Henne’s entry didn’t start under the most ideal circumstances, either. With the Chiefs pinned on their own 2-yard line after a Jaguars punt, Henne was in safety territory upon taking his first snap of the game. That didn’t stop the Chiefs from dialing up a pass play on first down, however, which was not only a vote of confidence in Henne but provided an opportunity for him to get in an early rhythm.
After completing that pass to tight end Travis Kelce, Henne proceeded to lead a 12-play, 98-yard scoring drive that extended the Chiefs lead to 10 points.
“Chad’s been nothing but the best quarterback he can be throughout it all,” said Kelce. “What I mean by that is every single day he’s preparing as if he’s the starting quarterback — as if he’s one snap away. Sure enough, you saw that today.”
Assisting Henne’s effort was the play of Kansas City’s offensive line during that drive. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco exploited their great blocking with runs of 8, 7 and 39 yards, which had the Jaguars defense playing on their heels. Henne, who went unscathed, exploited the Jags in short-passing situations, going 5-of-7 passing for 23 yards and punctuating the drive with a 1-yard TD toss to Kelce.
“I think looking the guys in the eye, exemplifying some of the words in the offense that we do and just really just getting their attention and knowing that you believe in them as well as them believing in me,” said Henne. “So, I just think giving them confidence that I know what I’m doing and it’s just not a one-man show. There’s a lot of great guys on our offense that really stepped up and helped my job a lot tonight.”
Henne’s day ended there as Mahomes returned for the second half. With the Chiefs winning, 27-20, Henne’s TD drive ended up being the difference. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Henne saw playoff action due to a Mahomes injury. The backup was leaned on to maintain a Chiefs lead in the Divisional Round versus the Browns three years ago and his late-game heroics secured the first win of K.C.’s Super Bowl-winning run.
Saturday’s memorable TD drive was perhaps the residual effects of a Chiefs team well aware of Henne’s capabilities in high-pressure situations. It’s also another example of the team-building taking place in Kansas City the past few years, as the Chiefs head into their fifth straight AFC Championship Game next Sunday.
“The team has so much belief in Chad,” said Mahomes. “He’s done it before. He’s won Divisional games by coming in and playing. You saw on that 98-yard drive: he ran the offense the way the offense is supposed to be run. He threw it to the right guys — and guys stepped up and made plays.
“That’s what a great team does. It’s not about one guy. It’s about the whole team.”