NASHVILLE — The knee to the face that knocked Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of Sunday’s Chiefs-Titans game was, of course, the most alarming moment of a bad day for the former league MVP. But the handful of plays that preceded the collision late in the Chiefs’ 27-3 shellacking were even more revealing.
Patrick Mahomes has worst game of career in Week 7 loss to Titans
Mahomes had statistically the least efficient game of his career Sunday, and in this case, the numbers didn’t lie. He was just off, and his uneven afternoon had some truly garish misses. He had Byron Pringle streaking for a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter, but his low, line-drive throw sailed past Pringle’s head by a good 5 yards. Then, he badly missed a simple checkdown to Travis Kelce, a throw that Mahomes can make in his sleep.
It was jarring to see a guy who at times seems to have superhuman talent look mortal. But at some point, the shock should wear off — because it’s happened a bunch this year. Certainly, Sunday was the low point of not just his season, but perhaps Mahomes’ career. But it’s a dynamic that’s been building for a month.
Mahomes turned the ball over 2 more times — giving him 11 giveaways in seven games — and completed just 57.1% of his passes with 5.9 yards per attempt for a career-low passer rating of 62.3. His QBR was 6.1. Not 61. Six-point-one.
Any team would be challenged to beat a team as good as the Titans with that kind of quarterback performance. For the Chiefs, who have one of the worst defenses not of this year but any year, it meant lights out Sunday.
Why is Mahomes pressing?
There’s reason to believe that one dynamic led to the other. Mahomes surely knows that the Chiefs have to light good teams up on offense to win. And it’s probably causing him to force some things he shouldn’t.
“Today, it was probably me pressing a little bit too early in the game and we kind of got down and we were in that kind of mode, no-huddle,” Mahomes said. “Which you don’t want to be in in the NFL. You can execute a little bit, but it’s hard to get sustained drives. I’ve got to be better early in the games so we don’t get behind like we did today.”
In the game’s first 14 minutes, 18 seconds, the Titans scored 14 points. The Chiefs had just seven snaps and two first downs. Once Tennessee seized control of the game, the mistakes really started ramping up.
Turnovers rear their ugly head again
Mahomes threw interception No. 9 Sunday on a play that he extended by rolling left and then forced a throw to Josh Gordon that ricocheted into the grasp of linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Then, late in the half, he was careless with the ball while scrambling and had it knocked loose by Kevin Byard for a lost fumble. Each time, Mahomes crossed the line between courageous and reckless.
“I don’t know what prompted it, if it was me just trying to make things happen,” Mahomes said. “In this league, you have to let things develop. You go through the process of making plays. It takes one play at a time. People are talking about, you can’t have a 14-point play. They scored early. I have to go through the process of just getting the ball down the field, not trying to do too much.
“If you look at before the end of the half, the scramble, just go down. Why did I even try to get that extra two yards? Just little things like that that add up and end up getting us beat pretty bad.”
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans are for real
This is the part of the column where we give the Titans their due. They brought pressure in a way they had not consistently up to this point of the year. They jumped to that big lead thanks in large part to an excellent game by Ryan Tannehill (21-of-27 for 270, 1 touchdown passing, and 1 TD on the ground).
Everyone expected the Titans to score on Kansas City’s dreadful defense. But everyone also expected Mahomes and the Chiefs to answer — particularly since Tennessee’s top two corners are on IR and would-be starter Chris Jackson was a surprise late scratch.
And yet, the Chiefs scored their fewest points since the 2012 season finale — the bookend to a 2-14 season.
The Chiefs will win at least three games this year. That much we know. But unless the defense miraculously turns it around or Mahomes can again be the best player on the planet, they might not win many more.
“Here we sit with an average record, and we’ve been up and down on both sides of the ball,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You try to go above and beyond what you’re doing. Sometimes it throws things out of whack.”