The Kansas City Chiefs just saved their 2021 season in 20 minutes of play.
Already in an important first hole at 2-3, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs followed a defensively stacked Washington football team 13-10 midway through the third quarter on the road. The offense was once again not sharp enough to offset a defense that gave up 32.6 points per game, the worst in the NFL in the first five weeks of the 2021 campaign.
When Mahomes made a horrible decision on his second interception of the game, you get a feeling that the wheels might come loose against an imperfect but desperate and talented opponent. And a punt on their first offensive streak of the second half didn’t inspire much confidence that halftime adjustments would turn the ship around.
But then something finally clicked for the defending AFC champions and their superstar quarterback.
Alex Brandon / Associated press
After the WFT missed a 42-yard field goal that would have given them a 16-10 lead, we saw:
1. Landing of the leaders
2. Washington’s punt
3. Landing of the heads
4. Washington’s punt
5. Landing of the leaders
6. Interception de Washington
Game over. Chiefs 31, Washington 13 thanks to a 21-0 run in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
During that streak, Mahomes completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards, two scores and a 129.4 passer rating as the Chiefs outscored Washington 209-39.
And that didn’t even matter!
The kingdom @MahomeSHN
Patrick Mahomes is good https://t.co/MjcEawPSm1
It’s almost like Mahomes was scrolling Twitter when Spotrac made a not-so-subtle statement about his struggles by tweeting the details of his contract during the third trimester. On social media, many people asked if the league finally got it.
I do not think so.
Combined with a loss for the Los Angeles Chargers to the Baltimore Ravens, the recovery victory moves the Chiefs to a first-place AFC West game. You couldn’t be faulted for deciding over the past few weeks that someone other than the Chiefs deserved to be the AFC’s Super Bowl favorite, but this performance seemed like a turning point for the Andy Reid’s team on both sides of the ball because everything finally clicked in the second half.
Matt Verderame @MattVerderame
Two things are true: – Mahomes threw the worst INT of his life – Mahomes was otherwise insane and if the Chiefs’ defense got a few things, that’s huge.
The defense had handed over a disgusting 7.1 yards per play for five weeks, but this unit shut out Washington in the second half. Without leading passer Chris Jones and cornerback Charvarius Ward, and after being forced to bench Daniel Sorensen for Juan Thornhill in the secondary, the Chiefs allowed just 15 first downs and 276 yards (4.8 per Game). Washington handed the ball to KC twice, and he hasn’t hit the red zone once all day.
This change in the secondary seemed to help, rookie linebacker Nick Bolton also had his best game yet in the middle, and the key was that they avoided splash games. A 39-yard touchdown by Ricky Seals-Jones was the only Washington game to gain more than 16 yards.
Their D might not show such performances every week, but it represents hugely promising progress for a defense that doesn’t often need to be great because the Chiefs are scoring so many points.
Jones will be back, Tyrann Mathieu remains a high school superstar, and they have enough talent elsewhere to sort of settle into a groove.
But more importantly, Mahomes – who wasn’t exactly a mess as he led the league in touchdown passes and was second in the QBR at the start of Week 6 – appears to have recovered from what by his standards , was a miniature slump. He was the Mahomes we all knew and loved from previous seasons, with an uncanny ability to make near-impossible plays out of the structure.
Now, expect the chiefs to build on that. A bigger test will take place next week against the Tennessee Titans, and you get the feeling Mahomes and Co. can’t wait to build on Sunday’s momentum in this potential statement game.
Prior to this recent cold streak, the Chiefs were 21-1 in their last 22 games with Mahomes as a starter. Don’t be surprised at all if Sunday in Washington marked the start of another race like this.
Brad Gagnon covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.