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Patrick Mahomes settles down nicely in debut, finishes with winning drive

DENVER -- When Patrick Mahomes II returned to the game with less than three minutes remaining on Sunday, the most senior of Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers had some advice for him. Albert Wilson pulled Mahomes aside and told him, “This is what we do. We’ve practiced it and let’s do it.”

Mahomes followed that advice. The rookie quarterback, making his first NFL start, led the Chiefs on a 67-yard scoring drive, the winning points coming on rookie kicker Harrison Butker’s 30-yard field goal as time expired. The Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 27-24, the victory giving the Chiefs a four-game winning streak and a 10-6 record to take into Saturday’s wild-card round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.

Alex Smith will return as the starting quarterback against the Titans, so Mahomes’ run is over for now. But he’ll take the job back from Smith on a permanent basis as soon as next season.

In the meantime, he has a 1-0 record and is 1-0 in two-minute drive situations.

“He is going to be special,” fullback Anthony Sherman said. “He just needed to calm down a little bit toward the beginning. That is common and not unexpected by us to know a rookie quarterback is going to go out there and have some nerves, especially playing on the road. He did a great job. He settled down.”

Mahomes was a bit excited early in the game. One of his passes in the first quarter sailed well beyond its intended target, De’Anthony Thomas, and was intercepted.

But Mahomes pulled himself together to complete 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards.

“It’s been a whole year of preparing and preparing like you were the starter,” said Mahomes, who not only hadn’t started a game until Sunday, but hadn’t so much as taken a snap. “I’ve had coach [Andy] Reid and Alex helping me all week and all year. That helped me be ready so I could get in the huddle here today.

“Just getting experience, being in the game and having the opportunity to play with these guys was awesome. It’s something I will have to build on going into the playoffs and into the offseason.”

Mahomes was pulled from the game in the middle of the fourth quarter with the Chiefs holding a seemingly safe 24-10 lead. But third-stringer Tyler Bray fumbled on his first play and the Broncos recovered, returning it for a touchdown. The Broncos scored another TD after Bray’s second possession was a three-and-out.

That’s when Reid went to Mahomes for the winning drive. It started with a sack, but Mahomes wound up completing 4-of-5 for 52 yards.

“He had complete command out there,” Reid said. “Patrick’s effort, he’s been getting in early in the morning. Listen, for young quarterbacks coming up, he’s going about it the right way and spends a ton of time doing it. He’s not banking on the skill he’s blessed with.

“There are things he can work on for sure that he’s going to take out of this game. He’ll be critical of himself. He’s got to get better in some areas, but that’s OK. It’s a nice barometer there for him to measure off of.”

Mahomes said the one thing he learned was not to be so excited to begin the game.

“You’ve got to control the excitement,” Mahomes said. “That was the biggest thing at the beginning. I was a little too amped up. Then I kind of settled in there. Just running the offense, letting other guys make plays and putting it in their hands helped out a lot."