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Chiefs’ Mahomes making MVP bid with more balanced approach

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes has always pushed the boundaries of what is possible on the field.

And plenty of times over five seasons as the starting quarterback in Kansas City, a line was crossed that led to some admonishment from Andy Reid.

Over the past two years, though, those mistakes have become increasingly rare.

Mahomes still takes it to the limit — trying to fit a throw into a tight window, or make the impossible play, or push the ball downfield when the check-down is wide open.

But he has a better grasp of how far to go without stepping over the line, and the result has been an MVP-caliber season that just might be the finest of his career.

After going 36 of 41 for 336 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday in Houston, Mahomes is on pace to surpass Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 5,477 yards set during his 2013 MVP season with the Broncos, albeit during a 17-game season.

“I want to always have that aggressiveness in me. That’s what got me here and who I am,” Mahomes explained Tuesday, as the newly crowned AFC West champions turned their attention to Saturday’s visit from the Seahawks.

“But you have to find that spot where you’re still aggressive but take what you can underneath,” Mahomes continued.

“I always want to be pushing it to where it’s right at the edge. That’s who I am. It gives guys a chance to make plays, and we are coached that way. Coach (Andy) Reid wants us to push it right to the limit and don’t go past it.”

Even if that means taking the easy throw to running back Jerick McKinnon in the flat. Or the short gain to tight end Travis Kelce over the middle. Or the pedestrian throw to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster along the sideline.

The benefit of all those seemingly simple throws? Mahomes completed 87.8% of this throws against the Texans, breaking the franchise record of 86.36 percent set by Alex Smith against the Raiders on Oct. 16, 2016.

Mahomes also completed his final 20 passes against the Texans, which means he’ll carry one of the longest streaks in league history into the game against Seattle. Five more would tie the record held by three other players.

“He’s always striving to be better, no matter what type of game he has. He comes in Monday, right to the next script,” McKinnon said. “The thing about him, no matter what the score is, no matter how many points we are down, how many points we’re up, he wants to have his foot on the gas the whole time.”

Without going over the line, of course.

Mahomes might have done that the previous week in Denver, when he threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions in another nip-and-tuck win.

And the fact that he was coming off that relatively poor performance — Mahomes still threw for 352 yards and three scores — makes his near-flawless afternoon in Houston all the more impressive.

“I thought he had a tremendous game, and I mentioned it after the game, in particular, coming off the prior one,” Reid said Tuesday. “It’s a great example for our football team how you go back and fix an issue, if he had an issue there, and do it the right way, and that’s what he did. He dug in and really came out and had a great game.”

Just as he’s been doing most of the season.

Mahomes leads the Chargers’ Justin Herbert for the league lead in yards passing by a wide margin. He has 35 touchdown throws, four more than Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. His passer rating is third among everyday quarterbacks. And he’s added 11 touchdown runs, breaking the Chiefs record for the most by a quarterback in a season.

He’s put up all those MVP-caliber numbers without Tyreek Hill, too, who was traded to the Dolphins in the offseason and replaced by an almost entirely new cast of characters around him.

“Certainly, there were some question marks about the offense this year,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said, “given the changes that we had at the receiver position. I think he’s showed that he is the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’s been able to adapt his game to be able to win and put up pretty impressive numbers on a weekly basis.”

NOTES: Reid said “there’s a good chance” that WR Mecole Hardman (abdominal injury) will play Saturday for the first time since Week 9. “He’ll practice with the guys today and see if we can get him in there a little bit,” Reid said. … An illness is running through the Chiefs defensive line room. Chris Jones, Mike Danna and Khalen Saunders did not practice as a result Tuesday. … TE Jody Fortson (elbow) also did not practice and is unlikely to be available against the Seahawks.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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