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Chiefs might not have supporting cast capable of winning title with Patrick Mahomes  2 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

Dan Marino is football royalty. Almost any quarterback would be flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Hall of Famer.

But in Patrick Mahomes' case, such a comparison could be a cautionary tale.

Sound familiar?

Now in his sophomore year as a pro, Mahomes has been a revelation in his own right. Is there anyone in the land with a stronger arm? When was the last time you saw a quarterback try — and complete! — a no-look pass during a game? With 45 touchdown passes in 13 games, he'll almost certainly post more scoring strikes this year than Marino did back in '84 and might even overtake Peyton Manning's five-year-old record of 55. And the 23-year-old Mahomes is also the front-runner to win league MVP honors for playoff-bound Kansas City.

And yet he was saddled with a shocking defeat Thursday night when the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers scored 15 unanswered points in the final four minutes to win at Arrowhead Stadium — preventing the Chiefs from wrapping up the division and a first-round bye.

A balanced offense before now-exiled Kareem Hunt was released after video showed him pushing and kicking a woman, Kansas City managed all of 60 yards rushing against the Bolts. Worse, a 30th-ranked defense that has its share of playmakers, nevertheless failed to hold a 28-14 lead in the final period — undone by Philip Rivers, crushing penalties and blown coverages even though the Chargers were hardly at full strength.

“They found a way to win and we didn’t,” Mahomes said. “You have to find a way in this league.”

The Chiefs also served a fresh reminder that they don't win big games, especially on their home field. Despite all the talk about a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage, they've lost six consecutive playoff games at Arrowhead dating back to the 1995 season. They haven't played in the AFC Championship Game since 1993 — Hall of Famer Joe Montana was the quarterback then. They haven't played in the Super Bowl since the 1969 team went all the way — Hall of Famer Len Dawson was the quarterback then.

Marino can relate.

He willed, guided — and threw — the '84 Dolphins through an unimpressive AFC field and into the Super Bowl. But then they ran into Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. A one-dimensional offense wasn't nearly enough to stave off a 38-16 beatdown with a Lombardi Trophy on the line. Marino never got to compete for another.

Is Mahomes in for a similar fate? Despite the issues that were underscored in their latest defeat, these Chiefs are still pretty good. But are they good enough to beat Rivers, whom they might host again down the road, when the stakes are high? What about Ben Roethlisberger? What about the specter of Tom Brady, who hasn't failed to reach the AFC title round since 2010? Even if Mahomes and Co. survive that gauntlet and reach Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, they're bound to see an NFC entry that has more balance —both from an offensive approach and in terms of defensive efficacy. 

It's certainly not unprecedented for a second-year quarterback to win a ring. Since 2005, Carson Wentz (to a degree), Russell Wilson and Roethlisberger all led their clubs to championships in Year 2 — but all enjoyed stout supporting casts.

Marino didn't.

And neither, perhaps, does Mahomes.

***

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