Published 6:14 AM EDT Sep 25, 2019
Three games into the season and Patrick Mahomes is on pace to throw for a gazillion yards.
The Chiefs’ wunderkind of a quarterback won NFL MVP honors last season when he passed for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs in his first go-around as a starter.
But that was so last year.
At this rate, Mahomes will obliterate the NFL’s single-season record by eclipsing 6,300 yards while tallying 53 TDs.
Sure, there are 13 regular-season games to go. Before it’s all over he might crack 7,000.
Yet even with Mahomes’ greatness – if you saw him zing the high-point touchdown laser to Demarcus Robinson off his back foot as a blitzing Ravens defensive back charged toward his face, you get the picture – the numbers only mean so much in this age of pumped-up passing.
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That’s why Troy Aikman, the Hall of Fame former Cowboys quarterback, seemed to take offense when someone pointed out on social media that Mahomes, with 60 TDs dating to the start of 2018, has already thrown for 36% of his career total of 165 … in about 8% of the games.
Aikman tweeted back: “ICYMI: Talk to me when when (sic) he has 33% of my Super Bowl Titles.”
Ouch. A testy Troy can be so on-point.
No way was Aikman, lead analyst for Fox Sports, taking a personal shot at Mahomes. He has some serious appreciation for a young player who mixes solid fundamentals with pizzazz while still protecting the football (Mahomes has zero picks this season).
“I love Mahomes,” Aikman texted to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “My tweet was directed at the writer.”
Mahomes, 24, is undoubtedly aware of the ultimate measuring stick — especially after the way last season ended with an AFC title game loss on his own turf. The other quarterback on the field that day, Tom Brady, shredded Kansas City’s defense and then went on to win a sixth Super Bowl ring.
Mahomes will be better this year, but whether that will be enough to win a crown remains to be seen.
Andy Reid knows. With last weekend’s victory, the Chiefs coach passed Chuck Noll for sixth place on the NFL’s list of the all-time winningest coaches. Including the postseason, Reid has won 210 games.
One game he hasn’t won: The Super Bowl.
Reid has always struck me as a man with keen real-world perspective, displaying a firm handle on what’s most important in life and how sports squares with it. That’s one reason his players typically respect him to the hilt, as LeSean McCoy, reunited with Reid, reminded me while chatting at his locker on Sunday.
But Reid is still a competitive coach and in this business to win the biggest prize. No matter whether he admits it or not, it has to bug him to some degree to have come so close – including five NFC title game appearances and a Super Bowl loss with the Eagles – only to fall short.
He also has the most wins of any coach who has won an NFL title.
Maybe his time is near. The Chiefs (3-0) brought in two major additions to bolster the defense in defensive end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
In holding off the Ravens for a 33-28 win, it was significant that Clark’s first sack as a Chief came on third down to push Baltimore to settle for a field goal as it mounted a furious rally. And with Mathieu on patrol, the secondary is noticeably better.
Still, that revamped defense allowed the Ravens to come back from a 23-6 deficit and gave up a whopping 203 rushing yards – not exactly championship indicators.
“The rushing yards tripled after halftime,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “As a defense, you don’t like that. You kind of have to be consistent with it.”
A couple lockers over, Clark all but promised the unit will jell into a great one. We’ll see in January, when Brady is sure to on the hunt again.
In the grand scheme, as great as Mahomes is, balance is the ticket for the Chiefs. Better defense takes pressure off him. And Mahomes can trigger an offense that can strike in many forms, as it has shown since star receiver Tyreek Hill suffered a shoulder injury in Week 1. McCoy, for instance, just added another backfield dimension – as both a runner and receiver – in reuniting with his former Eagles coach after being released by the Bills.
“And I’m not even 100 percent,” McCoy said. “It’s going to be money. We throw the ball well. We run the ball when we need to. It keeps defenses off balance. Man, I am so happy to be here. I’m going to love it here.”
Mahomes might indeed be on the verge of a historic years in this NFL’s 100th season. But the big-picture challenge is for the Chiefs not to waste what this next-gen quarterback brings to the occasion.
Just ask Aikman, who won three Super Bowls on teams that rolled with balance.
“This year, the Chiefs know they have a quarterback that can lead them to a title,” Aikman said in a text. “They knew that by last season’s end, too, but this year they start the season knowing they’re a great team and what they’re capable of accomplishing. I’d have to believe they’re a more confident team entering 2019 than they were going into last season.”
And they have to know that the figures that matter most come in Roman numerals.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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