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“The guys were the most pumped up I’ve ever seen them going into a game” – Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes on ‘underdog’ AFC Championship victory

After winning the AFC Championship game and securing a spot in his third Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes discussed going into the game as an ‘underdog’, just eight days after suffering a high ankle sprain.

“I think the guys were probably the most pumped up I’ve seen them going into a game, a lot of trash talk was coming from a lot of different places, even the mayor came at me.

“Whenever you feel like the underdog playing at Arrowhead Stadium it gets our guys ready to go.”

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Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs reached their third Super Bowl in his fifth year as a starter, after a 23-20 victory over Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning AFC Champions.

Many saw the Chiefs as underdogs heading into the game, not only due to questions over their QB’s ankle, but also because Burrow was 3-0 vs Mahomes in his young career.

“I didn’t expect to be able to run very much just with the way it felt, but the training staff did a great job to get me enough mobility to protect myself, Mahomes expressed, before pointing out;

“At the end of the game, I had a run to get the first down, and it got us into field goal range.

“I thought the stomping was going to be the hardest part, especially planting the right leg to throw across the body, that definitely didn’t feel good. The worst tweak was when I fumbled and I tried to pick it up.”

The Arrowhead regulars were in control for most of the game, but a late Mahomes fumble gave them a scare.

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“It was going to Marquez (Valdes-Scantling), who was wide open, they blitzed and it just slipped out of my hand.

“Luckily it didn’t cost us the game and our defense stepped up and got some stops for us in the end, because it was a big moment.”

“Now, the job is not finished for us, we’ve got the chance to go up against a great football team in the Philadelphia Eagles.

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When asked about returning to yet another Super Bowl, Mahomes revealed that he’s approaching this one with a different mindset.

“When I first got into the league it all happened so fast, winning MVP, winning the Super Bowl, I thought that was just how it went.

“Now I’ve dealt with failure, losing the AFC Championship, losing the Super Bowl. I know how much hard work and daily grit it takes.”

You can watch Mahomes and the Chiefs suit up in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday 11th February. Both Sky Sports and ITV are showing the game here in the UK, with kick-off set for 11:30 PM GMT.

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Week 14 and 15: Rookie Standouts

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Is it just me, or is the season getting better every week? This week had it all: high-stakes drama, questionable refereeing, the biggest comeback win in NFL history, and possibly the most mind-blowing finish to a game this season. Since I missed last week’s entry, here are three rookies that stood out in weeks 14 and 15.

Week 14 

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Brock Purdy, Quarterback – San Francisco 49ers

Purdy looked confident in the pocket as he finished 16 of 21 for 185 yards and two touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 134.0, all of this while starting opposite the greatest of all time.

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Travon Walker, Edge – Jacksonville Jaguars

The number one pick in the draft finally regained that swagger as he ended his five-week sack drought with a dominant performance. Finishing with two hurries, one sack, and one fumble, he recorded a 91.6 PFF pass rush rating.

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Isiah Pacheco, Running Back – Kansas City Chiefs

After delivering solid rushing performances this season, Pacheco has started to become a threat in the passing game. Finishing the game with 93 all-purpose yards, he also forced five missed tackles with his aggressive running style.

Week 15 

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Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge – New York Giants

Thibodeaux bet the house on himself this week with a bold statement in the lead up to the Giants’ 20-12 win over the Washington Commanders. When asked if he liked prime time, the rookie responded with bravado and swagger: “Prime time like me.”

He backed up that quote straight away by stuffing two runs on the Commanders first possession before getting another on their second. Despite being shown on the sidelines getting oxygen, nothing was slowing him down. However, at the start of the 2nd quarter, he charged past Washington lineman Charles Leno Jr. to bat the ball out of Taylor Heinicke’s hands, pick up the fumble, and rumble in for his first career touchdown. Kayvon finished the day with 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, and 12 tackles (9 solo).

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Tyler Allgeier, Running Back – Atlanta Falcons

This is probably an overdue appearance for the Falcons’ rookie running back. He’s quietly flown under the radar due to his split load with Cordale Patterson, but has made the most of his opportunities, picking up tough yards and first downs.

Despite a slow start this week, where he only had one carry in the first quarter, he quickly found his rhythm, and despite finishing on the losing side in the game against the New Orleans Saints, he managed to have a career day. Finishing with 139 yards from 17 carries, Allgeier tore up the Saints defence at a rate of 8.2 yards per carry, converting eight first downs and forcing six missed tackles, leading to 100 of his 139 yards coming after contact. He also converted a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Allgeier now sits at 743 yards, only 280 yards behind the Falcons rookie rushing record set by William Andrews in 1979. 

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Jahan Dotson, Wide Receiver – Washington Commanders

In the last three weeks, Dotson has played the Giants twice either side of a well-deserved bye week, and on both occasions, the continued evolution of the chemistry between him and Taylor Heinicke has been in full flow, and as such, Dotson has been able to showcase his ability to make highlight reel catches.

The rookie out of Penn State eclipsed 100 yards for the first time in his career, with the majority of them coming after a 61-yard catch that almost sparked a late-game tying drive. With the Commanders backed up at their own 9-yard line, Heinicke uncorked a deep shot that Dotson managed to haul in despite impressive coverage by the Giants’ Jason Pinnock. Finishing the game with four receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown, Dotson took his touchdown total to six for the season, only two behind the Commanders rookie franchise record held by Charlie Brown.

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Week 12: Rookie Standouts

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Thanksgiving week always brings us a feast of games, and this year was no different, with three exciting contests on Turkey Day itself. The weekend didn’t disappoint either, with multiple shock results and a couple of overtimes sprinkled in for good measure. Here are three rookies that stood out among the pack:

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Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver – New York Jets

What a difference a week makes. After being frustrated by last week’s abysmal quarterback performance from Zach Wilson, there was a new man under centre this week, and Mike White was able to turn things around thanks in part to his main target, Garrett Wilson.

Wilson continued his stellar year by catching five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown, a 51-yard catch and run, was somewhat fortuitous as the Bears’ Eddie Jackson, who was covering Wilson, suffered a foot injury on the play, which put him on the ground; however, it was still an outstanding midair catch, and as they say, they all count. Wilson’s second score wrestled the lead back from the Bears just before halftime, and the Jets took care of the rest, shutting the Bears out in the second half.

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Brian Robinson, Running Back – Washington Commanders

Another week and another stellar performance from the Washington running back, who, along with Taylor Heinicke, has been a major part of the Commanders’ recent resurgence, and both players’ fortunes could be a major factor in a late playoff push for yet another NFC East team.

Robinson finished the day with 105 yards on 18 carries, including a long of 21 yards. He also had two catches on three targets for 20 yards and a touchdown. In the last three games, all wins for the Commanders Robinson has now recorded 248 rushing yards on 59 carries at an average of 4.2 yards per carry. With two upcoming games against the Giants, who allow the second-most yards per carry, Robinson will be confident in his ability to maintain his ground dominance.

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Trent McDuffie, Cornerback – Kansas City Chiefs

It’s safe to say that it’s been a fractured season for first-rounder Trent McDuffie. Following a hamstring injury in Week 1, the cornerback was placed on injured reserve before being activated at the start of November. Though it is highly unlikely that McDuffie will get close to a defensive rookie of the year nomination, it could very well be a case of what might have been.

Since his return, McDuffie has stayed mostly under the radar while playing some of the best football of any of the rookie cornerbacks. This past week, he only allowed two catches for 13 yards on six targets and had a pass breakup. In his four games since his return from injury, he’s been targeted 19 times and only allowed 10 receptions.

Honourable Mentions

Kayvon Thibodeaux (New York Giants), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers), Jake Ferguson (Dallas Cowboys), Malcolm Rodriguez (Detroit Lions), Skyy Moore (Kansas City Chiefs)

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Week 2: Rookie Standouts

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Week 2 is now in the books and what a week it was. With last second heroics, head scratching coaching decisions and comebacks galore, it’s time once again to look at three rookies that made big contributions to their teams’ results this week. Let’s get into it. 

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Aidan Hutchinson, Edge – Detroit Lions  

Hutchinson was held to a solitary tackle in his NFL debut against the Philadelphia Eagles but commented afterwards that he had learnt a lot. He’s obviously a quick learner because he exploded against the Washington Commanders. In the first half, he became the first Lion rookie ever to record three sacks in a game and the fourth youngest ever to do so. 

The 2nd overall pick has now shown the rest of the NFL that he’s the real deal, and though he may not get three every week, the sacks will likely continue to come as he gains more experience. 

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Jaylen Watson, Cornerback – Kansas City Chiefs 

It’s not often a seventh-round pick gets a spotlight as a rookie, but when you now own the record for the longest go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown by a rookie, I think it is well deserved. 

Jaylen Watson was thrust into Thursday night’s game after an injury to first-rounder Trent McDuffie and knew he was likely going to have a busy evening as the Los Angeles Chargers would more than likely target his side of the field. That much was true, but Watson would only allow 5 completions from 12 targets before his game-sealing pick 6, and as the dust settled on the Chiefs’ 27-24 win, Watson deservedly won AFC Defensive Player of the Week. 

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Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver – New York Jets  

As the Browns scored to extend their lead to 30-17 with 1:55 left in the game, Garrett Wilson felt responsible as he had dropped a pass from Joe Flacco that would have been enough for a first down and extended the drive. Had the game petered out after the Browns touchdown, it would have been a bittersweet day for Wilson with his touchdown and 75 yards, but there was more drama to come. 

The last two minutes of this game turned into insanity, and after the onside kick was recovered, Wilson had a chance to make amends. He gladly took the opportunity, catching a 15-yard pass to score his second touchdown of the game and complete the unlikely comeback.