KANSAS CITY, Mo — Patrick Mahomes awoke early on Tuesday to open presents with his little sister and the rest of his family, then the Chiefs quarterback hopped in his car for a quick trip to Arrowhead Stadium.
Where he watched film. On Christmas.
He got in his usual couple of hours of game-week prep on what is typically a day off for NFL teams, then hopped back in his car and headed home for the family feast.
Then he watched more film. Still on Christmas.
It’s that dedication to Mahomes’ craft that has helped the second-year pro become an MVP candidate as a first-time starter. He already has shattered numerous franchise records, including yards passing and TD passes in a single season, and Mahomes has positioned Kansas City for a third straight AFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a victory Sunday over Oakland.
The biggest wild card for the Chiefs entering the season has become their one constant.
“It’s the process. You set up the schedule for a reason,” Mahomes said Wednesday, when the rest of the Chiefs returned to practice.
“You follow the same schedule — game plan, watch film, practice — and you do the same things you’ve been doing to have success.”
At this point, why would Mahomes deviate from his routine?
He’s thrown 48 touchdown passes to lead the NFL by a dozen, and his 4,816 yards passing trail only Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He leads the league in yards per attempt among QBs that have started all season, and only the Saints’ Drew Brees has a better quarterback rating.
Speaking of ratings, Mahomes only has had three games in which his rating has failed to reach 100, and the Chiefs still won all of those games. He’s thrown a TD pass in every game except one, and that was a 30-14 rout of Jacksonville.
And he’s thrown at least three touchdown passes in 10 games, with a pair of six-touchdown efforts in shootouts against the Patriots and Rams.
“You just trust the process,” Mahomes said in explaining his unflappable nature. “Trust that your teammates are going to make the big plays they’ve made all year, and trust in my ability not to do too much. You just play the same game you’ve played all year.”
Or the same game he’s played his whole life.
Few were convinced that Mahomes would seamlessly transition from the Air Raid system of Texas Tech to the versatile, complex West Coast offense of Andy Reid. But the Chiefs coach saw enough of him last season in practice that Reid was willing to trade away Alex Smith and give him a shot.
Now, the Chiefs are promoting Mahomes in MVP hype videos as they barrel toward the playoffs.
“I am happy for all these guys, whatever accolades they get,” Reid said. “Patrick has worked hard for all of that stuff. There are a lot of great players in this league, so all the sudden you get pointed out as doing that, it’s important. Then it’s important to get back to what is real and that’s the game. But I am happy for him. A lot of work went into that for him.”
Right, the game. The one that Mahomes was in the film room prepping for on Christmas, while the rest of his family was relaxing at home. The Chiefs have already squandered two chances to lock up the division title, and they could fall all the way to the No. 5 seed with a loss Sunday.
So it makes sense that Mahomes was cramming for the Raiders on Tuesday.
Even if it didn’t mean straying from the norm.
“Everybody is excited for the opportunity,” Mahomes said, “getting to play a division opponent, a rival in our division, then get to play at Arrowhead Stadium. We want to stay here from here on out. If we come out and play like we know we can, we can make a run at this thing.”
Notes: RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returned to practice for the first time since breaking his fibula and tearing ligaments in Week 5 against Jacksonville. It begins a three-week window in which Duvernay-Tardif can get up to speed. “We’ll just bring him back gradually,” Reid said. “It’s just a matter of getting caught up with the speed of the game.” ... Reid said WR Sammy Watkins was out of a walking boot and “moving around,” though his return remains uncertain. He hasn’t played a full game since early November.