When Mahomes limped off the field with 10 minutes left in the second quarter after a quarterback sneak left him with a dislocated kneecap, it felt like disaster for Kansas City and a league with so much invested in its brightest young star.
By the time the Chiefs walked off Empower Field with a 30-6 victory over the Denver Broncos, the mood was far from devastated. Players celebrated as they met an enthused fan base greeting them at the tunnel to their locker room and showed no signs of having watched the present and future of their franchise go down in a heap.
Mahomes refused to take cart off field
Mahomes set the tone when he waved away the cart and shed his assistance as he somehow walked to the locker room on his own with his knee injury.
Head coach Andy Reid spoke to Mahomes’ resilience and his mood in his postgame news conference.
“He’s in a good place,” Reid said. “He was in a good place on the field, when it happened. Our doc was phenomenal in just calming everything down. Pat was good and felt very comfortable with him. He refused to get in that cart.”
Mahomes maintained that optimism in a postgame tweet congratulating his teammates for the victory, saying “Awesome team win! Love my brothers! Thank you for all the prayers! Everything looking food so far!”
Awesome team win! Love my brothers! Thank you for all the prayers! Everything looking good so far! #GodisGood#ChiefsKingdom
Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 15: Patrick Mahomes #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on November 15, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma won the game 42-30. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 24: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gestures to his players during the first half of their loss against the Oklahoma Sooners on October 24, 2015 at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images)
MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 07: Patrick Mahomes #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in action during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, KS - OCTOBER 08: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders warms up prior to a game against the Kansas State Wildcats on October 8, 2016 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Football quarterback and NFL draft prospect Patrick Mahomes visits SiriusXM Studios on April 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) before an NFL week 1 preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs on August 11th, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The 49ers won 27-17. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) scrambles for a first down at the end of the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 10: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) before an AFC West showdown between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs on December 10, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) takes the field for his first NFL regular season start, against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, at Sports Authority Field in Denver. The Chiefs won, 27-24. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 06: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) before the AFC Wild Card game between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs on January 6, 2018 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 25: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) looks on during game action in a preseason NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears on August 25, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 25: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws the football during game action in a preseason NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears on August 25, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 16, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 23: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks up at the scoreboard during the third quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 23rd, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 23: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) handles the football in action during an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs on September 23, 2018, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs scores a second-quarter rushing touchdown, the first of his NFL career, against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on October 1, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to sidelines during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos. The Denver Broncos hosted the Kansas City Chiefs at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver, Colorado on Monday, October 1, 2018. (Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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Chiefs rally behind Moore
When Mahomes left the game, the Chiefs held a 10-6 lead. Behind a stifling defense that tallied nine sacks and a steady performance from backup quarterback Matt Moore, the Chiefs went on to score the game’s final 20 points in a dominant victory over a division rival.
Moore finished the game in Mahomes’ stead completing 10-of-19 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Moore spoke after the game to the matter-of-fact approach NFL players have to take in the wake of significant injuries.
“I was devastated for him,” Moore said. “Obviously he’s been dinged up and he’s popped up pretty quick before. This one obviously wasn’t that case. So I just hope he’s OK.
“At the same time, we’ve got to go and win a football game. I’ve been in this position before. Gotta move forward and go. Just wish him the best with his leg.”
Hill: ‘I don’t see nothing changing’
A big chunk of Moore’s production arrived courtesy of a 57-yard scoring pass to Tyreek Hill in the third quarter that extended Kansas City’s lead to 27-6, demoralizing a Denver crowd that realized hope of a comeback was out of hand.
Hill broke free from coverage on the right side of the field, and Moore lofted a perfect pass down the sideline that Hill carried into the end zone.
Hill, who just returned last week from an inured shoulder that knocked him out of four games, spoke to the mentality needed to look forward in a league riddled with injuries.
“I don't see nothing changing,” Hill said. “Matt is a guy who has been in this league a long time. Coach Reid trusts him in the system. I don't feel anything is going to be changed.”
Kelce on Mahomes’ knee: ‘It was all out of whack’
While a brave face and an optimistic outlook were theme of the postgame scene, Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce gave a sobering assessment of what he saw on the field.
“I saw his knee,” Kelce said, per the Kansas City Star. “It didn’t look like a knee. It was all out of whack. I can’t even describe it. You looked at it; you were like, ‘Oh, man, there’s something wrong with him.’”
Video of the aftermath of the injury gives credence to Kelce’s observation.
Reid declined to give a prognosis on Mahomes, promising to share more information on his outlook when the team learns more from test results. Whether Mahomes is out for a few weeks or for the long-term is unclear.
One thing is clear. Moore is not Mahomes — not even close.
Beating a struggling Broncos team that played a poor game is one thing. But Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are up next for the Chiefs next Sunday night. Assuming Mahomes is out for that game, the Packers will provide a much truer test of where the Chiefs stand minus their MVP quarterback.
Meanwhile the Chiefs — who had their sights set on a Super Bowl entering the season — will have to maintain a brave face in light of losing the NFL’s biggest star.