As we try to diagnose the problems with the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s fair to raise any and all potential explanations. One possibility is that quarterback Patrick Mahomes isn’t 100 percent healthy.
He had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his big toe just a few days after Super Bowl LV. He has said that he’s fine, and he hasn’t missed a practice or a game. But it’s possible that he’s impaired just enough post-surgery that the margin that allowed him to elude defenders long enough to make a spectacular play has gotten smaller or disappeared. That would make it harder for him to stay a step ahead of those who want to tackle him while he waits for someone to find a hole in the coverage into which Mahomes would then launch a laser beam with a flick of the wrist.
Watch the games. Something’s missing. Maybe it’s as simple as Mahomes not having the extra little edge that lets him maneuver a half-step ahead of defensive linemen and linebackers.
Then there was a moment that went unnoticed during the main broadcast on Monday night but was spotted by Peyton on the Manningcast. Fourth quarter, 12:37 to play. Second and six from the Giants’ 48. Mahomes dropped back, saw nothing, moved to the right, and ran for a first down before stepping out of bounds. Once on the sideline, he took an awkward hop step and then jumped multiple times on the toes of both feet, as if to shake off whatever had happened.
It looked odd. It looked like a potential new injury. The jumping on the back end, however, invited the notion that he was maybe trying to stretch out the surgically repaired big toe.
Don’t expect full transparency. As long as Mahomes is able to fully participate in practices and games, the Chiefs undoubtedly believe that they don’t have to disclose whether he’s below full capacity in any specific way. After all, the Bucs hid Tom Brady‘s torn MCL for all of the 2020 season, with no consequences at all.
Still, it makes sense to keep watching Mahomes. Either the defenders have gotten a little faster, or he’s gotten a little slower — possibly due to a new or lingering injury. The closing of that gap may be one of the biggest reasons why he’s not as dominant as he used to be.