DENVER — As soon as word spread that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was battling an illness, the comparisons to Michael Jordan were instant.
Jordan’s “flu game” (or stomach poisoning game or hangover game according to rumors over the years) resulted in him leading the Chicago Bulls to a 90-88 win over the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals en route to his fifth NBA title.
His 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block were made to be written into sports lore forever regardless of what illness he was battling.
For Mahomes, the biggest thing on the line was the Chiefs’ 16-game win streak over the Denver Broncos in this Week 8 matchup.
“I just started feeling [Saturday night], but I bounced back pretty well in the morning,” Mahomes said on Sunday. “Just trying to do whatever I can to go out there and play my best football.”
The 28-year-old superstar did not play his best football against the Broncos, and neither did the Chiefs.
Two interceptions and a fumble from Mahomes topped off the team’s five turnovers in the 24-9 loss to the Broncos.
The offense was stymied with 275 yards and no touchdowns despite Mahomes’ 241 yards through the air and a 63% completion percentage. He was also sacked three times along with being hit 11 times, and was uncomfortable in the pocket throughout the game.
“Just trying to make something happen,” Mahomes recounted.
“Obviously we weren’t in the right situation as far as the score and then the down and distance. Just trying to make something happen back there.
“Obviously got caught turning [around in the pocket] too many times. Our offensive line is trying to do whatever they can to give me time, and so just obviously you just got to try to find a way to maneuver myself out of the pocket to get a throw downfield.”
He insisted his illness had nothing to do with his performance.
“Just stomach stuff, you know. It is what it is.”
This is the first time the Chiefs have lost with Mahomes as QB1 in these three circumstances:
- against the Broncos
- against an AFC West opponent on the road
- against teams that are multiple games under .500
“We didn’t execute the way we need to. I gotta go back and look at the things that I called. Not very good,” head coach Andy Reid said.
While the overall mood is doom and gloom after a loss, Reid praised Mahomes for doing some good things.
The Chiefs had moments where they moved the ball downfield well, and Mahomes made some things happen in some tight pockets and tough situations.
A few critical miscues happened in the second half that could’ve helped Kansas City claw their way back into the game.
On their only third-quarter drive, rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice dropped a wide-open pass. While Mahomes and receiver Justin Watson gained a first down with their connection, Mahomes overthrew a wide-open Watson on third down to end the drive.
On 4th and 2 on Denver’s 27-yard line with 7:40 down by 12, Mahomes threw a deep shot to Skyy Moore, who was open in the end zone, and the pass went through his hands.
Three crucial plays in a second half where the Chiefs didn’t even get 10 minutes of possession proved to be detrimental.
“Things happen,” Reid said. “You got to work it out, take it to heart, learn from it and move on.”
If amidst the visible frustration from the team, Mahomes was adamant about continuing to put his trust in Rice and Moore.
“They’re gonna know that I’m gonna keep firing it to them,” he said. “It’s just who I am. I’m gonna keep firing it to the open guy and letting them make plays. And I trust those guys. It’s just we got to continue to get better and better because as the season goes on, we continue to play good teams, even better teams probably.
“We got to be better because those little things, not just drops, but just little things add up. And the Broncos did a great job of making us be patient. And like I said, they had a great game plan and executed it and we didn’t execute in scoring points.”
With the two blueprints out to stop the Chiefs on offense with their second loss, the offense that has struggled to gain consistent chemistry will have a tall task to be able to keep up with the AFC East-leading Miami Dolphins on Sunday and a man who is wrecking defenses that used to wear their colors, receiver Tyreek Hill.
“We try to do whatever we can to bounce back. That’s all you can do. You got to learn from the mistakes that you made this game. Try to be better going into Germany this next week and kind of get the momentum back in our favor,” Mahomes said.
The half-a-billion-dollar man had three words when asked if this loss could result in a domino effect for the team.
“It won’t be.”