A game doesn’t pass these days without quarterback Patrick Mahomes breaking or approaching a team or NFL passing record.
One mark that could fall on Sunday, when the Chiefs play host to the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium, may resonate deeper than others.
The Chiefs’ record for touchdown passes in a season is 30, set by Len Dawson in 1964. Three scoring passes last week in the victory over Cleveland pushed Mahomes’ total to 29.
Barring some crazy occurrence, the record not only soon will belong to Mahomes, but he’ll add to it as the weeks unfold.
Dawson, unavailable to comment for this story, is expected to speak with Mahomes next week.
“Len has had a ton of success in the NFL and was kind of ahead of his time, throwing all those touchdowns” Mahomes said. “The record has stood for a very long time. It would be awesome to pass that, but hopefully we can just keep building and get more wins.”
Dawson, easily the most accomplished quarterback in Chiefs history, holds nearly every career record, and many single-season records.
But every week seems to turn into another chapter of Mahomes’ record quest. In the Chiefs’ second game, he tied Dawson’s team record by throwing six touchdown passes at Pittsburgh.
Mahomes takes a streak of eight games with 300 consecutive passing yards into Sunday’s game. The NFL record is nine.
The Chiefs have had good quarterbacks since Dawson, who by the time his Hall of Fame career ended in 1975 was well on his way to a decades-long broadcast career. But he’s the only quarterback in the team’s Ring of Honor.
From a production standpoint, Mahomes, who also leads the NFL with 2,901 passing yards, is headed where no Chiefs quarterback has been.
It’s also true that the football environments differed greatly for Dawson and Mahomes.
A quarterback who threw 30 touchdown passes in a season before the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 was likely a league leader. The fewest touchdown passes to lead the AFC or NFC in the past 10 years is 33, and Peyton Manning set the NFL record with 55 in 2013.
In leading the organization to its three league championships, Dawson, as Mahomes said, was ahead of his time. Dawson holds the NFL record for most seasons leading a league in completion percentage, with eight, and is among the record holders for years leading a league in touchdown passes. He did it four times.
Not in 1964. That year, Babe Parilli of the Boston Patriots threw for 31 to top the AFL.
Dawson had several of his best games that season, however. His six-touchdown game occurred in a 49-39 victory over Denver. He also threw for a career-best 435 yards in that game.
The next week, Dawson threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions against Oakland, and he had a similar performance against San Diego later in the season.
But the Chiefs finished 7-7 that season, the rare non-winning record for Dawson’s AFL teams. It was the eighth of his 19 NFL seasons, the second of his seven Pro Bowl years.
By then, Dawson was with his third team and second league. And he was well on his way to a spectacular career. No other quarterback in the organization’s history has won a league championship. Dawson’s third includes the Chiefs’ lone Super Bowl triumph.
By contrast, Mahomes stands at the beginning of his career. Sunday will mark his 10th game as a starter. Maintaining the best record in the AFC with a victory — not chasing personal records — is foremost on his mind.
“I don’t think there’s any time for that,” Mahomes said. “For me, it’s about the wins. That’s all I want to do.”