Patrick Mahomes only needed to check his phone last week to realize Chiefs tackle Jawaan Taylor would have a stress-filled Sunday.
Taylor was a central focus of NBC’s broadcast in the season opener against the Detroit Lions, where they emphasized both his positioning and snap timing.
Each became storylines Sunday as well, as Taylor was flagged for five penalties in the Chiefs’ 17-9 road victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Through social media, you knew that some of this was going to get called,” Mahomes said after the game. “But he’s going to continue to get better and better.”
Taylor declined an interview request at his locker after the game.
Mahomes supported his teammate during his news conference afterward. The quarterback said he believed Taylor was a great player, and that he’d continue to get more comfortable as the season progressed.
“It’s hard whenever you get picked on a little bit; it’s tough to keep playing your game,” Mahomes said of officials keying on him this week. “But I have all the confidence in him in the world.”
At one point, Taylor’s infractions piled up so much that coach Andy Reid took him off the field.
Midway through the third quarter, Taylor committed a holding call on a run, then later collapsed on Jacksonville’s Travon Walker during a pass set, picking up two holding flags in the span of three plays.
Reid substituted Prince Tega Wanogho for Taylor the next two snaps, saying he wanted to give Taylor a mental break.
“Just step back, and let’s get you back out there,” Reid said. “He had some big blocks later in the game there. He did a nice job finishing.”
The setting also could have played a factor in Taylor’s mistake-filled day.
A Florida native, Taylor said last week he would have about 25 family members attending the contest. Also, it was a homecoming game for him in Jacksonville, as he played with the Jaguars his first four seasons.
This certainly wasn’t the way he envisioned it going. Taylor’s five accepted penalties tied the most by a single player in any game over the past decade, according to data at NFLpenalties.com.
The last time any player received five flags in a game was Week 3 of 2016, as Cleveland right tackle Austin Pasztor was whistled for three holds and two false starts in a 30-24 overtime loss against Miami. One-hundred forty-six weeks passed in the NFL before Taylor matched that mark Sunday.
“Too many procedure penalties, turnovers,” Reid said of the team in general. “We’ll get that taken care of. That’s not the (Jacksonville) heat. That’s us taking care of business there.”
Taylor, for his part, said last week he was preparing to get extra attention from the officials.
He admitted watching film that he’d lined up off the line of scrimmage too often against Detroit even though he wasn’t flagged for it — “I definitely was too deep for sure,” he said Wednesday — and said he was warned that he needed to be careful when timing the snap count.
“My coaches this week were like, ’Make sure you’re not going too fast, slowing down. The refs are definitely gonna be looking a little harder now,’” Taylor told The Star on Wednesday. “But that’s just part of the game. I’m not gonna try to change my game at all. Just make sure I’m focusing — more conscious on it — just so I won’t get any penalties or anything.”
That plan didn’t turn out to be enough.
Against Jacksonville, Taylor had two false starts, two holds and an illegal formation call for lining up in the backfield. His six accepted penalties this season lead the NFL; that number also matches the total number of accepted infractions (six) he had in 19 combined regular and postseason games last season.
The Chiefs signed Taylor in March to a four-year, $80 million free-agent deal, with $60 million guaranteed.
Reid said Sunday that Taylor’s mistakes were part of a team issue (12 flags for 94 yards) that would be remedied soon.
“We normally don’t do this,” Reid said. “It got us today, but we’re not a big penalty team.”