KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a pair of touchdown passes and for more than 300 yards Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, but on his biggest play of the game he didn't let go of the ball at all.
With the Chargers rushing five players on third-and-20 on the final drive of regulation, Mahomes saw the rest of the Chargers' defenders with their backs turned in coverage. Instead of forcing the ball into coverage, he ran 21 yards to put the Chiefs in field goal range and kicker Harrison Butker sent the game into overtime. In extra time, Mahomes again converted a third-down scramble, eventually leading to an overtime victory on another Butker kick.
With the Monday Night Football showdown between the Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) up next, it's notable Mahomes' running isn't as feared as Lamar Jackson's. But Week 2's performance against the Chargers wasn't the first time Mahomes has rescued the Chiefs with his feet. His 15-yard fourth-quarter run on fourth-and-8 set up the winning touchdown in the final seconds last season against the Detroit Lions. His highlight reel 27-yard touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans shortly before halftime of last season's AFC Championship Game put the Chiefs ahead for good.
"He loves the game and loves it when the game is on the line," coach Andy Reid said. "He wants the ball. Other guys, I think, shy away from that. He wants it, and he's got guys around him who want it, and who are willing to reach down deep in a situation like [against the Chargers]."
Mahomes led the Chiefs in L.A. with 54 rushing yards. He has been their top runner five times, including during the playoffs last season against both the Houston Texans and the Titans, and in those games the Chiefs are 5-0.
It's as much about the timing of his runs as it is about the yardage. Against the Chargers he ran six times and five of those were on third down. He converted four of those runs into first downs.
"They were playing coverage," Mahomes said. "They were getting depth and our offensive line was giving me time, but they were getting so much depth that we couldn't find ways to get open. The thing about them playing coverage and being so deep is that they don't have a guy for me. So I was able to run and get some yards downfield. It's just about trying to find whatever way to win, I think that's the biggest thing. If teams are going to stay back and guard our receivers, I'm going to have to find ways with my feet to make stuff happen.
"The good thing about having the guys that I have on my team, the receivers, running backs and tight ends that we have, is that defenses have to be accountable for those guys. [Defenses are] getting depth, they're trying to stop those guys from beating them over the top. Whenever there's room to run I have to be able to take advantage of it. Usually when I scramble I'm looking to throw so you're seeing that defenses now, they're not leaving their guy. They're kind of just staying on them and letting me run."
It's part of Mahomes' resourcefulness to make plays on the run, whether he tucks the ball or makes a throw. His biggest pass play against the Chargers, a 54-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill that traveled 53 yards in the air according to NFL NextGen stats, came while Mahomes was scrambling.
The Chiefs smartly have no intention of taking this part of his game away.
"He's doing a good job because they're doing some things in coverage," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "They're mixing it up and when they're doing that he maximizes the opportunity because there's not a whole player spying him. So if he sees a lane, he takes it. Kudos to him."
Mahomes' ability to make plays -- both passes and runs -- while on the move put him in that category.
"[Running quarterbacks have] always been a part of the [West Coast] offense," Reid said. "You go back and look at the quarterbacks that have been successful in this offense and they've all been mobile guys. Joe Montana could run. That's kind of where it started there. Steve Young could run and Donovan, Michael. You start naming the guys I've had or been around and you just see they're all mobile guys that can get out and go when needed. You don't want to necessarily make a living on it.
"The one unique thing about it is that all the guys keep their eyes downfield, all the great ones. So they're still putting pressure back on the defense with the opportunity to potentially throw the football."