By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — Patrick Mahomes showed up to the stadium feeling ill and out of sorts. It only got worse after kickoff.
The Kansas City quarterback couldn’t shake off the effects of flu-like symptoms or shake free from a buzzing Denver defense as he turned in one of the most pedestrian performances of his career in a 24-9 loss to the Broncos on Sunday.
“Worst I felt walking out of the stadium,” Mahomes said after his first loss in seven starts in Denver and the Chiefs’ first loss to the Broncos since 2015. “Obviously, it wasn’t our day.”
He doesn’t have many off days, especially on the road against AFC West teams. Mahomes was 16-0 away from Arrowhead in divisional games until a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon in the Mile High City.
He was a late entrant on the injury report due to being under the weather. It was nothing but downhill from there. Mahomes was out of sync (first game without a passing TD in nearly two years), off target (throwing two interceptions, lost a fumble), and never found his rhythm (a paltry 59.2 passer rating).
On top of it all, Mahomes suffered cuts on his non-throwing hand (he guesses he got stepped on after one of the many times he ended up on the ground) and had to hear the stadium blast Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” as the Chiefs (6-2) trudged toward their tunnel. It was obviously a troll of tight end Travis Kelce and his relationship with the pop star, who didn’t make the trip to Denver as she prepares to resume her hugely successful “Eras Tour.”
“We didn’t play good enough,” Mahomes said. “We didn’t hit our shots when they were there and then when they were there, we didn’t execute it.”
Denver (3-5) rode a defense led by Justin Simmons — the safety intercepted Mahomes along with recovering a fumble — and an efficient offense paced by Russell Wilson’s three TD passes to beat Kansas City for the first time since Sept. 17, 2015, when Peyton Manning was Denver’s QB and Mahomes was still slinging it at Texas Tech.
“Props to them,” Mahomes said of the Broncos. “They played their tail off and they deserved to win today.”
So, how do the Chiefs avoid this becoming a domino effect?
“It won’t be,” insisted Mahomes, whose team faces Miami (6-2) in Germany next weekend.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid chalked it up to simply an uncharacteristic day at the office. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a fumble after a catch and returner Mecole Hardman muffed a punt. The Broncos cashed in their five takeaways for 17 points.
“Saw things this afternoon that I haven’t seen before from the guys,” Reid said. “That’s my responsibility — make sure they’re right. We weren’t right today.”
No one was more out of rhythm than Mahomes, who dealt with stomach issues that his wife and two children suffered through last week. He was sacked three times, including once when he scrambled around and ran smack into 338-pound offensive tackle Donovan Smith, crumbling to the grass.
“Got caught turning too many times,” Mahomes explained. “Got to try to find a way to maneuver myself out of the pocket to get a throw downfield.”
Down 21-9 late in the game, Mahomes, faced a fourth-and-2 from the Denver 26, when he lofted a pass that Skyy Moore couldn’t secure in the end zone. Mahomes put his hands on his helmet after the drop as he walked to the sideline.
Even with nothing going right for Mahomes, Chiefs safety Justin Reid still thought No. 15 would find a way like he always did against Denver.
“When you have 15 at quarterback, and you have Andy Reid as a head coach, the players we have on this team, I never feel like we’re out of the game,” said Justin Reid, who blocked a field goal in the third quarter. “I don’t care what the odds are. I don’t care what the score is. It never feels like we’re out of the game.
“(Get) the ball back in 15’s hands, and most of the time he’s going to make magic happen.”
But not always.
“He’s human, too,” Reid said.
By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer