Anticlimactic as it might seem, his exhilarating Thursday night performance against Tennessee will about do it for The Patrick Mahomes Experience this season.
At least if everything goes the way the Chiefs want it to, the much-heralded inevitable successor to quarterback Alex Smith now might as well be put in suspended animation protected by bubble wrap and surrounded in mothballs as his due date awaits.
Actually, a big part of his next tier of development lies just ahead in the routine of the No. 2 quarterback, preparing as if he’s going to start and always knowing he’s a play away from being in.
But the master plan calls for him to stay away from the fray for the foreseeable future.
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At least his time in the relative limelight got his feet wet and whetted the appetite of Chiefs fans, a highlight among the preseason doldrums, really.
And never more so than it was at Arrowhead Stadium in a 30-6 win over the Titans in the finale before games start counting next Thursday at New England.
Mahomes threw for 183 yards and a touchdown in the half he played, a performance that will be remembered for three connections with Demarcus Robinson that each had their own special imprint.
That was particularly true on a 46-yarder made possible by a patented Mahomes ad-lib and running fling that few mortals could muster.
“Quite a play,” coach Andy Reid said with a nod to Robinson, too.
It’s simultaneously an oddity and an ideal of the situation that Mahomes, for whom the Chiefs traded up to draft No. 10 overall out of Texas Tech, won’t see meaningful playing time in the months to come unless something goes hideously wrong: Smith gets hurt or somehow performs so poorly that the future morphs into the present.
So this passing of the torch by design will play out more like a torch relay, one step to another to another, after Mahomes made the most of the final stage of his preseason experience by starting as Smith and all the other regulars sat.
Even if it feels a little bit like being made to wait an extra day to unwrap Christmas presents, even if it seems like keeping the Porsche in the garage, there is plenty of justification for the measured process with a young man who won’t turn 22 until Sept. 17.
For starters, Smith is a better quarterback than many give him credit for, a class act who has the respect of his teammates, a 43-21 record as the Chiefs starter and arguably has been sharpened by the arrival of the vastly talented Mahomes.
It’s also clear that Mahomes sees himself as the apprentice.
“I think Alex is the perfect person for me to learn from, because when he came into the league he had to play really (soon),” Mahomes said, noting Smith has worked with him on everything from his stance to coverages. “It is just stuff he learned throughout his process that he is helping me (to) cut out the mistakes of mine.”
Then there’s the work-in-progress that Mahomes actually still remains, captured perfectly in a second-quarter sequence.
It started with the 46-yard pass to Robinson, who earlier had caught a 53-yard pass from Mahomes and later would catch a beautifully feathered 27-yard touchdown pass that was all the more impressive because it came on a difficult-to-time double move by Robinson.
On the 46-yarder, Mahomes ran out of the pocket to his right anticipating the pocket breaking down a tick before it did.
On the move, defying gravity in the very way that made him an enticing pick, he simply flicked the ball sidearm 50-plus yards as Robinson extended himself for a terrific catch.
While people still were shaking their heads in amazement at that one, though, they were shaking their heads with skepticism a play later when under a rush he forced a pass over the middle to Ross Travis … despite a defender immediately in front of and behind Travis.
The pass appeared to be intercepted by Jayon Brown — one of two near-interceptions of Mahomes (including on a deflection) on a night he also had several passes dropped — but was reversed by replay officials.
“You can’t do that, especially after a big play,” Mahomes said. “You have to sometimes take that possession, though, and not try to add on.”
Given a reprieve, a play later a chastened Mahomes threw the ball away on the sideline.
Two plays later, facing third and 18, Mahomes lasered a pass toward the left sideline that was both nearly a spectacular completion to Seantavius Jones and perhaps a step from being a pick-six for defensive back Kalan Reed.
His view of the play spoke volumes about his mind-set as he learns to be an NFL quarterback.
“You don’t want to really throw to the sideline late,” he said.
Just the same …
“But if I would have thrown a little harder,” he added, “it would have been a completion.”
That was an eye-of-the-beholder sort of play on a night Mahomes showed again why the excitement and anticipation is justified and why he can prosper by time and experience behind Smith.
So now he’ll go back to preparing every week like he’s going to be the starter but knowing that won’t be the case unless something goes amiss.
It’s a curious dynamic in some ways — but exactly as it should be, too.