Mahomes to Play in AFC Championship


Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes | Image by Kansas City Chiefs, Twitter

Patrick Mahomes is good to go for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed on Friday that Mahomes would start at quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

“He’s moving around [well],” Reid said. “He can go out and play.”

Many were questioning his availability for Sunday’s game due to a high ankle sprain he suffered during the first half of last week’s Divisional Round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mahomes left the game and was replaced by backup quarterback Chad Henne for about a quarter.

He returned after halftime but was not at full strength, sparking concerns he may not be able to go on Sunday. But the quarterback did all he could to dispel those worries throughout the week.

He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, which was a good sign that he would play when the Bengals come to Kansas City on Sunday.

“I felt better than I thought I was going to be after the game,” Mahomes told the media before practice on Wednesday. “Moving on it during the game definitely hurt. But after the game, I was able to rest it and kind of ice it up and do different stuff like that.”

“I was able to do some extra testing, just to make sure everything was good the night after the game,” he added. “Got a few things done to help the treatment start off, and then the next few days has just kind of been all day treatment and rehab or watching film.”

On Friday, Mahomes did not concede that his signature mobility would be limited on Sunday. He led the league in throws from outside the pocket during the regular season.

“I feel like I can still do a lot of things but we’ll see as we get closer and closer,” Mahomes said. “We’ll see during the game. You can’t fully do [in practice] exactly what it’s going to be like in those moments in the game. All I can do is prepare myself the best way possible and then when we get in the game you hope adrenaline takes over and you can make those throws when you need to.”

Mahomes, a Whitehouse, Texas native, and former Texas Tech star has become the face of the NFL since winning the starting quarterback job for the Chiefs in 2018 and being named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in his first season at the helm.

Since then, the quarterback has led Kansas City to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one, and kept the team as a primary contender in the AFC. It is the fifth consecutive season in which the Chiefs have reached the AFC Championship Game.

The Bengals have won the last three meetings between these teams, including last year’s AFC Championship when the Bengals stormed back from an 18-point deficit to clinch a spot in the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati and Kansas City already had a rematch earlier this season, which the Bengals won with another late rally.

The Bengals are also coming off a convincing victory against the Buffalo Bills and are one of the few teams with the offensive firepower to compete with the Chiefs.

Both team’s quarterbacks (Mahomes and Joe Burrow) are among the top five at the position statistically this season, and both have 1,000-yard receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Travis Kelce. Both offenses were among the seven in the league to average at least 26 points per game this season.

The defense has been a weak spot for both teams in recent years, but Cincinnati made strides on that side of the ball this season.

The Bengals have the fifth-best scoring defense in the league, allowing an average of 19.4 points per game.

Those improvements have even gotten defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo much praise despite being overlooked for head coaching opportunities.

“They change coverages a lot,” Mahomes told the media on Thursday. “It never seems like you can get a feel for what they’re in and they just keep throwing different pitches at you.”

“That’s what makes them a great team.”

The Bengals-Chiefs game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. CST on Sunday as the second of two conference championship games. The winner will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl on February 12.

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