie running back Jaylen Warren’s NFL debut.