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Chiefs don’t look like contenders in Mahomes’ return

The most anticipated return to the NFL on Sunday was the Chiefs getting back league MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City had gone 1-1 with Matt Moore starting in place of Mahomes to stay afloat in the AFC playoff picture, but the Chiefs had been passed by New England and Baltimore as true conference title contenders.

1. Did Patrick Mahomes’ return live up to the hype and restore the Chiefs to contenders?

No. And there may be even more concern after the Chiefs fell 35-32 on the road against the Titans.

If you just looked at Mahomes’ stat line — 36 of 50 for 446 yards and three touchdowns (119.2 rating) — you’d think he was 100 percent. He was pretty good, but looked rusty and seemed to favor his right knee, which was dislocated against the Broncos on Oct. 17.

Mahomes was sacked twice, including on a third down with the game in the balance, and he didn’t run with the ball once. If Mahomes is going to be just a pocket passer, then he and the Chiefs are going to be much easier to defend in the coming weeks. That said, Mahomes’ jump pass for a score to Mecole Hardman on third down with 12:04 remaining — Mahomes did land on his left foot — showed he’s still capable of making phenomenal plays on the fly.

The bigger concern with the Chiefs, as always, was the defense. Even with its offense holding the ball for 37:51, Kansas City allowed Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill to look all-world in completing 13 of 19 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns (133.9 rating). Tannehill marched the Titans 61 yards in four plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining.

Kansas City also allowed Derrick Henry to rush for 188 yards on 23 carries and two scores, including a 68-yard TD.

Then there was Andy Reid’s game and clock management, which cost his team again. After the Chiefs rushed for 3 and 5 yards, Reid elected to pass instead of running the ball again with 1:36 remaining. Mahomes was sacked, and the Chiefs screwed up the field-goal attempt to give the Titans great field position for the game-winning score.

Mahomes may have been back, but the Chiefs are still a long way from being an AFC contender. At this point, they need to worry about fending off the Raiders, who are now one game back and visit Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 1.

2. Did the Browns have the worst offensive play sequence in NFL history, and could it be the lingering memory of the Freddie Kitchens era in Cleveland?

If it wasn’t the worst, it was certainly up there.

To recap what happened, the Browns had first-and-goal at the Buffalo 1-yard line with 6:20 left in the first quarter. Despite getting two pass interference penalties and eight shots to score, the Browns turned it over on downs when a toss play to running back Nick Chubb was met by seemingly the entire Bills defense for a 2-yard loss.

The Browns eventually bailed out Kitchens with a 19-16 victory over the Bills — and Cleveland did score on its 11th goal-to-go play later in the game — but that was one of the worst goal line sequences I have ever seen.

3. What kind of cool alignment did the Ravens debut while toying with the Bengals in Baltimore’s 49-13 victory?

The Ravens wouldn’t say what the play was called, but you might as well coin it “The Heisman.” When offensive coordinator Greg Roman sent backup quarterback Robert Griffin III onto the field with 11:49 remaining in the second quarter, the Ravens had three Heisman Trophy winners — Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram and Griffin — in the backfield at the same time. Out of a pistol-modified wishbone, Jackson faked the dive to Ingram, kept the ball around right end and then pitched to Griffin for a 9-yard gain.

“That was dope,” Jackson said. “I really wanted to pitch to him fast; I think that’s why I fell. I wanted him to get up and finish with that track speed and let him do him. But it was a little too slow on that field. I wanted to let RG do his thing.

4. Which contender lost the most on Sunday?

The Saints. We understand coming out flat and losing 26-9 at home to a division rival — even one as bad as the Falcons — often happens in the NFL. And division games are always tough because the two teams know each other so well.

But this loss could really hurt the Saints when it comes to home-field advantage.

They are now two games behind the 49ers. The Saints knew, despite San Francisco’s undefeated start, that they could control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed since the 49ers would be visiting the Superdome on Dec. 8.

Now, with this lackluster loss, the Saints are going to need more help.

5. Who won in the battle of New York?

Absolutely no one.

By virtue of their 34-27 victory over the Giants, the Jets lost ground for the No. 1 seed by posting their second victory of the season.

The Giants lost in multiple areas. The defense allowed Sam Darnold to tip them for 230 yards on just 19 completions, while Giants QB Daniel Jones was sacked four times. Running back Saquon Barkley rushed 13 times and gained 1 yard. That’s not a typo, and that’s a 0.077-yard average.

Really, New York-area football fans were the biggest loser. They had to watch that.

Greg A. Bedard covers the NFL for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at gbedard@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GregABedard on Twitter.

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