Vahe Gregorian

The Mahomes Factor: Quarterback is tide that lifts Chiefs and crushes opponents’ souls

From Patrick Mahomes’ balky left ankle to playing without game-changing flash Tyreek Hill to losing left tackle Eric Fisher to a groin injury during the first series of the game, this fleetingly looked like that seemingly inevitable day.

You know, the one when Mahomes might at last be exposed as an actual mortal instead of a virtual colossus bestriding the game of football itself.

For the entire head-tilting first quarter on Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense were garbled and sputtering and lagging behind 10-0. Mahomes finished the quarter with 35 passing yards, and the Chiefs’ longest gain from scrimmage in the first 15 minutes was a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Oakland.

The glimpse at futility perhaps was best encapsulated in a disconnection between Mahomes and receiver Mecole Hardman as the rookie oversold a move that made him late to the spot Mahomes anticipated and threw to.

It was easy to figure Mahomes just wasn’t quite right and that his supporting cast was diminished enough to make that matter.

Instead, the full Mahomes Effect was promptly unleashed — a 1-2 combination of uplifting a team that already believes anything is possible through him and absolutely crushing the souls of opponents who might fool themselves into thinking they have him tamed.

By the time the second quarter was over, Mahomes had thrown for 278 yards (the second-most in that quarter in NFL history) and four touchdowns that proved to be the final margin in a 28-10 victory.

By the end of the day, he had thrown for 443 yards, leaving him the first player in league history to have thrown for more than 800 yards in his first two games without any interceptions.

“He’s arguably the No. 1 quarterback in the league,” said Oakland cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, whose argument included comparing him to aspects of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.

But he’s a one-and-only for whom we’re already running out of superlatives.

Patrick had “a nice game,” coach Andy Reid deadpanned.

But at least Reid cracked a little when asked if he’d seen anything new out of Mahomes or if this was, well, just the same ol’, same ol’ when it comes to a player who is altering the boundaries of the game … and for this franchise.

“Listen, I never take it for granted. Some of those throws he makes, you go, alright,” Reid said, scrunching up his face as if in disbelief, “and (then) we just buzz right through them. Like it happens every day.”

Thing is …

“Well, it kind of does,” Reid added.

On Sunday, from various angles and Houdiniesque escapes, Mahomes mulched the Raiders through the stages of loss that began with some sense of denial through the first quarter.

Seconds into the second quarter, though, you kind of knew all that was an optical illusion when Mahomes hit Demarcus Robinson for a 44-yard touchdown pass.

Then the Raiders had to be questioning themselves from a subsequent 14-play, 95-yard drive capped by a 42-yard pass to Hardman, who evidently paid heed when Mahomes told him he had to be faster with his cuts.

Moments later, the Raiders were left sagging by a 94-yard touchdown drive, making for back-to-back TD drive distances that surely is a rarity if not possibly unprecedented.

And they were pretty well reeling when Mahomes hit Robinson for a 39-yard TD with 40 seconds left in the quarter, the third touchdown pass in a 5 minute 11-second spree.

Part of the magic of Mahomes is how he himself is the rising tide that lifts all, something that could be found in the stat line on Sunday.

While star tight end Travis Kelce led the Chiefs with seven receptions for 107 yards (and had a 27-yard touchdown reception), the fact that Robinson had career highs in receptions (six), yards (172) and touchdowns (two) and Hardman had four catches for 61 yards was fresh testimony to how Mahomes is the dynamic constant in the formula.

“Patrick trusted (Hardman),” said Reid, calling that big in itself.

All this in a game in which Mahomes might have appeared vulnerable.

Maybe he even was on a day he scrambled less than normal and consciously refrained from making a block he might otherwise have tried.

Even as Reid said he had made no game-plan concessions to the left ankle injury Mahomes suffered last week at Jacksonville, he added with admiration that Mahomes was able to “push through it like he did.”

“There were times where I felt it a little bit,” acknowledged Mahomes, who complimented the Chiefs medical and athletic training staff for treatment during the week and added, “It held up well during the game, and we made some big plays.”

Could have been better, of course.

“Too much sloppiness, I guess you would say,” Mahomes said.

But it was really too much Mahomes, the Raiders and about anyone else might say.

And that, more than showing any mortality on the field, is still the only thing that seems inevitable when it comes to him.

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