Chad Henne, Chiefs Beat Baker Mayfield, Browns Despite Patrick Mahomes' Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2021

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with teammates after scoring on a touchdown run during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The defending champs are still alive. Whether they'll have superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains to be seen.  

The Kansas City Chiefs opened their postseason with a 22-17 win over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Divisional Round on Sunday, looking very much like the NFL's best team for the first three quarters after a 14-2 regular season.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Mahomes TD. They made it look easy (via @NFL) https://t.co/J4VUNg7XvV

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Travis Kelce made this DB look silly 😳 (via @thecheckdown) https://t.co/ihmJxikatK

But the win wasn't without huge concerns. Mahomes was clearly a bit hobbled after injuring his toe in the first half and was evaluated for a concussion after leaving the game in the third quarter, as he looked very woozy following a hit. He was ruled out with a concussion in the fourth quarter.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Mahomes is being evaluated for a concussion after this hit (via @NFLBrasil) https://t.co/XoCvtl5GB9

Prior to that, kicker Harrison Butker missed a chip-shot field goal and an extra point that would have widened the lead. 

That opened the door for the Browns to make a fourth-quarter push, and they cut the deficit to five points with 11 minutes remaining. But Chad Henne—conjuring the memories of backup-quarterbacks-turned-postseason-legends before him like Frank Reich and Nick Foles—executed a clutch 4th-and-1 conversion with a pass to Tyreek Hill with just over a minute remaining, ending the game and pushing Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

WHAT A CALL ON 4TH DOWN 🚨 Andy Reid put the game in Henne’s hands (via @NFL) https://t.co/0rp3HoRvDZ

Patrick Mahomes II @PatrickMahomes

#HenneThingIsPossible https://t.co/2TkkWiyf0p

Mike Greenberg @Espngreeny

That is a stunningly gutsy call by Andy - coached to win the game. #Chiefs

Rany Jazayerli @jazayerli

All season long, the Chiefs held slim leads at the end of the game, and needing to run out the clock, Reid trusted Patrick Mahomes to make passes to get the first down even at the risk of stopping the clock. But today, he trusted *Chad Henne*. And the Chiefs won. What a coach.

Dan Graziano @DanGrazianoESPN

Andy Reid just went ahead and put the season in Chad Henne's hands. That guy is stone cold.

It was an incredible moment of trust from Andy Reid after Henne threw an interception earlier in the fourth quarter. And if the Chiefs ultimately repeat as champions, it's a moment their fans will never forget. 


Key Stats

Patrick Mahomes, K.C.: 21-of-30 for 255 yards and a touchdown, three rushes for 14 yards and a touchdown

Chad Henne, K.C.: 6-of-8 for 66 yards and an interception

Travis Kelce: Eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown

Baker Mayfield, CLE: 23-of-37 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception

Nick Chubb: 13 carries for 69 yards, two catches for four yards

Kareem Hunt: Six carries for 32 yards and a touchdown

Rashard Higgins: Five catches for 88 yards and a fumble


Henne Was a Hero, but Everything Hinges on Mahomes' Health

Henne entered the pantheon of Chiefs legends Sunday, rescuing Kansas City at the precise moment it appeared Cleveland was going to mount a comeback with Mahomes sidelined. But while Reid is a brilliant offensive mind and the Chiefs are loaded with talents like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, their competitive advantage has always hinged on one factor: Mahomes is the best quarterback alive. 

Kevin Seifert @SeifertESPN

Now the question becomes whether Patrick Mahomes will be cleared to play in the AFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs weathered the storm for a little over a quarter, already holding a lead, as they turned largely to the running game and defense. To Henne's credit, he also made some critical, and clutch, throws. 

Rich Cimini @RichCimini

Chad Henne threw 1,997 passes in his career before today — and you can’t remember any of them. He tosses a short, fourth-down completion today, and he’s a hero. Gotta love the NFL. #KCvsCLE

But if the Chiefs have to face the extremely talented Buffalo Bills next week without Mahomes, they'll be in trouble. Serious, serious trouble. 

Henne and the Chiefs averted disaster Sunday. But if they want to repeat as champions, they need Mahomes. 


The Future Is Bright in Cleveland

Sunday was an opportunity missed for the Browns, who had a chance to orchestrate a comeback with Kansas City's best player sidelined. They'll be kicking themselves all offseason for failing to capitalize. 

But the Browns are building something special. Baker Mayfield proved this season that he's a franchise player worth building around. Nick Chubb has emerged as one of the game's best running backs. Myles Garrett leads a defense with real potential. And the Browns will get Odell Beckham Jr. back next season. 

CJ McCollum @CJMcCollum

Great season fellas . Can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year https://t.co/RuCxyLPHbe

Dan Orlovsky @danorlovsky7

To the @Browns 👏👏👏 You’ve earned the respect of everyone in the #NFL Awesome season

Jim Reineking @jimreineking

Not exactly consolation for #Browns fans at the moment, but this team is going to be tough to defeat moving forward.

Jerry Crasnick @jcrasnick

Tough loss for the #Browns today. But as a fan since the Leroy Kelly-Paul Warfield days, I’ve got no complaints. They played hard every game. And I really have a sense they’re legit. A few smart roster moves, and they’ll be back.

Plus, the Browns were downright unlucky at times Sunday. Higgins in particular will rue his fumble into the end zone:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Browns were THIS close to scoring this TD 😱 (via @NFLUK) https://t.co/Tefl72gcwU

The Browns had a fantastic season. They ended an 18-year playoff drought. They eliminated their bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, from the postseason. They went from 6-10 last year to 11-5. Sunday was a heartbreaker, but it may also be an indicator of better days ahead.


What's Next?

Kansas City will host the Buffalo Bills next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET on CBS. Cleveland enters its offseason.