Patrick Mahomes tried to make his last play at Arrowhead until Sept. 22 really count.
Early in the second quarter of the Chiefs’ 27-17 loss to the 49ers, Mahomes took the snap on third-and-10 and scrambled backward. He left the pocket to elude the defense, spinning and back-peddling until he found an opening up the middle. Then he sprinted forward, ending his run with a head-first dive just past the 10-yard line to get as close to the first-down marker as possible.
Officially, it was an 8-yard gain, still shy of the first down. Unofficially, it covered about 40 yards and marked the end of Mahomes’ playing time until the regular season opens in Jacksonville.
Mic’d up for an in-game interview during the slide, team president Mark Donovan vocalized the overwhelming sentiment from the Chiefs sideline as he audibly yelped when Mahomes took a hit from defensive back Jimmie Ward to end the play.
“You want to see the competitive nature and the competitive side, but there’s so many things you can to do show you’re competitive,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said. “Get down. Don’t do that. Save it. Don’t even do it week one, week two.”
“Don’t dive, Pat. Get down, Pat. Can’t say it too many times, you know?”
When the next drive began a couple minutes later, Chad Henne was under center and Mahomes was wearing a visor on the sideline, where he remained the rest of the night.
“I told Coach Reid, I’ve got to get hit sometime, get myself ready for the season,” Mahomes said with a grin. “I took a hit, it was a nice hit, and so it was good to get that first hit out of the way.”
In his final tuneup of the preseason, Mahomes completed 8 of 10 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown — and the 8-yard run.
In three preseason games, Mahomes played in five drives and completed 14 of 19 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. He also had three carries for 26 yards, including one slide and one dive.
That was about all the tuning up the reigning MVP needed in a slate of high-risk, no-reward games.
Coach Andy Reid said afterward Mahomes’ slide wasn’t the determining factor in taking his first string out earlier than planned, but he wasn’t thrilled about it.
“I can’t tell you I was happy about it, but no it didn’t,” Reid said. “That’s not why I took them out, I just thought they had enough with where we were at.”
Playing into the second quarter — his longest outing of the preseason — Saturday night, Mahomes shook off the timing issues that troubled the first-team offense a week ago.
Helping the team get in a better rhythm, Sammy Watkins said, was the promise of more playing time. The starters were told they would play into the third quarter. That didn’t end up being the case, but the mindset helped them settle into a groove early.
“Mentally, I feel like we were prepared to play the whole game,” Watkins said. “I think everybody for the ones, we kind of came out like it was a real Game One. Everything was kind of hitting and clicking.
“Pat was on point. We were on point, our routes, the linemen, and it was just a different energy than the previous week.”
Mahomes capped off the first drive with a monster third-down completion to running back Damien Williams, who caught Mahomes’ pass on a wheel route and outran a slew of San Francisco defenders for a 62-yard touchdown.
On the next drive, Mahomes carved up the 49ers defense with completions of 8, 13 and 11 yards to Williams, Watkins and Tyreek Hill, respectively. The quarterback completed his first eight attempts before an incompletion to rookie Darwin Thompson.
He also missed on the throw after that, this one intended for tight end Blake Bell.
That’s when, facing third-and-10, Mahomes took matters into his own hands and dove head first to try for the first down.
“I knew that I kind of wanted to go for it,” he said. “I think they marked me from where I started my dive, which I think they’re supposed to do.”
He came up 2 yards short, though, and Harrison Butker finished the 12-play drive with a 25-yard field goal.
“I feel like just to have a long drive was something that we needed going into the season,” Mahomes said.
Though Mahomes wouldn’t return following that drive, the some of the first-team offense continued to play through the second quarter. Henne worked behind the starting offensive line, which rotated a couple players at the guard spot.
Cam Erving, usually the versatile sixth-man of the line, started at left guard in place of Andrew Wylie. But Wylie came in on the second drive in place of starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Earlier in the week, Reid said Wylie and Erving were both deserving of a starting job.
The running backs also rotated with the first-teamers. Damien Williams was the usual starter, but Darrel Williams was the next back to come in, followed by rookie Thompson. Veteran running back Carlos Hyde didn’t take the field until just less than four minutes remained in the third quarter.
With just one preseason game left, the first-teamers are essentially done until the regular season begins in two weeks. And Mahomes feels like his team is exactly where it needs to be.
“We did good things on offense, good things on defense, on special teams, and I feel like now it’s about perfecting those things as we have these young guys who get to play for the last preseason game,” he said. “We kind of perfect and practice as much as we can going into Jacksonville, a tough opponent for week one.”