Back in A.F.C. Title Game, Patrick Mahomes Is Eager for More

After falling behind, 24-0, in the second quarter, the Chiefs rallied behind their quarterback.

Back in A.F.C. Title Game, Patrick Mahomes Is Eager for More
Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to an epic comeback.Credit...Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Back in A.F.C. Title Game, Patrick Mahomes Is Eager for More

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Late in the Chiefs’ demolition of the Houston Texans on Sunday, the team posted a note on the video screen at Arrowhead Stadium telling fans that thanks to Kansas City’s 51-point outburst, all the fireworks used to celebrate scores were gone.

“Chiefs fans, we are sorry to report, but due to your support and the Chiefs continually finding the end zone, we have run out of touchdown fireworks,” the announcement said.

Indeed, the Chiefs engineered a historic offensive performance, led by their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. After falling behind, 24-0, in the second quarter, Mahomes threw four touchdowns before the end of the first half to put the Chiefs in front. The barrage continued in the second half as the Chiefs scored touchdowns on a record seven consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Kansas City became the first team to win a playoff game by 20 or more points after being behind by 20 or more points.

The 51-31 victory lifted the Chiefs into the A.F.C. championship game for the second consecutive season. Because the Tennessee Titans knocked off the No. 1-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, the Chiefs, the No. 2 seed, will host the Titans, who beat the Chiefs earlier in the season.

With a victory next Sunday afternoon at home, the Chiefs will return to the Super Bowl for the first time in a half-century.

For now, though, Chiefs fans can savor Mahomes’s feats, which, even in his third season, have at times become remarkably routine. A series of mistakes — a dropped punt return, a blocked punt, several dropped passes — allowed the Texans to jump to an early lead that prompted some fans to boo the hometown Chiefs. A handful of fans even headed for the exits.

Then, just as quickly, the Texans gave the Chiefs an opening, and Mahomes made them pay. On fourth-and-8, the Texans, who were leading, 24-7, tried a fake punt, but came up a yard short. Three plays — 23 seconds later — Mahomes threw a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.

After Houston fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, Mahomes took just three plays — 1 minute 25 seconds — before he threw another touchdown pass to Kelce. Just before the half, Mahomes threw a third score to Kelce to put the Chiefs ahead for good, 28-24.

Mahomes became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a quarter in an N.F.L. playoff game since Doug Williams did it in Super Bowl XXII, more than 30 years ago.

Mahomes was more than a scoring machine. He was the instigator. When the Texans were ahead, he ran up and down the bench encouraging his teammates, “Let’s do something special.” After one touchdown, he sprinted across the field exhorting the crowd to cheer.

Mahomes’s final line didn’t do justice to his impact. He completed 23 of his 35 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns, much of it in the last three quarters. He might have had more yards and touchdowns if his receivers had not dropped several passes. Mahomes also ran for 53 yards to lead the team, including a 21-yard sprint down the sideline.

His five-touchdown performance barely in the rearview mirror, Mahomes was looking forward to next week. Last season at this time, the Chiefs absorbed a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in overtime, ending Mahomes’s M.V.P. season with a thud.

The drive to vanquish last season’s disappointment is strong.

“When you fall that short last year, the next step is to get to the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said. “We understood that going into the season.”

After an epic 2018 season in which he threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns, Mahomes’s offensive statistics were not as gaudy this season. That was in part because he missed time with a knee injury.

In some ways, Mahomes has benefited from not being the focus of attention the way he was last season. That honor went to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Chiefs’ offense was plenty potent, but Mahomes became more selective. He threw about half as many touchdowns, but only five interceptions, compared with a dozen last season. His completion rate was steady at 66 percent. It might have been unreasonable to assume he would throw for over 5,000 yards again. Instead, he ended with 4,031 yards.

Mahomes, who is 24, can still change a game in an instant, as he showed on Sunday. But he and the Chiefs will have to avoid being complacent against the sixth-seeded Titans.

Two months ago, the Titans shocked the Chiefs, 35-32, in Nashville. Derrick Henry, the N.F.L.’s leading rusher, ran over the Chiefs, collecting 188 yards and two scores. Henry has continued his stampede in the playoffs against the Patriots and the Ravens.

The Chiefs have not lost since that trip to Tennessee. Many of their injured players are back in the lineup, save for defensive tackle Chris Jones. The team’s defense has improved.

Mahomes is not taking anything for granted.

After Sunday’s game, Mahomes was asked if he had any advice for the Chiefs fan who posted a video of himself on Twitter leaving Arrowhead Stadium when the Texans were ahead, 24-0, because he felt he was jinxing the team.

“Watch the next game at home,” Mahomes said.

Mahomes, though, will be back at Arrowhead Stadium ready to fire away again.

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