- The Washington Times
Sunday, October 17, 2021

LANDOVER — For a half, Washington’s defense looked like last year’s unit that dominated opposing offenses. Pressure was there. Turnovers were forced. Even the coverage in the secondary was sound.

Then, the Patrick Mahomes of old showed up. 

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback — not Washington’s defense — returned to form Sunday as the Burgundy and Gold suffered a 31-13 defeat at FedEx Field. Mahomes used a big second-half to spoil Washington’s halftime lead. The former MVP finished with 397 passing yards. 

Before Washington, Mahomes had been struggling. He entered Sunday’s contest with six interceptions, tied already for a career-high for a season. But after a shaky two quarters, Mahomes helped the Chiefs outscore Washington 21-0 in the second half. 

The Chiefs (3-3) climbed back to .500 and Washington fell to 2-4 on the season. 

Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke couldn’t keep pace, mustering 182 yards on 24 of 39 passing. 

Emotions ran high in lead up to Sunday’s game. Days earlier, team officials apologized for announcing that the late Sean Taylor’s No. 21 jersey would be retired during this weekend’s game on just days’ notice.

The apology came amid renewed calls for the NFL to release a full report from the investigation into Washington’s workplace after former Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden’s leaked emails came to light. The team insisted Taylor’s retirement celebration had been in the works for months. 

“We didn’t realize that so many of you wanted to make a trip to FedExField to be present for this moment,” Washington president Jason Wright wrote on the team’s website. 

Prior to kickoff, members of Taylor’s family and Washington alumni honored Taylor by posing for pictures in front of Sean Taylor Road — renamed in Taylor’s honor — and watched a video tribute dedicated to the former safety, who was murdered in November 2007 in a robbery at his home.

Some players, too, paid tribute to Taylor. Wide receiver DeAndre Carter arrived in a Taylor jersey. Defensive end Chase Young wore tape on his face-mask — Taylor’s old game-day tradition.

And for a half, at least, Washington honored Taylor with the kind of hard-hitting, dominant performance the Miami product was known for in an NFL career cut short by tragedy.

Kansas City opened with a touchdown-opening drive, but the Chiefs offense struggled for large stretches after that. Teams have had success against the Chiefs this year with two-high safety looks, and Washington followed a similar formula. 

On Kansas City’s second series, Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller intercepted Mahomes just as the Chiefs were outside the end zone — grabbing a pass that bounced off Tyreek Hill’s hands. 

That was the first of three turnovers Washington’s defense forced in the first half.

Minutes later, linebacker Cole Holcomb came sprinting across the field to pry the ball out of Mecole Hardman’s hands for a fumble.

Then, just before halftime, safety Bobby McCain picked off a horrendous Mahomes pass at Washington’s 20-yard line to prevent another Chiefs score. 

But with Mahomes and Co. clearly off, Washington’s offense couldn’t take full advantage.

The team only scored points off one of the three turnovers: A 39-yard passing touchdown to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. On that play, Heinicke seized on the busted coverage in the Chiefs’ secondary, hitting Seals-Jones to give Washington a 13-10 lead. 

Before then, the offense alternated between punting and settling for field goals. Kicker Dustin Hopkins hit field goals of 50 and 43 yards to get Washington on the board. 

Still, Washington went into halftime with a three-point lead — giving the FedEx crowd added energy as Taylor’s jersey was officially retired during the break. 

But in the second half, Mahomes returned to form. Repeatedly, the Chiefs quarterback scrambled outside to keep the play alive — and then hit a receiver on the run down the field. 

The Cheifs regained the lead when Mahomes led Kansas City on a 10-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Mahomes needling a pass to Hill for a seven-yard touchdown. Then, with Washington’s offense struggling, Kansas City seized a double-digit lead when running back Darrel Williams rushed for a three-yard touchdown.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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