KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Facing third and 15, Patrick Mahomes felt the pressure as the Chiefs tried to set up a screen late in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason opener.
The play quickly broke down as the Texans covered up running back Kareem Hunt and the pass rush ran over the Chiefs’ offensive line.
With just seconds until he took what would’ve been his second sack in three plays, Mahomes pitched the ball forward with his left hand toward Hunt as linebacker Duke Ejiofor collapsed on the quarterback and linebackers Dylan Cole and Brennan Scarlett tackled Hunt. The modified pass fell incomplete.
The quarter ended a play later as Dustin Colquitt punted the ball away, leaving the incomplete pass to Hunt as Mahomes’ final play of a mediocre first quarter.
“They played it well,” Mahomes said. “It was third and long. You always, when it’s third and long, the defense is always alerted to the screen plays. They played it well. They just sat there and didn’t rush upfield. Kareem was pretty covered, so I just burned it at his feet.”
It was hardly the debut Mahomes wanted — or the one that was expected in the Chiefs’ 17-10 loss to the Texans in their preseason opener. But it’s the preseason and Thursday night gave the Chiefs and their young quarterback a chance to measure their progress.
“Too many mistakes with this game, but that’s what the preseason is for,” coach Andy Reid said. “We’ll go back and work on those things. Clean up some things. Small things matter. And it’s good for these guys to learn that. We’ll get back on the horse in two days and get working on it.”
Mahomes’ stat line wasn’t anything spectacular, but it also wasn’t dreadful. He completed five of seven pass attempts for 33 yards in the first quarter.
He opened up the Chiefs’ first offensive drive with a promising 14-yard throw to a wide-open Travis Kelce in the middle of the field. For a moment, it looked like he might try ignite the stadium with a deep throw, but he thought the better of it and made the safe play.
The drive stalled out after that as Mahomes managed two short passes to Tyreek Hill and Hunt, and Hunt added a paltry one-yard rush.
“I feel like we were just starting to get going and we stalled, both of the drives,” Mahomes said. “I want to make sure I can get those drives going a little bit more. That will help us get into the rhythm of things a little bit quicker.”
Mahomes opened the second series with a four-yard pass to Hill before connecting with Kelce again for an eight-yard gain and another first down.
But he wouldn’t make any more progress the rest of the night as he took a five-yard sack on the next play and overthrew Kelce on the play after that. He capped his short outing one play later with the incomplete pitch to Hunt as the Texans’ pass rush manhandled KC’s offensive line.
“There were times Pat had some pressure up there, but the best thing is you either take the sack, take care of the football and not make a turnover or make the play worse,” backup quarterback Chad Henne said. “That’s what Patrick did, and he did a good job.”
Mahomes joked after Tuesday’s practice that he might try to talk coach Andy Reid into letting him go back out for another series if he didn’t get a score in the first quarter.
But Thursday night, Mahomes wasn’t successful in pleading his case.
“I didn’t necessarily tell him,” Mahomes said of his conversation with Reid. “He pretty much told me it was Chad’s time to go and I knew it was already done with the quarter.”
After Mahomes took a sack and absorbed another hard hit in his final series, it was in Reid’s best interest to keep his starting quarterback on the sideline for the second quarter.
“Scoring a touchdown or a field goal would’ve made it go a lot better,” Mahomes said, analyzing his performance. “We moved the ball a little bit, we made some plays, but at the same time, you want to get the drive going a little bit more. We kind of got the feeling, we got the first down on the first drive and you kind of feel like you were going and then you have to maintain those.
“That’s stuff you have to learn and keep doing as the process goes on.”