Kansas City Chiefs fans collectively gasped during Saturday's divisional playoff game when their franchise quarterback went down and found himself sandwiched, his ankle awkwardly crushed under a Jaguars defender. The slow-mo replay was too much to watch on repeat; and while the young star repeatedly protested, "No! No! No!" at coach Andy Reid, Chiefs fans knew that Patrick Mahomes would do whatever it took to get back on the field. From the very moment Mahomes' leg buckled under Jacksonville's Arden Key, to the final fireworks illuminating Arrowhead in celebration, the Chiefs reminded NFL fans that during the playoffs, Hennething can happen.
Henne Given Saturday
Thankfully, despite Mahomes' irritation and pushback, Reid and the Chiefs' athletic training team won the fight, and Mahomes left a rumbling Arrowhead to be evaluated. Reid, Brett Veach, Clark Hunt and the entire Chiefs organization have earned the faith of their fandom. While many other fans may have anxiety about their organization's reliability in regard to putting the health of their players at the forefront, Kansas City has bolstered its fans' faith. This could be part of the reason why Chiefs fans weren't in full spiral mode. If Mahomes' X-ray showed anything suspicious, they'd never risk putting him back in. Plus, when you have a veteran backup like Chad Henne filling Mahomes' cleats, you know you're in good hands.
What's better than one tough QB?
TWO OF 'EM ?? pic.twitter.com/oNHzMIc4Zk
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 22, 2023
Henne has a history of stepping in and delivering for the Kingdom. In fact, the last time Henne marched onto the field to replace Mahomes at the helm during a playoff game, the Chiefs went on to not only win the game but also advance to win the Super Bowl. Hennething is possible when your backup quarterback has ice in his veins. The former Jaguars quarterback has built a beautiful camaraderie with his teammates in Kansas City; and after Saturday's performance, you can see why Mahomes has nothing but glowing things to say about Henne.
Kansas City's backup was showered with compliments after his inspired 98-yard drive culminated with a Travis Kelce touchdown. Postgame, Mahomes had this to say about his friend and teammate: "Chad Henne, man, he's been in the building every single day. He's made me such a better quarterback in the way he teaches me. And he's just the most ready-to-go quarterback man. He's a special type of guy and he stepped up and drove 98 yards, touchdown, which ended up being a difference in the game."
Mahomes Goes Full Warrior Mode
Mahomes made it clear during Saturday's playoff battle that he was not happily or willingly leaving the field. He wanted to fight for a win with his teammates, as any fearless leader does. However, once he left the field and Henne reminded the NFL of his clutch-caliber cannon, it felt like there was no need to risk Mahomes coming back in. Chiefs fans began to think that Kansas City was up and the defense was doing its job, so maybe Mahomes not returning after the half wasn't the worst thing that could happen. The problem with that logic is MVP-caliber quarterbacks don't want to abandon their team, even if they're limping and in visible agony.
Halftime wrapped, the third quarter began, and Mahomes was on the field — grimacing, sure, but reminding the haters what all the fuss is about. It looked as if Kansas City would rely on its run game given No. 15's wrapped ankle. And thanks to the offensive line's protection and an explosive run game led by rookie Isiah Pacheco, the Chiefs were able to gift some relief to their injured quarterback. Then Mahomes went full warrior mode — and despite his sudden limited mobility, he put his body on the line with a jump pass. The sheer willpower of Kansas City's beloved leader resulted in another touchdown and sent Arrowhead into a decibel-soaring celebration.
Mahomes' ankle may be up for discussion. After all, Kansas City will host the Cincinnati Bengals — a team that's beaten the Chiefs in all three of their last meetings. A fully healthy Mahomes would be ideal heading into Sunday's battle. After the win, the Kansas City grim reaper reiterated to the press, "I'll hop right into treatment tonight and try to do whatever I can to be as close to 100% by next week, but lucky for us we played the early game on Saturday, so we get an extra almost half a day that I can let that ankle rest." Mahomes' magic and unparalleled grit propelled the Chiefs towards their fifth consecutive divisional playoff win and into the AFC Championship game.
Arrowhead is the AFC Championship Hostest With The Mostest
Yes, Henne stepped up and excelled, and Mahomes unwaveringly Mahomes'd. But Kansas City delivered a textbook all-around team win, excelling at all three sides of the game and relying on record-making playmakers on every play. It's that kind of clubhouse mentality that has given Kansas City an edge this season and put it in the historic position of running the road to the Super Bowl once again through Arrowhead.
Thanks to Joe Burrow's swag leading the Bengals to a win against Buffalo, the AFC Championship game no longer required neutral ground. Chiefs Kingdom erupted in excitement over the NFL's historic achievement. The Kansas City Chiefs are now the first team in NFL history to host five consecutive AFC Championships. Arrowhead may be the most hostile environment in the league, but to Chiefs Kingdom there's no place like home.
It's wild for lifelong Chiefs fans to see their beloved team breaking records and making history at every turn. It's not a feeling Kansas City is accustomed to, and local sports anchor Jared Koller reported it best: "After going 22 years without a playoff win and a 45 year span with only 3 playoff wins, Kansas City has won 9 playoff games over the last 4 years. 5 straight AFC Title Games. Patrick Mahomes has more playoff wins than every other past Chiefs QB combined."
Since calling the BBQ capital of America home, Mahomes has invigorated Chiefs Kingdom with inspired football, record-breaking seasons and playoff expectations. He's brought unrivaled joy to a fanbase riddled with decades of crushing disappointment. He's helped draw sensational playmakers to Kansas City, and he's given fans a new sense of hope. So whether or not the Chiefs' starting quarterback has a fully healed ankle for Sunday's AFC Championship game, Chiefs Kingdom believes.
NFL fans know he'll lay it all on the field, he'll lead his teammates, and he'll never quit. Arrowhead has grown accustomed to her role as the AFC Championship hostest with the mostest and, sure, she isn't the most welcoming host. But she'll be roaring on Sunday — and the Kansas City Chiefs will be ready to face the final team standing between them and their third Super Bowl appearance in four years.
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