There’s been nothing that’s given anyone any reason to feel that Kansas City Chiefs’ second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes isn’t ready for this moment.
By all indications, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. He’s just doing what he’s always done.
And on Sunday afternoon a few hundred miles West of Arrowhead Stadium, Mahomes will lead the Chiefs on the field at the StubHub Center in Carson, California against a Los Angeles Chargers team that’s become the trendy pick for many NFL analysts to win the AFC West this year—a division that’s seen the Chiefs back-to-back division titles and 16 of their last 18 games, including eight-straight over the Chargers.
But for the Chiefs to win the division for a third-consecutive year—Mahomes will have to play to the capabilities that many close to him believe is not only possible but perhaps faster than some who don’t know him believe could happen.
“I haven’t seen any nerves,” Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid noted this week of his young quarterback. “I know he’s excited to play. He’s a pretty confident kid in his ability and I think he just wants to get going and play the game.”
Mahomes, who has consistently praised veteran Alex Smith for the way he taught him last year to prepare for Sunday’s, the nerves aren’t an issue because he’s been through the process—even if he knows the adrenaline may be at a different level.
“You have to build it up. You can’t peak too soon,” Mahomes said of his preparation leading up to Sunday. “You can’t watch a ton of film and you are just dead tired. You have to kind of build and have a certain plan on how you are going to watch the film.”
And when it comes to controlling his emotions on game day, Mahomes said the experience he already has, even if it’s limited, should help.
“Having the preseason games helped, and then having that Denver game last year (in Week 17) and seeing where I needed to be at with my emotions, and at the same time playing with a lot of passion is something that will help me going into this one,” he noted.
Mahomes understands the challenge the Chargers’ defense brings—from their standout pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram—to one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Casey Hayward.
“They have a ton of talent everywhere,” Mahomes said. “They have had it for the last couple years and they seem like they just keep adding plugged-in players. For us, we are going to try to attack and use our strengths and our weapons that we have. Hopefully, we can put up some points and get a win.”
The Chargers were one of only two teams in the NFL last year to have multiple edge rushers garner at least 29 quarterback hurries during the season. The Philadelphia Eagles were the other.
The fact that the Chargers pose one of the toughest challenges—at least on paper this early in the season—that the Chiefs could face this season in Week 1 on the road in a key divisional game is something that Mahomes embraces.
“You want to play the best,” Mahomes added. “You want to play the teams that have a lot of talent and that have chances to make the playoffs just like you do. For me, to play a division opponent, you have to beat these guys in order to get to the playoffs. For us, we are going to go out there and compete.”
For an offense that admittedly showed only a couple of installs during the preseason, when they weren’t game-planning at all, there’s a certain level of excitement about a Week 1 game in which they’re facing a defense that doesn’t really know what you’ve got up your sleeve.
“You’re really excited whenever you go into a game and you think you have a play that will score a touchdown, which I feel like we have a ton of them,” Mahomes said. “Even if it is short or long, I feel like we have the guys that can score on every single play.”
But in fairness, the Chiefs also won’t know what the Chargers have up their sleeve either, and when you lose eight-straight games to an opponent like they have to the Chiefs, there’s nothing you’d like more than to get over the hump against a division rival to start off the 2018 season.
“We want to attack every aspect of the field,” Mahomes added. “I feel like we have the weapons that we can attack short, run the ball, stretch the defense deep, and we can attack the middle with the guys that we have. We just have to make sure we keep the defense honest on every single play. They can’t send everybody back and then try to cover the deep ball, we will run the ball on them. If they want to bring everybody in the box, we want to be able to attack them deep.”
For his first start as the True QB1 for the Chiefs on Sunday, Mahomes was asked Wednesday afternoon what moment he is looking forward to the most, and his answer was that of a guy who’s already won some games in the league.
“Walking off the field with a win would be the best moment I’m looking forward to,” Mahomes stated. “Hopefully we can go out there and compete on every aspect, every side of the ball—offense, defense, special teams, and come out with the win.”
That sounds like a guy who’s ready for the moment.