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NFL

Praising Patrick Mahomes Doesn’t Get Old

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 reacts after a game winning touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of an NFL game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders were no slouches; going into Sunday night’s game they were the only team to beat the Chiefs this season. Technically, they still are—just not twice.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders put together a 75-yard drive, aided by a few penalties, culminating in a Jason Witten touchdown catch to take the lead, 31-28. It was a little moment of redemption for the ancient tight end, as his false start penalty took his team off the Chiefs’ one-yard line. With the TD, the Raiders looked like they might pull off a season sweep against their divisional rivals and Super Bowl favorites.

To travel those 75 yards, Las Vegas used up four minutes and 11 seconds of game time. Then Patrick Mahomes got on the field and covered the same distance in a minute and 15. He had only one incompletion on the game-winning drive, which ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to a hilariously open Travis Kelce.

Just like that, the Raiders’ dreams of twice punking the defending champs vanished. Derek Carr tried to answer back and threw a pick on the first play. He had a good night, too: 275 passing yards and three touchdowns, excluding that interception thrown out of desperation. Carr actually finished the game with a better rating than his counterpart. He’s still not Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes has been so good, for long enough, that he has reached something of a saturation point. The bountiful and deserved praise of him starts to be disingenuously interpreted by fans who are just looking for a new toy every season. But how many starting NFL quarterbacks could have successfully accomplished that play?

Kelce was so open on the game-winning TD that even, say, Mitch Trubisky could’ve completed the pass. Then again, that Trubisky might not have had the presence of mind to abandon the pocket, or to look and move right to draw safety Johnathan Abram out of his zone and away from Kelce. Trubisky might not have thought or thrown fast enough to fire a laser to Kelce before any Raiders defender could get close. Let’s abandon the low-hanging fruit and go for a braver comparison than Trubisky. Would Josh Allen have done that? Would Tom Brady? How long is the list of humans who could’ve done what Mahomes did there?

The growing complaint—from idiots, to be clear—is that ESPN and other sports media outlets are paying too much attention to the guy who has won an NFL MVP award and Super Bowl in the past two seasons, because he hasn’t put together an extensive enough body of work. He’s only been a starting QB since 2018, so he’s not yet deserving of all this praise until he performs at the same level for longer, or something. The basis for this complaint is that sometimes Mahomes throws less-than-remarkable passes that still manage to leave Cris Collinsworth with a flushed face and curled toes. The job of a broadcast booth is to sell the viewer on the game, and, yes, sometimes they’re too committed to that sell, but at least what’s being sold here is far more worthwhile than Tyler Palko.

Mahomes will be good until he is one day bad, and whenever that day comes, he will no longer dominate the conversation. (There’s a reason everyone still talks about Brady, even if you’re sick of it after two decades.) A quarterback who can extend plays, and is talented enough to compensate for throwing off his back foot, is extremely cool. Here’s a less consequential play from the same game, featuring the same Mahomes-to-Kelce connection:

If this is not what you want from a football game, then what exactly are you holding out for?