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None of this is at all fair to Chad Henne, of course.
Henne was terrific last Sunday, save for one still-hard-to-fathom chuck that resulted in an interception that could have been (but wasn’t) a game-changing error against the Browns. He ran for 13 ½ yards on a critical third-and-14 play late in the game. He connected with Tyreek Hill a few moments later on the audacious fourth-down play that clinched the Chiefs’ third straight appearance in an AFC Championship game.
“This,” Henne said later, “was truly a dream come true,” and it was impossible not to feel good for a journeyman’s journeyman who was finally granted a few footsteps in sunlight.
And there wasn’t one soul in America — except, perhaps, the ultra-faithful denizens of Western New York — who wanted to see Chad Henne take even one meaningful snap Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs will welcome the Bills and where the winner will advance to Super Bowl LV in two weeks’ time in Tampa.
Nope. America — outside of Cheektowaga, outside of Amherst, outside of Tonawanda and South Buffalo and Eggertsville and the rest — wanted Patrick Mahomes. Much of this is because Mahomes, to put it simply, is the greatest one-man show in sports right now, a what-will-he-do-next wonder who is impossible to keep your eyes off of.
And when Mahomes went down last week against Cleveland — or, more specifically, when he couldn’t get up without looking like an overserved patron at the Buffalo saloon formerly known as Garcia’s Irish Pub — it immediately cast a pall over the NFL season. Henne saw to it that the Chiefs would survive Sunday. And the doctors saw to it by Friday that they would clear Mahomes to play against Buffalo.
But it isn’t just Mahomes.
It’s also about Mahomes/Allen.
Football players always dismiss matchup comps like this, and logically they are correct. Mahomes and Josh Allen, Buffalo’s third-year quarterback, will not spend even one second on the field together Sunday after pregame warm-ups and before postgame handshakes. Quarterbacks don’t guard each other. Neither do running backs, or cornerbacks, or centers, or punters, or placekickers.
Still, this is a delicious, delectable matchup. This is Mahomes, who will likely lose out on MVP of the season to Aaron Rodgers but is unquestionably MVP of the sport, matching up with Allen, who this year has emerged as a quarterback who isn’t just every bit as productive as Mahomes but also every bit as entertaining.
Mahomes vs. Allen is what America wanted.
And Mahomes vs. Allen — along with, oh-by-the-way, Chiefs vs. Bills — is exactly what America will get Sunday sometime around 6:40 p.m., soon after Rodgers and Tom Brady get around to determining the Geritol division of a terrific quarterbacking day.
Mahomes, 25 years old, vs. Allen, 24.
Yeah. Let’s do this.
“Luckily enough for me, it wasn’t as bad as it looked and felt that day or the day after,” Mahomes said Friday, when he was officially cleared to take part. “You can only control what you can control. For me, that was coming in every day with a positive attitude, try to make myself better, try to prepare myself as if I was going to play.”
The Chiefs won Bills Stadium in Week 6, when Kansas City dismissed Buffalo, 26-17, but the Bills have become more and more explosive while the Chiefs’ title defense has become more of a grind.
“They showed a couple of different things on defense [in the first game], stuff we probably weren’t expecting. I think we’ve gotten a lot better since that game,” Allen said this week. “This is just two good teams that are going to go out there and compete. It’s going to be a four-quarter dogfight. We know that, we understand that.”
Both teams do. As does America. And this is why we wanted Mahomes on one side — Mahomes with his 38 touchdowns and six interceptions this year, his 66.3 completion percentage, his 4,740 passing yards (and 308 rushing yards) and QBR of 82.9 — and Allen on the other — Allen carrying his own dizzying numbers: 37 TDs, 10 picks, 69.2 percent completions, 4,544 passing yards (and 421 running yards, and eight rushing TDs) and QBR of 81.6.
“I’m looking forward to this,” Allen said. “I really am.”
Believe us, kid. You aren’t alone.
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