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Mahomes made just enough clutch plays to stay ahead of the Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 20:   on December 20, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New...
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 20: on December 20, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)(Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire | Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)
Updated: Dec. 20, 2020 at 9:22 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When you’re trying to clinch the division, there’s no such thing as a moral victory, but the Saints were as close as they could be to beating the Chiefs without getting it done. The difference was simply Patrick Mahomes.

But then again, it’s not so simple. By the numbers, Mahomes completing just 55 percent of his passes is the second worst mark he’s had this year. The Raiders, the only team to beat Kansas City, held him to 51 percent back in Week 5.

But again, with Mahomes, it’s not the overall numbers, but the individual game-breaking plays that make the difference, and many of them came on third down, where Kansas City was 9 of 18.

A prime example of the Mahomes magic came on their second touchdown drive. On a third and nine, the Saints stuck to what was working, dropping seven in coverage and getting pressure on Mahomes. But while most quarterbacks would have been tracked down, Mahomes not only avoided the rush, but bought his receiver, Sammy Watkins, time to get open.

“The biggest challenge is when he extends plays,” says Saints head coach Sean Payton. “So a two and a half or three second route turns into a five or six second route. That’s challenging, and he does it so well to the right or to the left. He’s a fantastic player.”

Another prime example came on Mahomes’ third touchdown pass of the day in the third. It looks the first read wasn’t there. But Mahomes keeps the play alive long enough and throws an absolutely perfect pass to Mecole Hardman in the back of the end zone. Again, the defense does 99 percent of what they need do to get a stop, but Mahomes just kept coming up with an answer on the big downs.

“He’s just a legendary quarterback,” says Saints linebacker Kwon Alexander. “We’ve just got to do our job and stay in our lanes. And we’ve just got to stop him. He’s going to make plays scrambling, but we’ve just got to stop him. That was the main goal. We’ve just got to get it done.”

Fortunately for the Saints, there’s not another Mahomes on the regular season schedule. But if and when they get a chance to face him again, they know where they’ll have to be even better.

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