D’Angelo: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes knows what it takes to win at Hard Rock Stadium

Tom D'Angelo
Palm Beach Post
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws down the field against the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, December 13, 2020.

MIAMI GARDENS — Patrick Mahomes knows a little something about overcoming double-digit deficits in South Florida.

Ten months ago, the Chiefs Half-billion Dollar Man calmly rallied Kansas City from a 10-point deficit against the 49ers in the final 6½ minutes of the Super Bowl before being named the game’s MVP.

So on Sunday, after he equaled his interception total for the first 12 games (two) in one quarter, and Kansas City fell behind the Dolphins 10-0, Mahomes remained as cool as he is in that State Farm commercial. You know the one, when he starts tossing bags from all angles through that hole in the center of a Cornhole board.

That hole in the board, think of that as the Chiefs receivers.

That look on the face of Jake from State Farm, think of that as the Dolphins defense.

Mahomes rallied his team again in Hard Rock Stadium. But this time, he was a big reason for the slow start. Mahomes certainly has been better than he was in Kansas City's 33-27 victory over the Dolphins Sunday. A lot better. But, that’s why he’s the best quarterback in the NFL.

Just ask his all-world tight end Travis Kelce.

“When adversity hits, his level of play goes up,” Kelce said. “We rally, and we follow the leader in that regard. Pat does it better than anybody in the league.”

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Mahomes finished the day with three interceptions, something he had done just one other time in his NFL career, but was able to give Kansas City enough of a cushion to withstand Miami’s 17-point fourth quarter.

And while Mahomes’ coaches and teammates were attempting to share the blame for the rocky beginning, Mahomes was putting it on his shoulders.

“It’s 80-something degrees, and I’m putting the defense backs on the field over and over again and they’re finding ways to get stops and keeping us in that ballgame for the offense to get going,” he said. “You get angry. You don’t want to turn the ball over and put your defense in that situation.”

Mahomes regrouped and threw for 393 yards (his second-highest total of the season) and two TDs while completing 24-of-34 passes. The only other time he's thrown three picks in a game was in 2018, his first full season as a starter, against the Rams. He made up for it in that game by throwing six touchdown passes.

“I want him to keep firing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Just learn from it and let’s go.”

Mahomes started his postgame Zoom session wondering what it is about this venue.  

The last time he walked out of Hard Rock Stadium, the field was covered in confetti, and he was carrying the Super Bowl MVP trophy after rallying the Chiefs over the 49ers.

But he also threw two interceptions, his only two of the playoffs.

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Sunday, Mahomes and the Chiefs walked out of Hard Rock wearing a different hat signifying a significant achievement, though certainly not as grand as winning the Super Bowl. The victory over the Dolphins clinched the AFC West title for the 12-1 Chiefs.

That is why Mahomes calls his relationship with the stadium one of love/hate.

“The love part, we won the Super Bowl here, we just clinched the AFC West,” Mahomes said. “It seems like every time we leave the stadium, we have a hat for something we accomplished.”

“The hate part, I feel like I have half my interceptions in this stadium.”

Not quite. It’s worse. At least in this calendar year. Mahomes has thrown seven interceptions in 2020; five have been in the stadium that sits on 347 Don Shula Drive.

Mahomes’ interceptions Sunday came in all varieties. The first was tipped by Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel into the waiting hands of Byron Jones. The second was on a pass that was too tall for running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and caught by Eric Rowe. The third was a spectacular one-handed grab by Xavien Howard in the end zone.

Sprinkled between the first two was a 30-yard sack by Jerome Baker.

“Defense kept us in the game,” Mahomes said. “They kept getting stops. They were on the field almost that entire first quarter and then all of a sudden, we’re leading at halftime. I feel like this team plays better with our backs up against the wall.”

Tyreek Hill got the Chiefs on the board with a 32-yard jet sweep for a touchdown and Mahomes hit Kelce for a 6-yard score with 37 seconds remaining in the half to give KC its first lead, one it would not relinquish.

That lead went from 14-10 to 30-10 in about eight minutes at the start of the second half with help from a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by Mecole Hardman.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) calls out a signal against the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, December 13, 2020.

But then the Chiefs needed Mahomes to bail out a defense that gave Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins life. The biggest play of the fourth quarter was a fourth-and-1 with 2:25 to play. Mahomes tossed a short pass to Hill, who did the rest for a 22-yard gain, all but ending Miami’s hopes of a Chiefs-like comeback.

“It just comes with the experience of being in those situations before,” Mahomes said. “(Reid) knows I’ll make the right decision. If it’s there, I’ll take it. If not, I’m going to find a way to make it with my legs or give someone else a chance.”

Especially at Hard Rock Stadium.