Kansas City Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambled and picked up a few extra yards in the second half of Saturday’s wild-card round playoff matchup with the Miami Dolphins.
Mahomes ended up taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Dolphins safety Deshon Elliott at the end of run, which shattered the quarterback’s VICIS manufactured helmet. On Wednesday, the manufacturer said the helmet “did its job” by protecting the two-time NFL MVP “during a head-to-head impact in unprecedented cold temperatures.”
The Chiefs-Dolphins game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City was one of the coldest contests in league history. The temperature at kickoff was minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit and dropped significantly throughout the evening.
VICIS ZERO2 helmet manufacturer, Certor Sports, said the frigid temperatures directly impacted the helmet.
“Extreme conditions like those are bound to test the limits of even the highest-performing products,” Certor Sports said in a statement Wednesday.
A chunk of Mahomes’ helmet broke off from just above the face-mask area.
“They’re testing it right now,” Mahomes said Wednesday, “but I’m adamant on getting the helmet after. It’s something that’s cool, I’ll be able to keep for a long time. Like they said, it did its job. I was perfectly fine after.”
The VICIS ZERO2 uses a proprietary multilayer technology that creates a “deformable outer shell,” the company said, and that is wrapped around a stiffer inner shell. The design is similar to that of car bumpers, which might appear to be inexpensive plastic at first glance but are in fact engineered to absorb and disperse energy at the point of impact.
The ZERO2 line, which includes specific models for linemen and quarterbacks, held the top five spots in testing this season by the NFL and NFLPA. The helmets also ranked highly in independent evaluations at Virginia Tech.
“It is unusual for a football helmet to crack a shell, but we’ve had occurrences here in the lab, and we generally test at ambient temperature,” said Barry Miller, who helps direct the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. “If you asked a football equipment room manager, you may find a different answer as they see tons of helmets with plenty of impacts.”
VICIS was founded in 2017 and quickly became a venture-capital darling, raising more than $85 million from current and former NFL players, which included Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Jerry Rice. And with a focus on innovation, the company produced helmets that ranked No. 1 in NFL and NFLPA testing from 2017 to 2019.
Mahomes said he never had a helmet shatter before: “It was a first for me.” He didn’t immediately know that a shard had broken off until he returned to the huddle and teammates pointed it out to him.
The Chiefs star initially played with the broken helmet before officials intervened and made him get a backup from the sideline. But the backup had been sitting in the extreme cold all night, and it was difficult for Mahomes to get on his head. It took some work with equipment managers on the sideline between series to finally make it comfortable for him.
“We have to talk about where we store the backup because it was frozen,” Mahomes said with a smile. “It didn’t look great. We were able to adjust it on the sideline, get it kind of warmed up a bit and get rolling from there.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.