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What we saw from Patrick Mahomes on Saturday was a picture of courage that people who witnessed will talk about in the years to come.
It was Willis Reed coming out of that locker room unexpectedly.
It was Kerri Strug vaulting for gold in the Olympics.
Or Jim Abbott throwing no-hit baseball off his only hand.
Patrick Mahomes played three quarters of this NFL divisional round playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with what is known to be an ankle sprain and believed to be a high-ankle sprain at that.
Most people need crutches to walk with a high ankle sprain. They get fitted with a walking boot to prevent further damage and mitigate the pain. Mahomes, the Chiefs quarterback, got two tape jobs from trainers and played football instead.
Operating on one healthy left leg most of the evening, Mahomes threw two touchdown passes. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards. He scrambled for a pair of first downs.
And the Chiefs won 27-20 to advance to next week’s AFC Championship Game. It will be the fifth consecutive AFC title game for Mahomes and coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs.
Afterward Mahomes didn’t dismiss his injury but he definitely didn’t highlight it.
“Everybody played a part in this,” he said. “I mean, it’s a credit to the guys around me. The offensive line kept me clean in the pocket, knowing that I couldn’t move, and the guys made plays around me.
“That’s what a great team does when somebody get a little banged up. Everybody around them steps up.”
It should be noted Mahomes was injured when Arden Key fell on his right leg in the first quarter. He fought the instinct to come off the field and actually limped and hobbled through a couple of plays.
Then a sideline argument ensued as Reid and trainers took him out of the game and forced him to go into the locker room for further examination.
“It was hard enough getting him out of the game, first of all,” Reid said. “He wanted to fight.”
Reid told Mahomes if he didn’t go inside to have the ankle checked, he would not get back in the game.
“Yeah, x-rays were negative and they haven’t diagnosed anything yet,” Mahomes added. “But I’ll be good to go.”
Reid said afterward he had Mahomes on “a short leash” the second half. If he saw Mahomes couldn’t protect himself, he was coming out.
That’s the question that needs to be asked now: Will Mahomes really be well enough to protect himself next week?
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Reid said. “I don’t want to jump to things right now. Let’s see how it goes the next couple of days. I know he’s going to be sore.”
Mahomes seemed to have no such questions.
“Come ready to go next week,” the quarterback told teammates afterward in the locker room.
So we know his answer.
But we also know that while this potentially season-crashing injury had no say on the outcome this game, that doesn’t mean it will go silent next week.
Over the next week the Chiefs must prepare for the AFC title game. And it’s anyone’s guess how Mahomes will be able to manage that.
“I’ll be good to go,” Mahomes insisted again.
Mahomes says he’ll go, but we don’t know if he’ll be able to play. The swelling and real issues of such injuries often come after the adrenaline subsides, and the tape and shoes come off. That’s when the inflammation and pain typically increase.
That’s when an MRI gives a full picture of the situation.
So will Mahomes really be available to play next weekend? And even if he displays the same tenacity he showed this game and get out there, how many practices will he miss or how limited will he be in practices he participates?
We don’t know any of this.
We do know the Chiefs starting quarterback will limp into Kansas City’s next game.
And we know the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, both much more playoff savvy than the upstart Jaguars, aren’t likely to sit back and give Mahomes a clean pocket.
Whichever of those teams that play Sunday in Buffalo advances will have an entire week to consider how to attack Mahomes. How to take advantage of the injury.
It will take a good plan by Reid to protect his diminished quarterback. We’ll see how that works out.
It will take more courage from Mahomes to withstand the onslaught that almost definitely will come. But we do know how that will likely work out.
Because Patrick Mahomes proved Saturday he’s not short on courage.