KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It took more than half a century, but the Chiefs finally have a new all-time leader for passing touchdowns in a season, and Patrick Mahomes still has six more games to go for head coach Andy Reid.
“Listen, he's had a heck of a year, he's playing his heart out,” Reid said following his team's 26-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals. “I love the backside of that, the preparation and how he goes about his business there. Day in and day out, he comes out everyday, he's bringing energy, he makes sure he has his things in order when he does that.”'
It took just three plays for Mahomes to tie the record. He connected with Tyreek Hill for a 38-yard gain on the first play of the game. Following an incompletion, Mahomes hooked up with Hill again for the final 37 yards, giving the Chiefs a 7-0 lead just 56 seconds into the game.
“He's in a position where he can make everybody better around him and he's doing that,” Reid said. “I'm proud of him for how he's going about his business.”
Arizona head coach Steve Wilks thought his team played well coming into the game as more than a two-touchdown underdog. But allowing the quick score to start game disappointed him.
“One of the things we talked about coming into this game was that we cannot give away the big play over the top, so you're looking at 37 or 38 yards on the first drive,” Wilks said. “That put us behind. I thought the guys responded after that, but we cannot give up the big plays.”
Mahomes later fired a 14-yard pass to Hill for touchdown No. 31 on the season, eclipsing the franchise record of 30 set by Hall of Famer Len Dawson in 1964 during a 14-game regular season. That score put the Chiefs ahead 20-7 heading to halftime.
“That's something I do on 'Madden' for real,” Hill said about Mahomes reaching the club record in just 10 games. “That's crazy, man. For him to come in and do that, that's amazing.”
Hill celebrated the touchdown by leaping into the camera bay in the stands behind the end zone, briefly taking control of the camera. He managed to capture the official throwing a flag on him for unsportsmanlike conduct. Hill called the celebration a spur of the moment idea.
“I did not know,” Hill said about Mahomes breaking the franchise record. “The celebration, it just come into my head and I did it.”
Fans cheered the move, but the act didn't go over well with Reid, who called it “too much.”
“I'm all in to the personality thing, but he was out of character there,” Reid said.
Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen battled a ferocious Chiefs pass rush throughout the afternoon, absorbing five sacks along with 13 quarterback hits. He finished 22-of-39 passing for 208 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Rosen led touchdown drives on the team's first possession of each, but couldn't sustain any march down field longer than 46 yards afterwards.
“Our opening drives were pretty long and sustainable and kept our defense (fresh) with pretty well-time possessions,” Rosen said. “Little good nuggets here and there, but there were bad things to clean up.”
Wilks said the Cardinals may need to consider six- and seven-man protection schemes to better protect Rosen.
“I thought he did some good things,” Wilks said. “It's tough when the pocket is collapsing on you and you're not able to go through your progression. I thought he handled the situation well.”
Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford, who picked up one of the sacks and four of the hits on Rosen, came away with respect for the rookie passer for staying aggressive despite the pressure.
“He's going to be a great player,” Ford said. “We just had to take advantage of that today. He's going to be a great player though.”
But in a battle of young quarterbacks who were once roommates at the Manning Passing Academy in college, this day belonged to Mahomes. The 31 touchdowns for Mahomes rank tied for fourth all-time through the first 10 games of the season. Aaron Rodgers also tossed 31 touchdowns in the first 10 games of the 2011 season. They trail Tom Brady (38 in 2007) and Peyton Manning (35 in 2004 and 34 in 2013).
Mahomes also continues eclipsing records for the fastest start to a career for a quarterback in league history. His 31 touchdown passes through his first 11 games broke the mark of 27 by Kurt Warner with the Los Angeles Rams in 1999. His 249 passing yards from Mahomes give him 3,434 yards through his first 11 games, eclipsing the previous best of 3,205 yards by Andrew Luck with Indianapolis in 2012.
“A lot of people doubted him,” Hill said, “saying he wasn't going to do, he wasn't going to do that. But he's showing a lot of people up right now and I'm proud of him. He's just got to continue to move forward, stay humble, stay hungry and he'll be all right.”
It wasn't a perfect game for Mahomes and the offense, however. The team played without wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and finished with their lowest scoring output of the season. The Chiefs also yielded five sacks against the Cardinals after allowing just 12 sacks though the first nine games of the season.
“We probably had too many from an offensive standpoint,” Reid said. “We'll take care of that and make sure we clean up a few things there.”
Mahomes finished 21-of-28 passing for 249 yards passing, ending a streak of eight-straight games with 300 yards passing. The streak fell one short of the league record of nine games held by Drew Brees, who reached the mark twice.