KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A slow motion replay of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes turning his head to look behind him launched a conspiracy theory on social media that he stared down an official, but the real story proves more mundane yet still hysterical.
The moment occurred late in the first quarter with the Chiefs facing third-and-6 at their own 18-yard line. Mahomes didn't see an open receiver, and started scrambling to his right. Once he got outside the pocket, he saw nothing but green turf in front of him.
“I looked back to see if there was a penalty,” Mahomes said Wednesday about his head turn toward the referee Walt Anderson. “I saw that I had the room to run it. I could probably get the first down, but I didn't want to run like 50 yards if I was going to get called back and have to run another play. I looked back to see if there was a penalty, realized there wasn't, so I took off.”
Mahomes scrambled 25 yards for a first down, extending a drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal from kicker Harrison Butker.
The quarterback said it's the first time he remembers looking back for a flag behind him from an official. The longer the passer holds the ball, the more likely the offensive line may get called for holding. Mahomes wanted to know if it was worthwhile to gain as much yardage as he could, or he should he just pick up a first down to extend the drive. If he gained 6 yards for the first down, the Lions would accept the penalty and give the Chiefs another try on third down. But any extra yardage gained on the scramble wouldn't matter.
“I still would have got the first down, it just might not have been the full-sprint first down,” Mahomes explained with a laugh. “Obviously there could be hands to face on the defense, but once I saw there wasn't a flag I made sure to turn it up a little bit.”
Turning to glimpse at the official was pure instinct, he said.
“When I looked back on it, I was like, I don't know why I did that,” Mahomes said. “In the moment I thought about it and I looked back, saw there was no flag so I took off.”