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Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is a shark in waiting

You know what scares me? Sharks. Everything about them frightens me. The dead eyes. The fact that they never stop moving (that’s some Terminator stuff). The way that they don’t seem to feel pain when something happens to them.

But mostly, it’s the way that they can come out of nowhere and end you even though you had no idea they were 20 feet away because water is terrifying and no one should ever swim in the ocean. THAT’S what’s scary about them. Yes, that’s a movie clip (The Reef is an underrated movie, by the way), but you get my point. No matter where that shark is or what’s happened in the last five minutes of your time in the ocean, it’s freaking dangerous and you should get out the water. That’s all I’m saying.

Anyways, this has something to do with football. Because Patrick Mahomes is a shark.

No matter where the Chiefs are on the field, no matter what the down and distance is, there’s no comfort for the defense. At any moment Mahomes could go wheeling out of the pocket (or sit within the pocket in this case) and rifle the ball 30 ... or 40 ... or 50 yards down the field to an open receiver without so much as batting an eye.

One second everything’s fine for the defense, the next they’re being eaten alive. Sharks, man. They’re scary.

I reviewed Mahomes’s dropbacks and charted them like I have other games this preseason, and we can talk a bit about what we saw overall. But the biggest takeaway from the Chiefs vs Titans game was this: with Mahomes, the defense is never, ever safe.

Here are the numbers, for what it’s worth. They highlight the fact that this wasn’t just a game with 3-4 highlights and a bunch of bad stuff. Mahomes once again played well overall.

If I wanted to be nitpicky I’d say that while Mahomes had an OK ratio of accurate to inaccurate throws (especially considering one of the inaccurate throws was while getting hit and could’ve been marked as a throwaway instead), he had a pair of bad plays (an inaccurate throw and a bad decision) that could both have led to interceptions. That’s not good in a half of play.

However, it has to be noted that his bad decision (hesitating and then throwing to the opposite side of the field when Marcus Kemp’s corner had the angle to recover) wasn’t a particularly terrible one, simply a matter of, as Trent Green pointed out, taking an extra step in the pocket rather than throwing more quickly. Mahomes also could’ve put more zip on the pass (a rarity to say about him). A bad decision? Yes. Some kind of misreading of the coverage? You know, the type of bad play he’s supposedly prone to and I keep waiting to see? No, not at all.

With regards to the OTHER near-pick, Green again nailed the analysis during the broadcast (having Green as a color commentator when we’re trying to evaluate a quarterback is fantastic. He’s great at pointing out the little things); it wasn’t a bad decision, it was a bad throw. Mahomes saw Ross Travis about to split a pair of zone defenders (a linebacker and a safety) high-low, and he needed to loft the ball over the shallow defender while putting enough zip on it to beat the safety to the spot.

Mahomes tried too hard to zip the ball in, and it ended up being a pretty easy pick for the linebacker (or, after review, a should be pick). What I liked about this play (again, definitely an inaccurate throw) was that immediately following the play, as Green pointed out, Mahomes was gesturing to the sideline an arc action, showing he knew exactly where the problem was. He’d screwed up, knew how he’d screwed up, and immediately moved on. That’s good to see.

Besides those two plays, quite frankly, there wasn’t much to dislike about Mahomes’s performance. He ran the offense well, though they didn’t put as many points on the board as they should have. Part of that was due to some unforced errors by the offense, like this drive-killing drop by Travis.

You’ve gotta haul that in if you’re Travis. If you do, it’s first down on the Chiefs’ 45-yard-line and you’re in business. Instead, the Chiefs had to punt (and the ball was nearly intercepted, which is always a danger on dipped passes). That was one drive killer.

Another drive killer was a fumble inside the red zone, after Mahomes had made a wonderful deep throw to Demarcus Robinson (who had a fantastic game) to move the Chiefs down the field. It wasn’t just the fumble, though. A few plays earlier, Dieter dropped what could have been a touchdown (or at least a gain to inside the 5-yard-line), which led to the fumble a few plays later. Unfortunate.

