Season of dropped balls, lowered expectations led to Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs, astonishing the experts in AFC Championship win

It was Patrick Mahomes’ “worst season of his career,” the pundits kept reminding us. He’d never been on the road for the playoffs. His wide receivers can’t catch. Ravens’ defense, Ravens’ defense, Ravens’ defense.

As they say in Latin, yada, yada, yada.

Mahomes is like Hans Solo: Never tell him the odds. Despite all the naysayers – why would you ever say nay about this guy? – he’s got the Kansas City Chiefs back in the big game for the fourth time in five years, ready to take on the San Francisco 49ers Feb. 11 in Super Bowl LVIII (58, to the non-Roman).

This, after a 17-10 upset win at the home of the Baltimore Ravens who, Chiefs fans couldn’t help hearing all last week, sported the best defense in the Milky Way.

“Mahomes averaged 7.0 yards per pass, the worst of his career,” summed up one postseason report. “He averaged 261.4 passing yards per game, the worst of his career. He threw a touchdown on 4.5 percent of his passes, the lowest of his career. He threw an interception on 2.3 percent of his passes, the highest of his career. His passer rating was 92.6, the worst of his career. He was sacked on 4.33 percent of his dropbacks, the most of his career.”

So, it was the worst statistical year by the best quarterback maybe ever. And? All it means is that this may be his greatest feat ever, taking a team with a diminished supporting cast on offense to the championship game yet again.

At least give him that.

It certainly helps that the also-galactically-good Chiefs’ defense outplayed the vaunted Ravens’, holding explosive quarterback Lamar Jackson to a mere 10 points, highlighted by cornerback L’Jarius Snead’s forced fumble at the goalline by Ravens wideout Zay Flowers.

It was largely a defensive triumph, to be sure (though the record-setting Mahomes-Travis Kelce combination was hitting on all cylinders). It remains that this is Mahomes’ team, and it still has his, and Coach Andy Reid’s, championship pedigree.

One can perhaps understand the experts’ underestimating this particular edition of the Chiefs, even with Mahomes at the helm. Their 11-6 regular-season record was inarguably garish for the reigning champs and perennial favorites, and they looked especially bad recording it.

What the talking heads missed, however, was that Mahomes had the team positioned to be 14-3 in the regular season – a game better than the Ravens, and best in the conference – if not for a few dropped balls and missed calls, and a sloppy offsides penalty by an inattentive receiver.

Well, well. Mahomes’ receivers had no dropped balls on Sunday. And all along, that may have been the only thing standing between Mahomes and another run at a championship – something all of us should have realized going into Sunday’s game.

And then there’s this, from ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, even before Sunday’s win: The Chiefs are now the first team in history to win at least two postseason games for five consecutive years — and Mahomes has taken his team to at least the conference championship in every one of the six seasons he’s been a starter.

“Patrick Mahomes is on his way to being the greatest player of all time. And he is already the best I’ve ever seen,” Greenberg opined. “I believe when it is all said and done, Tom Brady will no longer be the greatest quarterback in NFL history. I believe Patrick Mahomes will be.”

So, how much longer is this big game hunter going to surprise us?


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