Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on going to Oakland to take on the Raiders, and an update on his sprained ankle
Receiver Albert Wilson had a career game on a 2017 New Year’s Eve afternoon in Denver. Demarcus Robinson, Demetrius Harris and Jehu Chesson factored heavily into that day’s blueprint.
Together, they represented Patrick Mahomes’ top weapons in his first game as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback. The other options stood on the sideline, Kansas City’s playoff fate already sealed.
Nearly two years later, that game remains the last time the Chiefs played a full game without Tyreek Hill.
And it’s the only time Mahomes has.
That all changes Sunday.
While Mahomes’ recovery from an ankle injury will allow him to play in Oakland, Hill will sit. Hill suffered a sternoclavicular joint injury in the first half Sunday, a spot where the clavicle bone meets the sternum, team trainer Rick Burkholder said. Hill stayed overnight in Jacksonville on Sunday but flew home Monday and began his rehab process.
“I know there’s speculation out there about how long he’s out, but it’s truly a week-to-week injury,” Burkholder said.
Mahomes practiced Wednesday with tape on his ankle. He said the ankle felt sore Monday but is “feeling better every single day,” after it prompted Mahomes to make a trip to the medical tent during Sunday’s win in Jacksonville.
Mahomes will play Sunday during the Chiefs’ final trip to Oakland. But he’ll do so without his fastest weapon for the first time since assuming the starting role.
That leaves a combination of Robinson, rookie Mecole Hardman and De’Anthony Thomas to play alongside starter Sammy Watkins.
“(Thomas) has done it before. Mecole’s been in that position,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We feel good working both of them. They’ll all play.
“And (Robinson) knows everything. He’s got the whole thing down, too. We’re not tied to one thing or one person.”
The plan might be nearly identical to that day in 2017. The players are not.
Hill is widely regarded as the fastest man in football. He totaled 1,479 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
That speed isn’t replaceable. Hardman acknowledged as much during preseason training camp. Though close, he’s not quite there.
But the Raiders’ secondary is facing its own injury concerns. Rookie safety Johnathan Abram is being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury suffered in the Raiders’ win in Denver, an NFL debut in which he was impressive. And cornerback Gareon Conley was carted off Monday with a neck injury, though he’s already returned to practice and said he’s “good to go.”
“(Hardman) is gonna be fast and dynamic. Sammy Watkins is healthy. ... Kelce is still Kelce. They’ve added Shady McCoy. They’re a problem,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said in a teleconference Wednesday. “I’m getting a headache talking about it.”
A week ago, even with Hill absent for the final three quarters, the Chiefs had no problem moving the football. Watkins set career-highs in touchdowns (three) and yards (198).
A bright spot.
The flip side: Hardman did not catch a pass, despite playing 53 snaps. His speed would be a welcome entity with Hill injured, though Thomas has significantly more experience playing in Reid’s offense.
“We could still utilize the game plan,” Mahomes said. “We didn’t have to worry about what we could and couldn’t use.”