MINNEAPOLIS – Though Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have had plenty of scares already, they've lost just one game, by one point.
The frightening part for the rest of the NFL is what they might look like once they hit their stride.
Mahomes threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter, one to Travis Kelce after the All-Pro tight end had left the game with an ankle injury, and the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-20 on Sunday.
Mahomes went 31 for 41 for 281 yards and no turnovers in his most efficient performance of the season for the Chiefs (4-1), who once again won while not at their best.
“There's a lot of young guys out there, and we're going to keep everybody moving and going in the right direction,” said Mahomes, who completed passes to 10 receivers. “I think by the end of the year we're going to be dangerous, because you're not going to know who's going to get those opportunities throughout the game.”
Kirk Cousins threw for scores to Jordan Addison and Alexander Mattison for the Vikings (1-4). They had two chances at the tying touchdown in the final five minutes, but a late hamstring injury to star wide receiver Justin Jefferson and a lack of timeouts from earlier mismanagement of the game were ultimately too much to overcome.
Jefferson slipped on the turf while trying to make a cut on his route during a third-down pass deep in Kansas City territory. He grabbed the back of his right leg and limped slowly to the sideline. Coach Kevin O'Connell said after the game it was too early to provide a timeline for Jefferson's return.
Mahomes hit Justin Watson with a 33-yard heave on third-and-18 from his own 17 to extend the Chiefs' first possession of the second half. The two-time MVP finished that drive with a tiebreaking 8-yard scoring toss to Rashee Rice.
“We were backed up," Mahomes said. “That really could've changed the game.”
Kelce, whose rumored girlfriend Taylor Swift was not in attendance after the superstar singer attended the Chiefs' previous two games, fell awkwardly to the turf after catching a pass in the second quarter and went for X-rays. He watched the first possession after halftime from the sideline and went back in for the next one.
With coordinator Steve Spagnuolo sending plenty of extra rushers at Cousins, the defense was the catalyst for the Chiefs. Jefferson was held to three catches and 28 yards, both season lows, with cornerback L'Jarius Sneed leading the effort from the secondary.
“They played exceptionally today,” said Chris Jones, who had one of the three sacks and three of the 12 hits on Cousins. “Hats off go to those guys.”
All four of Minnesota's losses have come by eight points or fewer this year after a record 11 wins in 11 one-score games in 2022. The Vikings lost a fumble on their opening possession, again, a turnover by tight end Josh Oliver that the Chiefs recovered at the Minnesota 45. Isaiah Pacheco's touchdown run capped the drive and gave Kansas City the early lead.
The Vikings have an NFL-most 12 turnovers, including eight lost fumbles.
“We need to protect the football, and we need to make plays when they are there,” said Cousins, who went 29 for 47 for 284 yards and no turnovers.
After Cousins connected with Mattison on a 9-yard touchdown pass that pulled the Vikings within seven points with 12:11 left, the defense did its part by forcing punts on both of the Chiefs' possessions.
The Vikings had fourth-and-7 at the 19 with 4:54 remaining and took a delay of game penalty. Then Cousins chucked the ball into the end zone near Addison as he was hit on a cornerback blitz by Trent McDuffie. Addison collided with Sneed, but the flag for defensive pass interference was waved off.
“I feel like I had my head back,” said Sneed, whose removal of his helmet to argue the initial call did not get penalized, much to the anger of O'Connell.
The Vikings regained possession with 1:07 to go at their 19, but Cousins was again under heavy pressure. On the final play from the Chiefs 38, he was sacked by Mike Danna.
“We’ve got to find a way to eliminate some of those outcomes from affecting our chances of winning the game,” O'Connell said.
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The victory gave Mahomes at least one against every opponent in the league. The Vikings were the only team he'd never beaten in six years as Kansas City's starter. This was the first time he'd ever faced the team that plays in the city where his father, Pat Mahomes, pitched for the Minnesota Twins.
Chiefs: LB Nick Bolton (ankle) was sidelined for the third straight game, replaced by Drue Tranquill.
Vikings: C Garrett Bradbury (back) returned to the starting lineup after missing the last three games.
Chiefs: Host Denver on Thursday night.
Vikings: Visit Chicago next Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL