MINNEAPOLIS – Just when it looks like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is out of options, he tends to still find a way.
Two separate gotta-have-it situations swayed the Vikings 27-20 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. The first opened the second half when Kansas City faced a third-and-18 from its own 17. Minnesota had Mahomes where most other quarterbacks would falter.
But not the reigning MVP. Instead, Mahomes threw a 33-yard bomb off his back foot while multiple defenders swamped the pocket. The pass just cleared the fingertips of a leaping Camryn Bynum and landed in receiver Justin Watson's chest.
Eight plays later, Mahomes threw his first of two touchdown passes, putting Kansas City up 20-13.
"The game plan was perfect. It was just a matter of us executing," Bynum said. "Coach put us in great positions to make plays like my play right there. I was in perfect position. I should've taken one more step to make my jump better. As the ball was coming, I went up too early. And as I was coming down, the ball went right over my hand, so that's a miscue on me."
Reminiscent of Akayleb Evans' near-interception-turned touchdown in Week 3 versus the Chargers, the Vikings too often are on the wrong side of a fingertip play.
Bynum said there was no one to blame but himself.
"I gotta take full responsibility for that, knowing that I got to better-time my jump," Bynum said. "Something as simple as that made a difference in the game."
Safety Harrison Smith was flagged the following possession for pass interference on a slightly underthrown fourth-and-one attempt on a long ball intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. If Kansas City did not convert the low-percentage throw, Minnesota would've gained possession at midfield with a chance to tie the game.
Instead, the Chiefs added a touchdown five plays later via a Travis Kelce 4-yard reception from Mahomes and went up by two scores. The scoring drive took 11 plays, covered 74 yards and took more than six minutes off the clock.
"There are plays out there, and we just have to make them. That has kind of been the theme," Smith said. "We've done a lot of good stuff, but fourth-and-one, if I can play it better, but I get a penalty there, and those are game-changing plays."
Yet, in the fourth quarter, the Vikings defense made enough plays to win. Kansas City gained just 38 yards in the final 15 minutes. The Chiefs were 0-for-3 on third downs and punted on both of their fourth-quarter possessions.
The Chiefs tried to run the ball and drain the clock while nursing their one-score fourth-quarter lead. But the Vikings defense forced a stop following a third-and-1 rush that gained nothing. Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco was stopped at the line of scrimmage by a slashing Josh Metellus and Smith.
Smith and linebacker Jordan Hicks each finished with a team-high 10 tackles.
Following a Chiefs punt, the Vikings turned the ball over on downs after a 10-play drive that ended on the Chiefs 24.
Kansas City tried again to keep the ball away from the Vikings offense to end the game but was forced to punt after another failed third-down conversation following the 2-minute warning. With no timeouts, Minnesota stalled at the Chiefs 38-yard line as quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked to end the game.
"There were a couple plays there that he's famous for … for how he's able to overcome some adverse circumstances and get first downs and things like that," Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "But I thought, for the most part, we had a good plan."
Mahomes completed 31 of 41 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota contained him in the pocket, sacking him twice and not allowing a rushing attempt. Edge rushers Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport each recorded a sack.
Davenport's sack preceded Mahomes' 33-yard pass to Watson. Before the completion, it felt like momentum was swinging toward the Vikings. But Mahomes has a way of making low-percentage plays look easy.
"I liked the way we were able to get home with some rush without having to send maximum pressure. Then Flo' (Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores) called a 0 [blitz] there in the second half. I think it was Cam Bynum. I mean, we'll live with that call, knowing that we have an opportunity to get [Mahomes] to put [the ball] up in harm's way to maybe change the game right there."
Mahomes and Kelce are as lethal as any one-two punch in sports. Kansas City remains undefeated this season when Kelce is available. He missed Week 1 with a knee injury and nearly missed the second half of Sunday's game due to a non-contact ankle injury.
The future Hall of Fame tight end did not start the second half but eventually returned to catch a team-high 10 passes for 67 yards and a score.
"You call it bad luck. You call it whatever you want. But in our room, in our locker room, we're going to call it self-inflicted wounds," safety Josh Metellus said. "That's on us. So those things we can control. We have a chance to make a play, or we have a chance to execute a job, we got to do it. And I think once we start to do that, then the sky's the limit for this group."
Minnesota (1-4) heads to Chicago (1-4) next week to face its first NFC North opponent of 2023.