Chiefs remain Super Bowl contenders after Patrick Mahomes’ injury

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl ambitions are still very much alive despite Patrick Mahomes’ injury on Thursday Night, and that’s not just because he’ll reportedly be ready to return later this year.

Patrick Mahomes won the NFL MVP award, produced video-game numbers, redefined the quarterback position, and led the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game in his first season as a starter.

There’s no doubt that all of those accomplishments are impressive, but Mahomes’ ability to immediately lead the franchise within one play (or coin toss) of the Super Bowl stands above everything else. Mahomes is wise beyond his years and has become a respected leader on and off the field for a Chiefs team that has long needed someone like him at quarterback.

It was devastating to see him head off the field on Thursday night with a potentially serious knee injury. That moment could have spelled the end of the Chiefs season, but even in the immediate aftermath of an injury to the face of the franchise, Kansas City didn’t wilt. They stood tall, completing a 30-6 blowout victory over the rivals to get back on track from back-to-back losses against AFC contenders in the Colts and Texans.

The Chiefs performance on Thursday night alone showed that they’d still have plenty of fight left in them, but Mahomes will also reportedly return later in the season after an MRI showed no “significant additional damage”, per the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

That means if Moore can do enough to lead the offense, the Chiefs can get a boost from Mahomes later in the year and still make it to the postseason. If skill position players, specifically young receivers like speedy rookie Mecole Hardman, and the defense can find another level, imagine how much stronger the Chiefs will be whenever Mahomes is ready to return.

Quietly, the Chiefs defense has been 12th in the league in points allowed and among the top 10 in yards per attempt allowed. They have made serious improvements against the pass, showing that their offseason gameplan to improve the pass defense has paid off.

Moore has his limitations as a game manager, but the Chiefs can transition to a gameplan based on running the football, defense, and ball control. But it won’t be a one-dimensional, run-first offense with so many versatile pass-catching playmakers. The Chiefs can continue to stretch the field horizontally, getting their playmakers in space so that they can do more of the leg-work for Moore, who won’t be as exposed in that role. While Moore will have to make tough throws when needed, he’s shown in his career that he can make things happen when he has the “hot hand”.

The focus on the running game and defense will demand more out of younger players, such as Juan Thornhill at safety and Darwin Thompson at running back. LeSean McCoy is leading the way with 5.4 yards per carry and is the team’s only player with 100 rushing yards, but Thompson and others deeper on the depth chart have shown serious talent. Now, they could get a chance to emerge behind McCoy.

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Mahomes could return to a much stronger, more resilient Chiefs team that isn’t as likely to crumble under the weight of pressure against seasoned teams like the New England Patriots in playoff games. As far as Mahomes can take the Chiefs on his own, this injury is a chance for the rest of the team to step up to the plate so that when the star quarterback returns, they can fulfill their Super Bowl destiny.

Based on the raw talent on both sides of the ball, the Chiefs have what it takes to win it all if Mahomes returns for the postseason. All they have to do is play well enough to still be in playoff contention once Mahomes returns. If they can play at a playoff-caliber level without him, then that means young guys like Hardman showed improvement and key positions like cornerback are no longer questions. And thus, the Chiefs would have what it takes to finally unseat the Patriots in the AFC.

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