KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes criticized his own performance four games into the season Wednesday, saying that the two-time and reigning league MVP must play better if Kansas City wants to defend its Super Bowl title.
The Chiefs are 3-1 and atop the AFC West heading into Sunday’s game in Minnesota, but their most recent win over the Jets came largely in spite of the NFL’s biggest star.
Mahomes was just 21 of 29 for 203 yards with a touchdown pass and two badly thrown interceptions, though he did make a couple of crucial plays with his feet late in the game to secure the win.
It was the third time in four games Mahomes has failed to throw for more than 300 yards, and the only time he did was a 305-yard effort against Jacksonville, when the Chiefs offense managed just two touchdowns in slogging to a 17-9 win.
“I just haven’t played very good to start the season,” said Mahomes, who threw for a franchise-record 5,250 yards with a league-leading 41 touchdown passes last season. “I think if I start playing better everybody is going to start playing better.”
Mahomes ranks 10th in yards passing, hamstrung in part by a young group of wide receivers that have struggled to get open. His completion rate of 64.3 percent trails rookie Bryce Young and journeyman Baker Mayfield, among others, and his 21-for-39 effort in the opener against Detroit was the fourth-worst percentage of his career.
The two interceptions he threw against the Jets, both of which were underthrown back-foot tosses, marked only the 10th time in 84 games Mahomes has thrown more than one in a game. His four picks are more than all but five other quarterbacks.
To be clear: Mahomes still has been good. He only played about three quarters against Chicago because the game was a blowout, and that coupled with penalties along the offensive line and a litany of dropped passes have dragged down his numbers.
But the expectation for him is greatness.
“You have to go out there and keep shooting it. That’s how I’ve always been wired,” Mahomes said. “Just have to keep going out there and working. I’ve had spots like this throughout my career where I haven’t had the best few weeks in a row. Just go back to the fundamentals and try the best I can for the team and rely on other guys to make plays.”
Just last season, Mahomes went four straight games early on without throwing for 300 yards, and a two-interception game against Buffalo left the Chiefs just 4-2 on the season. But the reigning Super Bowl MVP bounced back with consecutive 400-yard passing performances, and the Chiefs only lost once the rest of the way to the title.
One thing Mahomes has working in his favor is a flourishing ground game.
The Chiefs were still trying to sort out their backfield when he struggled early last season, but seventh-round draft pick Isiah Pacheco eventually solidified the starting spot. He returned this season as the unquestioned leader of the running back room, and last week against the Jets, Pacheco ripped off 20 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown.
His past three weeks — 47 carries for 247 yards and two scores — are a big reason why Kansas City won each game.
Perhaps bigger than the guy taking the snaps.
“Even when I’m not playing my best, we have guys like Isiah that can dominate the run game,” Mahomes said. “It’s not all on my shoulders to win a football game. We have other guys that we can rely on. That’s what makes this team great.”
NOTES: LB Nick Bolton (ankle) and CB Jaylen Watson (shoulder) returned to practice Wednesday. DE Matt Dickerson (swollen knee) was the only player that did not participate. … The Chiefs shortened practice Wednesday as they prepared for their trip to Minnesota in part because of their late arrival home after their Sunday night win over the Jets. They also want to manage loads with a Thursday night game following their game against the Vikings.
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