Patrick Mahomes' first season as the Chiefs' starting quarterback was one for the history books. After spending his rookie season on the sideline, Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards (ninth all-time) and a league-high 50 touchdown passes to win league MVP. Mahomes followed up that season by winning Super Bowl MVP after leading the Chiefs to their first title in 50 years.
While Mahomes didn't appear to have any missing qualities as a first-year starter, he believes Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is better at one specific aspect of his game than he was during his first season under center in Kansas City. Tagovailoa, who is 4-1 as the Dolphins' starting quarterback, will go up against Mahomes and the 11-1 Chiefs in Miami on Sunday.
"He knows how to manage the game and manage the situation," Mahomes said of Tagovailoa. "He does a good job of knowing that his defense and special teams is working and he can do what he can on offense to put up enough points to win football games. He's done that his whole career. It's truly a remarkable thing. That's something that I wasn't that good at my first year here.
"Obviously, he has the talent. He can make all the throws. He can roll to his right, to his left, throw off-balance and can run and make things happen, too. But that veteran mental mindset that he has, I think that's truly special at this time in his career."
Tagovailoa's veteran mindset allowed him to stay patient following a slow start in this past Sunday's home game against the Dolphins. After failing to score a touchdown during the first half, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins' offense opened up the second half with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with Tagovailoa's five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki. The Dolphins, using an up-tempo attack, scored on their next two possessions en route to a 19-7 win.
While his 296 passing yards was a season-high, Tagovailoa was critical of himself when asked about the Dolphins' slow start on the offensive side of the ball.
"I need to help our guys start a lot faster offensively," he said. "I think the guys knew what we wanted to do as far as our game plan, but I wasn't playing in sync with how the guys were. I think things started to click during the end of the first half, then we knew what we wanted to do going into the second half."
While completing only eight passes to Gesicki in his first four starts, Tagovailoa completed nine passes to his tight end on Sunday. And while he acknowledged that his chemistry with Gesicki is growing, Tagovailoa said that is also the case with his other teammates at the skill positions.
"Whoever I see is open, that's who I am going to try to get the ball to," Tagovailoa said.
Sunday's game has playoff implications for both teams. At 11-1, the Chiefs, who would be the AFC's No. 2 seed if the postseason started this weekend, are trying to keep pace with the 11-1 Steelers in the race to secure the conference's only playoff bye. The Dolphins, at 8-4, are trying to stay within striking distance of the 9-3 Bills, who are in first place in the AFC East entering their upcoming game against the Steelers.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, while acknowledging that the Dolphins are a good team across the board, agrees with his quarterback as it relates to what kind of quarterback Miami has under center.
"Tua's got a great future," Reid said. "Brian [Flores] knows that. So, they're working him in, and he's producing for them. Looks like a pretty good draft pick for them."