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Kansas City Chiefs use more Patrick Mahomes magic vs. Ravens to close in on AFC’s top seed

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Kansas City Chiefs use more Patrick Mahomes magic vs. Ravens to close in on AFC’s top seed

It was right there to be had. The Baltimore Ravens had Patrick Mahomes backed into a corner, late in the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium, poised to pull off a magnificent upset.

 Then it happened. More Mahomes magic.

 Think you like your odds, playing with the NFL’s No. 1 defense, on fourth-and-nine?

 Think again. Mahomes, suffocated for the bulk of the second half, rolled right on a play that began with 89 seconds on the clock. He bought time, slipped away from the rush, then spotted his hobbling receiver, Tyreek Hill, crossing deep over the middle. He flicked a laser of a pass for a 48-yard completion that didn’t technically win the game … except that it essentially won the game.

Sure, the Ravens had more chances. The Chiefs had to convert another fourth down, from the 3-yard line, for the game-tying touchdown. And Baltimore got lucky after Lamar Jackson was strip-sacked for a fumble on the ensuing possession, with a missed K.C. field goal that set up overtime.

Yet it really came down to this: The Ravens, falling 27-24 in OT, just plain blew it … which is just another way Mahomes will make the best of them look oh-so-foolish.

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With the comeback on Sunday, coupled with New England’s crazy collapse on the final miracle play at Miami, the Chiefs (11-1) all but assured themselves of the No. 1 seed for the AFC playoffs.

Yes, the road to the Super Bowl will go through Arrowhead Stadium.

For many teams, having the No. 1 seed virtually punches a ticket to the Super Bowl. But history provides quite the warning for the Chiefs. Long-time Kansas City fans know it’s way too early to exhale. Back when Marty Schottenheimer coached the Chiefs, they claimed the top seed twice in the mid-90s and squandered it. And now the Chiefs are led by Andy Reid, who for all of his creative brilliance and regular-season exploits, has some kind of curse or another when it comes to winning in January.

 Besides, the Ravens – who just might have to return to Arrowhead in January as a wild-card team – laid out the “almost-perfect” formula for beating the Chiefs and getting the best of Mahomes, Reid and that high-octane offense. The Ravens rushed for 198 yards on Sunday and, well, almost held the Chiefs to a season-low point performance. Almost won the time-of-possession stat. Almost closed the deal.

 Then again, “almost” wasn’t good on Sunday, and it won’t be worth much in January.

 In this case, it almost provides hope that the Chiefs can be beaten at Arrowhead with “ugly football” if you don’t leave a crack open for Mahomes.

 Forget the ancient history of the Schottenheimer years or Reid’s past playoff setbacks.

 It’s a new deal now because of the magical Mahomes, who upped his NFL-high meter of TD passes for the season to 43. That’s the difference, which was proved again on Sunday. Lesson: If you leave an opening, he’ll take it.

It’s amazing what this kid, just 23, sees on the field – even as he’s running for dear life.

But that vision, instinct and, well, the ability to sling it side-armed, or like a shortstop, or like a point guard, is why the Chiefs will have their best chance since the Len Dawson years to advance to the Super Bowl. Sure, they miss the impact of Kareem Hunt, dumped after the TMZ video exposed his brutality against a woman. And with wideout Sammy Watkins sidelined, Hill’s gritty hobbling on an apparently injured foot is a cause for concern.

Yet this is a quarterback’s game, and the Chiefs have the real deal.

And please, don’t believe the lying stat sheet. Mahomes threw 53 times for 377 yards (2 TDs, 1 interception) on Sunday. That’s surely lighting it up, especially when considering the big plays and absence of big blunders in crunch time.

But the stat sheet contends Jackson, the Ravens’ multi-threat of a quarterback, had a higher pass efficiency rating than Mahomes. Jackson (13-of-24, 147 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions) had a 100.5 rating, while poor Patrick graded out at 91.5.

In this case, just believe your lying eyes. We all know which quarterback had the better day: the one who won. You may not be conditioned to believe what a passer can do as he’s scrambling on fourth-and-nine, but by now it’s pretty apparent that you can believe what you see with Mahomes.

 That, surely, will make the Chiefs very hard to beat while at home in January.

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