Nine touchdown catches tells the tale of how cardinal Jerick McKinnon's contributions have been to the Kansas City Chiefs offense.
His pass protection ability is more paramount than ever this week, though, as Patrick Mahomes attempts to play through an ankle injury.
McKinnon's ready for the challenge and said, like the rest of his teammates, he is motivated by his quarterback's efforts to battle through the injury.
"It definitely inspires," McKinnon said, via team transcript, Thursday when asked if it energizes the team to see Mahomes fight through his injury. "That being a playoff game -- win-or-go-home-type of situation -- and seeing him grimacing and go down and know that he was in, I guess, significant pain. Watching him play through that and still doing what he does, completing passes -- there was even one time where he scrambled but he was hopping and still got yards. When you see a guy like that -- and everybody knows Pat, knows his character, knows his work ethic -- he's going to give you everything he has. And when you see something like that, it does nothing but inspire you, everybody on the sideline, everybody in the organization."
McKinnon was describing Mahomes' efforts in last week's Divisional Round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it's carried over to this week's practices ahead of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.
In his second season with the Chiefs, McKinnon has been a revelation out of the backfield for the passing game. He's reminded everyone of the potential seen seasons ago that was lost by a woeful string of injuries that saw him miss all of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns. McKinnon posted career highs of 56 receptions, 512 yards receiving and nine touchdown catches in 2022.
On Sunday, he's poised to do whatever it takes to aid his QB most.
"If he needs me, just be there, be available, have his back in pass protection -- whatever it is. Keep him clean in the pocket," McKinnon said.
Despite being inspired by Mahomes, McKinnon doesn't take a lot of convincing to turn it up in the blocking department. The 5-foot-9 McKinnon is eager to try to cut mammoth pass rushers down to size.
"I got 'little-man syndrome,'" McKinnon said when asked about his passion for blocking. "Yeah, I got 'little-man syndrome,' so I don't know, maybe that's what it is. And then like I was saying to someone earlier, it was something that I've never done in college, so obviously coming to the league, it being new and something I had to work at. (I) accepted the challenge and it has gotten me this far and (it's) something that's going to keep you around as a running back in this league. So, I take big pride in that area -- more than running and catching the ball -- for real."
The little man's made a big contribution this season for the Chiefs, and he's looking to do so again Sunday in one way or another.