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Nearly an hour had passed Sunday evening, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was off to the worst start of his postseason career. He had led five possessions, producing zero points but two turnovers, and the Chiefs stared at a seven-point deficit.
And then the competitive, uh, jerk, showed up.
The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their next six drives. Mahomes threw five of them in the span of fewer than 12 minutes of game clock.
Just like that, the game was over.
But how? How had the Chiefs managed to change the outcome so quickly? What came over Mahomes that allowed him to step aside from a disastrous start and seemingly say, No, not on my watch.
Is there something within him — a switch — he flicks on when he needs it most?
“I think I just really like winning,” Mahomes said Wednesday in response to a form of that question from Sports Radio 810’s Soren Petro. “That’s pretty much the end of it.”
That’s a yes, if you’re keeping track.
There is something that flips.
Remember a year ago during training camp, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy called Mahomes a competitive jerk, except he did not use the word jerk. That topic of conversation continued for a week, and not a single person disagreed with the label.
Wonder if Mahomes, too, agreed?
His answer Wednesday is another yes. In a news conference that extended more than six minutes, this was his shortest reply. By far. He’s often expansive, or at least he attempts to be.
He kept this one short.
Seven words in explanation.
Seven more to say that’s all he needed to say.
Sometimes the shortest answer is the most revealing one. And the most accurate, too.
There’s a reason that some of Mahomes’ most memorable moments come on the heels of his worst. A track record predates Sunday’s flurry against the Steelers. He has a winning record in games in which he has at some point trailed.
In the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run in 2019, he fell behind 24 points, and then led the offense to seven straight touchdowns. Came from behind the next two games, too.
He’s at his best when he is backed into a corner. Whether that’s by the outside conversation — Mahomes has used his fingers to count to 10 in Chicago (his draft position, below that of then-Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky) and used them again to count to four in Baltimore (his place on a player-rankings list, below that of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson). Or by the situation. We’ve known this. Or at least theorized this.
But his answer Wednesday — all 14 combined words of it, stated in a matter-of-fact manner — is acknowledgment that he knows it.
Those who surround him understand it, too. On Sunday, as nothing could go right for a quarter, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and coach Andy Reid described the mood on the sideline.
“There is a calm to it,” Reid said.
“This is never a doubt on the sideline that we can’t do it,” Kelce said.
Both of those came in responses to questions about Mahomes. They’ve seen it before. Saw it in Los Angeles, when after a “(crappy) throw,” he led two game-tying drives against the Chargers and then a game-winning one in overtime. He has six fourth-quarter comebacks in the past two years alone.
So where does this come into play now?
On Sunday, the Chiefs are playing the Bills, a team that shredded them in Week 5. It remains one of the worst statistical game of Mahomes’ career. At the time, it was the worst regular season margin of defeat.
Just know: He’s aware.