Despite those setbacks, the Chiefs put some points on the board, in part to special teams (Dave Toub is unreal) ... but also in part to Mahomes going full shark. And I mean FULL. SHARK.

Like I say in the tweet, there are maybe a couple of quarterbacks in the NFL who can make this throw. Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and ... I can’t think of anyone else. Matt Stafford has the arm, but not on the run like that. Same with Big Ben. Cam Newton is too inaccurate on the run. Maybe Andrew Luck?

The fact is that there just aren’t many people on earth who can make that throw. That throw is one of the best I’ve ever seen. 50 yards in the air while on the run and about to get destroyed by a rushing defender. Placed PERFECTLY to a receiver who thought he was going to have to come back to the ball, only to find that he needed to adjust because the ball was placed to throw him open. Watch Robinson’s movement here.

He actually started to come back to the quarterback (which is good in a scramble drill like that), but Mahomes put it as though he would run a straight line. That throw is truly, genuinely, ridiculously great. You could watch every NFL game in a month and not see a throw that good.

And of course, to cap his evening off, after a well-executed two-minute drill Mahomes found (who else?) Robinson for a touchdown.

This is another great read and throw. The deep safety commits to Kemp’s route down the seam, and the second he does Mahomes puts the ball out in front of Robinson to track down, which he does so wonderfully (definitely some symbiosis between those two, fun to watch). A great throw, but it has to be noted the correct read that was made leading to the great throw.

Speaking of reads, it’s worth noting (and once again, Green pointed this out) that several times during the first half Mahomes checked out of the play call and into another play. For those who insist that Mahomes can barely read a defense, that must have been confusing. For me, it comes as no surprise at all, considering Mahomes did it throughout his final year in college. But what it represents is yet another step forward for Mahomes in a preseason that’s been somewhat dizzying in the number of steps already taken.

None of that analysis, though, is my biggest takeaway. Again, for me it wasn’t about the steps he’s taken forward mentally, or the fact that his footwork looks cleaner than ever after just a month of NFL action. It’s not about the fact that he looked a bit faster in his post-snap progressions, nor that he found the checkdowns a couple of times when needed.

It’s all about that shark nature. What Mahomes demonstrated with multiple deep shots (and overall ridiculous plays) and a “five plays and we’ve traveled 64 yards for the touchdown” two-minute drill drive was, again, that defenses are never safe with him out there. Never.

Defenses aren’t safe when it’s third and 20. Defenses aren’t safe when the Chiefs are on their own 20-yard line. Defenses aren’t safe when they get pressure. Defenses aren’t safe when they drop seven or eight into coverage. Defenses aren’t safe if Mahomes has just made a mistake the previous drive. No matter how long you’ve been treading that water, one thing is true: if the shark comes for you, he’s gonna come for you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. And it’s going to be FAST when it finally happens.

And that speed is important. Whenever Mahomes takes the reins for the Chiefs (presumably next season, barring injury of some sort), one thing teams will have to adjust to is that no lead against the Chiefs is ever, ever going to be safe. When you’re playing a quarterback who can toss a 50-yard score at any moment, a two score lead is a lot more tenuous. One slip-up, and the Chiefs are right back in the game. It happens that fast.

Alex Smith will be the starting quarterback next Thursday, and that’s OK. I always thought it was a long shot for Mahomes to win the job this year (though I did think there was a shot and do still believe it wouldn’t be a bad move), and Alex has looked very sharp the vast majority of the preseason. It’s time (for me at least) to focus on 2017 and a very, very talented roster that has real potential to make a deep playoff run.

But in reality, 2017 is going to feel like a year in waiting. Because once you’ve seen a shark, no other fish in the ocean is going to bring that same sense of danger. They say patience is a virtue. Well, here’s hoping we can all become virtuous as we watch the Chiefs in 2017. I think they’ll do well enough that it shouldn’t be too hard.

Can’t wait to go shark diving, though.

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