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Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes Hitting the Road for First Time in the Playoffs to Play Buffalo

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By Dave Skretta

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes has done just about everything in his NFL career, particularly when it comes to the postseason.

Five straight AFC title games. Three conference championships. Two Super Bowl titles. One shattered helmet.

Mahomes will try something entirely new Sunday night, though, when he leads the Kansas City Chiefs into Buffalo for the divisional round of the playoffs. His previous 15 postseason games have been played in the friendly environment of Arrowhead Stadium, including a pair of wins over the Bills, so Mahomes never has been forced to go on the road.

“It kind of is what it is,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of games at home, at Arrowhead Stadium, and things have fallen that way. Now we get to go on the road to a hostile environment, and one I have not played in with fans in the stands. But it’s what you want to do when you grow up watching these games.”

The only time Mahomes has played at Highmark Stadium was in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic saved him from having to tune out all of those Bills fans. He threw for 225 yards and two TDs in leading Kansas City to a 26-17 win that day.

The reason the Chiefs are hitting the road following their wild-card win over the Dolphins is in part because of a rare offensive offside penalty on Kadarius Toney in their regular-season game against Buffalo last month. The call wiped out a miraculous play in which Travis Kelce lateraled to Toney for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes.

The Bills wound up winning, eventually secured the No. 2 seed and that relegated Kansas City to the No. 3 seed.

It might not be such a bad thing that Mahomes is going on the road, though. He has a higher completion percentage, throws for more yards per game and has a significantly better quarterback rating during road games in his career.

He’s even taken eight fewer sacks away from home, despite playing in two more games.

Asked to explain that one, Mahomes replied: “It’s just Coach (Andy) Reid preaches communication.”

“You have to have nonverbal communication when you’re on the road. We preach that,” Mahomes continued, “and then not letting anything be too negative or too positive, just going about your business the right way.

“On the road,” he said, “one big plays seems to be magnified more, and one bad play is magnified more, too.”

All of that bodes well for the Chiefs. So does this: Mahomes is better in the divisional round than any other round, going 5-0 with 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and a completion rate of 70% that is well above his career average.

“I know he looks forward to playing. He gets fired up for every game,” Reid said. “That’s a great venue up there (in Buffalo). If you can’t get fired up for that, it’s hard to get fired up. But he’s always ready and excited.”

Mahomes has certainly been a problem for the Bills, but mostly in the postseason. He won that pandemic game at Highmark Stadium, but is winless in three tries against Josh Allen and Co. in regular-season games at Arrowhead Stadium.

The playoffs are another story. He has ended Buffalo’s season in two of the past three years.

The first time came during the AFC championship game in the 2020 season, when he went 29 of 38 for 325 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in a 38-24 romp. The second came one year later, when he needed a mere 13 seconds to drive Kansas City within range of a tying field goal to end regulation, then hit Kelce for the winning touchdown in overtime in the divisional round.

In those two games, Mahomes completed 76% of his throws for 703 yards with six TD passes, no picks and a touchdown run.

“The Bills are a great challenge. I think everybody understands that,” he said. “They’ve gotten my number a number of times. They beat us earlier this year. We know we’ll have to play great football to win the game. It’s not about ending their season for us. It’s about advancing. Finding a way to get to the next round.”

NOTES: DT Derrick Nnadi (elbow) did not practice Wednesday. LT Wanya Morris (concussion) and WRs Justyn Ross (hamstring) and Kadarius Toney (hip and ankle) did practice after missing last week’s game against Miami. … WR Skyy Moore (knee) returned to practice, beginning a 21-day window to return to the active roster. Moore has been on injured reserve since mid-December, and the Chiefs would have to make room on the 53-man roster for him to play against Buffalo. … LB Cam Jones (chest) was put on IR and LB Cole Christiansen promoted from the practice squad to take his place.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL