Chiefs without Patrick Mahomes still in capable hands of Chad Henne -- just don't ask about hashtags

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs players Tyrann Mathieu and Chad Henne generally arrive early for work each day. During some of those mornings, the veteran defensive back got to know the backup quarterback well enough to come to the opinion that the Chiefs would be OK if they ever needed Henne's help to win a game.

"There's nothing for us to do but sit around and kind of shoot it," Mathieu said of his early mornings with Henne. "He's a great guy. One of the things I've really noticed about him is that he's a true professional. He's one of those guys that's a true veteran that's always ready. If you're able to watch this guy every single day Monday through Saturday, he does the same routine as if he's going to play that week.

"If you were able to kind of watch him in the last game of the regular season against the Chargers, you saw a guy that understood the offense. You saw a guy that knew where the ball was supposed to go, and he got it there."

The game against the Chargers was meaningless, though, with the AFC's No. 1 seed already locked up. Henne got a chance to prove himself with the Chiefs' season on the line during Sunday's divisional-round playoff game against the Cleveland Browns -- and he delivered. With starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes ruled out because of a concussion, Henne gave the Chiefs clutch plays on back-to-back snaps that allowed his team to continue the game's final drive and hold off the Browns 22-17.

Henne first scrambled for 13 yards on a third down, finishing with a headfirst dive in an effort to pick up a first down. He landed a yard short, but on fourth down he threw to Tyreek Hill for 5 yards to allow the Chiefs to convert and run out the clock.

After the game, Mahomes fired off a tweet that included the hashtag #HenneThingIsPossible, and that hashtag began trending. Another hashtag, #HenneGivenSunday, was also making the rounds.

Henne's social media accounts don't include Twitter, so he might not have known any of this if he hadn't been told.

"I don't think #HenneGivenSunday or #HenneThingIsPossible is going to show up on LinkedIn," Henne said. "It's great for [Mahomes] to have confidence. ...

"Once I got in that huddle, everybody had confidence in me. They were pushing for me, had my back, and this is a great team. It's a great opportunity to go out there and play with this team and come out with the victory."

The pass to Hill wasn't extraordinary. Henne took the shotgun snap, moved a few quick steps to his right and threw to an uncovered Hill in the flat. What was extraordinary is that coach Andy Reid had enough trust in a seldom-used backup quarterback to try to convert in such a situation, with less than two minutes left in the game.

"When you're around him you just know," Reid said when asked why he had that kind of trust in Henne. "Everybody has full confidence in him.

"I think we'll all remember that, that run and the dive and then the throw."

Henne hadn't been asked by the Chiefs or any team to be a hero in a long time. Drafted in the second round in 2008 by the Miami Dolphins out of Michigan, his only start since 2014 -- when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars -- had come in the meaningless Week 17 game this season. Sunday's win was the first playoff appearance for the 35-year-old Henne in his 13 NFL seasons.

"I'm always a competitor, and throughout the years, if it went my way or didn't go my way, I just felt like I loved the game still, loved being around the locker room, and especially coming here just enlightened me," Henne said when asked why after all these years he has still chased the quarterback dream.

"Coach Reid and his staff and the players here just brought out a lot of me and especially Patrick. ... He's helped me out more than I felt like I helped him. It's just a pleasure to be here, and this is why I play and I prepare each and every week to be the best me and just have fun with the guys."

Tight end Travis Kelce said that, like Mathieu, he saw signs that Henne would come through when the Chiefs needed him.

"First of all, he's a professional," Kelce said. "He comes to work every single day knowing he's just a snap away from calling plays and being out there leading us to victory. Second, he's a competitor. That guy no matter what it is, he's ready, he's fired up and ready to go, and we love him for it.

"Sure enough, when he came in the game, nothing really changed. We still had the fire in us. We knew we could score points with Chad and we could move the ball down the field with Chad. The third down was obviously a gutsy play by [Henne]. Everybody knew he had that in him, to be able to put his body on the line for the team."

Henne will be back on the bench for next Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills if Mahomes clears the concussion protocols. But he'll start the game if Mahomes isn't ready.

Either way, he already has a place in his team's success.

"To see Chad Henne scramble, try to get that first down, that's all heart," Mathieu said. "Those are the moments that lift teams. Those are the moments that build confidence."