‘Playoff Chad’ rises to meet postseason moment again for Chiefs

Jaguars Chiefs Football
Posted at 10:36 PM, Jan 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-22 12:14:09-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chad Henne has made two playoff appearances in a 15-year NFL career, and both came as an injury replacement for Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.

Two years ago, Henne stepped in when Mahomes was knocked out of an AFC Divisional win against Cleveland.

He went 6 of 8 for 66 yards with an interception, but the performance was most notable for a 5-yard completion to Tyreek Hill on a critical fourth-and-1 late in the game, which helped propel the Chiefs to a second straight Super Bowl appearance.

Henne played an even bigger role Saturday when Mahomes suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter against Jacksonville, leading a 98-yard touchdown drive that had Kansas City in front at halftime en route to a 27-20 victory.

“We had a veteran guy, Chad Henne, stepping up to the plate yet again in the playoffs,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “Playoff Chad, baby — we keep finding a way to win with him at QB.”

Just as Chiefs coach Andy Reid trusted Henne with the game on the line against the Browns, the first play call from the 2-yard line was a pass.

“The first play was stick (route),” Henne said. “I hit Kelce and it kind of got us going.”

It also didn’t come as a surprise to him that Reid would show faith in that moment.

“That’s why he’s such a great coach,” Henne said. “Any quarterback that comes into this system seems to have success, and he believes in the guys that are on his team. He had the confidence in me to throw the pass, obviously, but at the same time, we’re not changing the offense. We’re going to go out and try to execute to the best of our ability and move the ball.”

With Mahomes in the locker room getting his right ankle X-rayed, Henne went 5 of 7 for 23 yards and finished the length-of-the-field march with a 1-yard touchdown to Kelce.

“That’s definitely tough coming out in a backed-up situation, but he’s got so much experience and it’s no surprise he was able to handle it,” center Creed Humphrey said. “... Whether it was Pat or whether it was Chad, we just had to go out and execute our job. We know how Chad can play. We know what Chad can do when he comes in, so we have our full trust in Chad, too.”

Leaning on rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, who had 49 of his game-high 95 yards rushing on the drive, also helped.

“Everybody trusted Chad,” Reid said. “That’s the best part. That’s the way he handles himself and the confidence the guys have in him. ... The guys love Chad and they play for him, so it was a great deal.”

After the initial completion to Kelce, Pacheco picked up 15 yards on a couple runs the next two plays, which Henne said established a little rhythm for the offense to keep matriculating the ball down the field.

“Definitely nerves are high,” Henne said. “Two years ago when I did it, the same thing, but once you get in the game and get going, it’s just like repetition. It’s not like I’ve never done it before. I’ve played in enough games, so when the opportunity’s called upon, I feel like I’m ready.”

Henne said he and third-string quarterback Shane Buechele take shadow drops as Mahomes goes through first-team reps in practice and they stay after to throw with select receivers in an effort to stay sharp throughout the season.

“Every single day, he’s preparing as if he’s the starting quarterback, as if he’s one snap away,” Kelce said. “Sure enough, you saw that today. To be able to come into a hostile game, backed up to the 2-yard line and go 98 yards on your first drive, that just shows the type of competitor he is and how the guys rally around him and how much leadership he has.”