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Kansas City Chiefs fans rightfully panicked when they saw Patrick Mahomes leave with what was assumed to be a head injury Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. That was enough to place him into the concussion protocol and subject Mahomes to a complex process that could rule the star quarterback out of Sunday’s AFC championship game against the Buffalo Bills.

Now, those Chiefs fans are hearing three words that are so very familiar to football fans everywhere: Upon further review …

Patrick Mahomes threw a scare into Kansas City Chiefs fans

Patrick Mahomes was trying to squeeze out a first down on a third-and-1 snap midway through the third quarter of the NFL playoff game when Mack Wilson of the Cleveland Browns dragged the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback down with a nasty-looking tackle.

Although the hit to the helmet did not look substantial, Mahomes’ head did strike the turf. When his knees buckled and he wobbled while returning to his feet, it appeared that Mahomes was disoriented. He was removed from the game, checked briefly on the sideline, and then brought to the Kansas City locker room for further examination.

The Chiefs’ Twitter account reported that Mahomes, the MVP of Super Bowl 54, was being evaluated for a concussion. That was followed shortly afterward by a tweet saying he had been “downgraded to out.”

The thing is, however, that the injury was not reported as a concussion, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid did not refer to it as such while meeting with the media on Monday. It seemingly increases Mahomes’ chances of playing this weekend by quite a bit.

The presumed concussion may have been something else

The Kansas City Star reported that it is possible that Patrick Mahomes did not suffer a concussion when he was tackled by Mack Wilson of the Cleveland Browns. Rather, the culprit may have been a tweaked or compressed nerve in his neck that had the effect of “choking out” the quarterback, Carrington Harrison of CBS Sports Radio in Kansas City reported. The Kansas City Star cited an “informed observer” who likened it to a mixed martial arts chokehold.

Looking at replays, the theory is at least plausible. And coach Andy Reid did say after the game that Mahomes had passed the NFL’s preliminary concussion protocol. On top of that, Mahomes (or someone with access to his Twitter account) was tweeting about backup quarterback Chad Henne late in the game. That would seem to suggest that Mahomes had his wits about him.

Thus, the Chiefs may be in a good news/bad news situation regarding their quarterback. The bad news is that Mahomes will have to go through the concussion protocol this week to become eligible to play against the Buffalo Bills for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The good news is that someone who didn’t actually suffer a concussion should be able to breeze through the five steps necessary for clearance.

Assuming that the neck injury isn’t serious enough to keep Mahomes out, he could be back to practice quickly and ready to play against the Bills.

What’s next for Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes?

At this juncture, Patrick Mahomes is headed for the concussion protocol as a precaution in the “No-go” provision of the rule, which says players “demonstrating gross motor instability (e.g., stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand)” must be evaluated.

That means running through the five steps of the concussion protocol. It begins with light aerobic exercise until the player demonstrates an ability to move on to graduated cardiovascular exercise.

Football-specific exercise is followed by a return to practice for non-contact drills. If the team physician gives the clearance to resume contact drills, the NFL sends in its independent neurological consultant to make the final decision.

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