KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had enough wits about him after a concussion knocked the star quarterback from the Kansas City Chiefs’ divisional-round playoff win over the Cleveland Browns to get a rather clever hashtag trending on Twitter.
“HenneThingIsPossible,” it read.
It was a reference to his backup, Chad Henne, who came on when Mahomes got hurt midway through the third quarter Sunday. Henne pulled off two edge-of-your seat plays in the closing minutes, scrambling for 13 yards on third-and-14 before a fourth-down completion to Tyreek Hill, which allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock and preserve a 22-17 victory.
Now, the question is whether Mahomes will be cleared to play the Buffalo Bills in the AFC title game next Sunday.
“He’s doing great right now, which is a real positive as we look at this. He passed all the deals he needed to pass and we’ll see where it goes from here,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game. “I just talked to him and he’s doing good. We’ll see how he is tomorrow, but right now he’s feeling good.”
Mahomes had been shredding the Browns most of the cold, windy afternoon. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 255 yards with touchdowns on the ground and through the air, helping the Chiefs take a 19-3 lead at halftime.
They still led 19-10 after Baker Mayfield’s touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry early in the third quarter, and were on the move again near midfield. But on third-and-1, the Chiefs decided to run an option play toward their sideline and Mahomes elected to keep the ball, ducking for the first-down yardage just as Browns linebacker Mack Wilson got him around the head.
Mahomes remained crumpled on the turf as about 17,000 fans sat in stunned silence.
When he tried getting to his feet, his leg buckled and Mahomes nearly went down again. It took the training staff to help him get to the blue tent on the sideline, and he emerged from that a few minutes later and jogged to the locker room.
In a matter of minutes, he had been ruled out with a concussion.
“You never want to say someone purposely tries to take you out of the game, but after the initial hit, they were fired up, saying, ‘That’s what we do. That’s what we do,’” said Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who could be seen heatedly discussing the play with Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett on a couple of occasions.
“I don’t ever want him to feel like my guys or my team is out there trying to injure someone or put them out the game,” Garrett explained. “We’re trying to put some bruises on you and we’re trying to hurt you, but we’re never trying to injure someone or take them out on purpose.”
Mahomes already had been hobbling after he appeared to tweak his ankle early in the game.
“I think when anybody goes down the team tries their best to rally around that particular player,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Today was Patrick Mahomes. I think the whole stadium knew he was out of the game. But definitely, it was all about team. Any time you get some motivation to pull it through, you have to take advantage of those moments.”
Indeed, the Chiefs rallied around Henne, a 35-year-old journeyman, who was ready for the spotlight in part because he had played the entirety of their loss to the Chargers in Week 17. The Chiefs had locked up the No. 1 seed and first-round bye, so Reid elected to sit Mahomes and most of his starters for the otherwise meaningless game.
His appearance Sunday? There couldn’t have been much more meaning to it.
“I’m always a competitor,” said Henne, who threw an interception in the end zone but had enough gumption to flush the bad play for his memory, then make two spectacular ones when the Chiefs needed to put the game away.
“I felt confident,” Henne added. “There’s a lot of playmakers out there and just a great opportunity for me to make plays.”
The Chiefs also lost cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a concussion in the fourth quarter, while the Browns lost left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. to an ankle injury on their first offensive play and his backup, Kendall Lamm, to an elbow injury.