Chiefs' Mahomes ready for AFC title game against Bengals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes finished a full week of practice on his ailing right ankle Friday, and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid pronounced his All-Pro quarterback ready to go for the AFC championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Mahomes sustained a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of last week's divisional-round win over Jacksonville, returning after halftime to polish off the victory. That sent the Chiefs to their fifth consecutive AFC championship game, where they will face the AFC North champions on Sunday night in a rematch of last year's overtime loss to the Bengals.
“He looks good,” Reid said. “I mean, he’s moving around good. He’s going to go out and play.”
Mahomes has had perhaps his best season, throwing for a career-high 5,250 yards with a league-leading 41 touchdown passes, and garnered 49 of 50 first-place votes in All-Pro voting. He is also among five finalists for league MVP.
“I feel like I can still do a lot of things,” he said this week. “We’ll see as we get closer and closer, and we’ll see during the game. You can’t fully do exactly what you’re going to be doing in those moments in the game (in practice), but all I can do is prepare myself the best way possible and then when we get in the game, you hope adrenaline kind of takes over.”
Mahomes vowed to play from the moment the Chiefs beat the Jaguars last Saturday night, striding to the podium just outside the Kansas City locker room and proclaiming his ankle felt better than expected. Mahomes began treatment that night, and a precautionary MRI exam taken the following day showed no structural damage.
His right ankle wasn't taped any more than the left when Mahomes headed onto the indoor practice field Wednesday and Thursday. He was bouncing around as if nothing was amiss Friday for a final outdoor workout.
“We're preparing for Patrick Mahomes like he's 100 percent,” Bengals pass rusher Sam Hubbard said, “because I'm sure he's going to be playing 100 percent. That's all you can do.”
The Chiefs have been coy about their game plan for Cincinnati, which has beaten them three times in the last 13 months, including that fateful AFC title game last January. But there's a good chance Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy tweaked it to protect Mahomes, who is uncanny when it comes to extending plays with his scrambling ability.
Mahomes has dealt with plenty of injuries in recent years, and this isn't the first to happen on the playoff stage.
Two years ago, Mahomes was placed in the concussion protocol during a divisional win over the Browns, though he came back the following week to lead Kansas City to an AFC title win over Buffalo. Mahomes also was dealing with turf toe, which he said this week was the most painful injury that he's played through during his time in the NFL.
Mahomes wound up having surgery for it after the Chiefs lost to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl.
I have a lot of good people around me everywhere," said Mahomes, who praised the Chiefs training staff along with his personal trainer, Bobby Stroupe. “We’ve done a lot of ankle and knee and foot stuff, especially after the last few injuries I’ve had. I think that’s prepared me to bounce back quickly here and be able to be in a good spot.”
Mahomes also has gotten support from players around the league, including Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
“I have a good relationship with him now and he gives me a lot of advice,” Mahomes said. "Why would you not want to learn from the GOAT? So anytime anybody like that wants to give me advice, I’ll take it in, and it’s cool to see the guys that you’ve watched growing up your whole life be able to talk to you in that type of platform.”
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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press