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Patrick Mahomes’ brilliant game in the snow is a warning shot to the rest of the AFC

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The snow couldn’t cool off Mahomes, who returned to form Sunday.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs clinched their playoff spot in Week 14. In Week 15, Patrick Mahomes put the rest of the postseason field on alert.

The reigning MVP couldn’t be stopped by the Broncos defense or a driving snowstorm Sunday, whipping the ball through windy skies and linking up with his uber-athletic targets to spark Kansas City’s fourth straight win. Mahomes finished his day with 340 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 23-3 win.

More importantly, Mahomes showed off the pocket presence and playmaking that left the Chiefs one overtime possession away from the Super Bowl one year ago.

The game evoked memories of Mahomes’ MVP run and the Chiefs’ Divisional Round win over the Colts in similar weather conditions last winter. Kansas City’s wide receivers and tight ends averaged 13.8 yards per catch against a Denver defense that struggled to keep up all afternoon. He threw seven passes 15 yards or more downfield and completed six of them, including the absolute dime to Tyreek Hill above.

It wasn’t all good — he also had a goal-line interception on a play were he tried to do entirely too much — but it was more than enough to overwhelm an old rival at home. The end result was the 16th 300+ yard game in Mahomes’ career on a day where he threw his 17th interception as a pro. Those are absurd numbers — and they may spell disaster for the rest of the AFC this postseason.

This was a needed return to form from Mahomes

Mahomes has had some excellent performances this fall. He threw for 1,195 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first three weeks of the season and hit the 300-yard mark in each of his first five games.

That effectiveness took a major hit as injuries began to pile up. Lower leg injuries sapped his ability to extend plays in the pocket before a dislocated kneecap took him out of a Week 7 win over the Broncos and cost him a pair of games. While he came back strong in a Week 10 loss to the Titans (50 passes, 446 yards, three TDs), he faced some relative struggles in the weeks that followed. Here’s what he’d put together in his previous three games before Sunday’s snow game.

213 yards per game, 59.4 completion rate, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 6.4 yards per pass, and a 79.6 passer rating

The Chiefs won all of those games — including Mahomes first-ever win over the Patriots — but the third-year passer’s brief dip from “great” to “good” was concerning. Weeks 11-14 represented the statistical nadir of Mahomes’ brief career to date.

His Week 15 performance put that slump firmly in his rear view. After looking like someone else over the past month, the Chiefs looked like THE CHIEFS again. Once the final whistle blew, Mahomes flashed the goofy swagger that’s defined his run to the top of the league while explaining how coach Andy Reid has set his offense up to thrive in rough conditions.

That’s not a panacea for a team whose road to an AFC West title has been rockier than expected. Two of the team’s three of the team’s losses came in games where Mahomes threw for at least 321 yards. Concerns about the defense, which shut down rookie Drew Lock but has allowed 28+ points five times this season, persist.

Even so, it’s an encouraging sign for a team that lacked the extra gear Mahomes showed off in Week 15. Kansas City may have to do its best work on the road this postseason. Sunday’s aerial explosion showed the Chiefs’ won’t be limited by the weather no matter where they end up.