This is part one of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes.
Well, this is weird.
It’s been a while since the Kansas City Chiefs lost a game, and it’s the first time in Patrick Mahomes’ career. Just as having a young, home-grown quarterback is unfamiliar territory for a generation of Chiefs fans, so is this feeling with the kid under center. The responses have been appropriate to the moment. This wasn’t a shellacking. This wasn’t remotely embarrassing.
Mahomes went to toe to toe with the G.O.A.T. Tom Brady and brought his team roaring back to take a lead in the fourth quarter. Bill Belichick had three extra days to prepare to stop an offense that has been the talk of the league. He got the 23-year-old early in the game with a few plays we’ll talk about in the next few days that led to mistakes and turnovers. The Chiefs trailed 24-9 at the half, and things look bleak.
Lesser 23-year-old quarterbacks have been chewed up and spit out in Foxborough, and for a half, it looked like that might be the case. Not your guy, Kansas City.
“He is going to be special. We are looking at a rookie quarterback who goes out in the first half of the game throws two picks, and did not blink at all. He came out and played his game and was able to get on the edge a few times, make big plays and we knew as a defense if we could limit those big plays, that would give us the best chance of not letting the ball go over our head. He was everything we saw in film.” - Jason McCourty on Patrick Mahomes
The Chiefs lost, but your young quarterback hung 31 in the second half. He earned the respect of yet another locker room. He’s learning every opportunity he gets and he’s not duplicating many mistakes. There were rough moments on Sunday, but you still got the spectacular you’ve come to expect. He makes you forget that he’s not a veteran every week.
The Patriots threw a lot at Mahomes this week, and it worked enough early to force the Chiefs to play from behind. No moment has looked too big for him for an entire game, though. He’s still having to manage the juice early, but he continues to figure it out as the game goes on and with enough time to give his team a chance to win. Every week, he’s inching closer and closer to it not mattering what the defense tries to do, and you can count on one hand the guys that are like that.
They scored too quick!
#SomethingGood The play that tied the game at 40. Play action, Tyreek on another deep cross. Mahomes threw this 40+ with drive. A little behind Hill but he was so open that he had time to explode. The end zone view shows you the velocity. Mercy, this team is explosive. pic.twitter.com/UcUcVoyIfl— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 16, 2018
This is, of course, the last time the offense would touch the ball. The Patriots are playing Cover 3 and the Chiefs dial play-action with Tyreek Hill working into the boundary on a deep crosser. The Chiefs ask Hill to eat up a ton of ground in order to get over. He threatens the safety vertically as he works across the field, and safety Duron Harmon opens his hips to Hill as he gets depth. As Hill crosses the safety’s face, it forces him to flip his hips, giving Mahomes additional space to throw. With the boundary corner occupied by Kelce, there’s no one in the way of this throw.
The ball was a little behind Hill, but it didn’t matter. The velocity let Hill make up for a little lost time to accelerate away from Harmon. The route by Hill gave the duo some margin for error, but the 40-plus-air yard throw with rare velocity helped maintain enough of it for Hill to score.
The Chiefs have run similar looks to this with Alex Smith in the past, just with shorter routes. They’re stretching the limits with Mahomes and Hill further now. Even though everything wasn’t perfect, the Chiefs are still keeping defensive coordinators up at night with plays like these. We’re spoiled getting to watch this perfect pairing.
How about we add some positives to this week’s something bad before delving into a big mistake?
There’s 51 seconds remaining in the half and the Chiefs trail by 15. At their own 30, the Chiefs face a third-and-15, needing to extend the drive to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands and give themselves a chance to shrink the lead.
3rd and 15 late in first half. Patriots show two-high, roll to cover 3. Chiefs run flood into the boundary. Mahomes escapes left from front side pressure, delivers an exceptional ball to Hill to convert. He hits one of these every week it feels like. Rare talent. pic.twitter.com/Bg427fW18H— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 16, 2018
Things that are becoming norms should not be becoming norms. Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to make third-and-long plays look this easy, but every week, it feels like Mahomes pulls one of these off. The Chiefs are lined up in a Y-Iso look with Travis Kelce lined up to the left in the boundary. The Patriots are showing a two-high shell but roll into a Cover 3.
They’re running a flood concept into the boundary with Kelce clearing space underneath on a vertical. With a late blitzing Kyle Van Noy coming to Mahomes’ front side, he rolls to his left with the direction of the pass concept.
With space between the underneath defender, the cornerback on the vertical with Kelce and the middle field safety, Mahomes finds Hill with a throw of 38 air yards rolling to his non-dominant side, on a rope to convert for a gain of 27 yards. His ability to rotate his body to be able to deliver the velocity he did is absurd.
You can hear a quiet but audible “Wow,” from Chris Collinsworth on the game broadcast.
Unfortunately, that amazing play was wasted.
#SomethingBad Rough way to end a great drive that he extended with a couple nice throws. This was on a first down with 17 seconds left and one timeout. They could've had a couple shots for six if he throws this one away. pic.twitter.com/c5azXFbDai— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 16, 2018
With 17 seconds remaining and one timeout left at the New England 15-yard line, Mahomes makes a critical mistake.
Mahomes does a nice job stepping up against front-side pressure and then exiting to his right. With a chasing Donta’ Hightower hanging onto him, he elects to take a chance and throws the ball into congested space to Kelce on the scramble working laterally with him after running a middle curl. The ball is undercut by Harmon, then bounces off of Devin McCourty and back into the hands of Harmon for a drive-ending interception.
This play was a first-and-10. Had he thrown the ball away, Mahomes could’ve had a few more chances to get into the end zone before having to kick a field goal.
The Chiefs still had a timeout remaining, so the playbook was still pretty open. This is the kind of mistake Mahomes has mostly avoided in the last few games. I don’t expect it to happen too often, but in this situation, the young quarterback tried to do too much.
Every week, I add a quick note about something I’ve picked up about the quarterback position through my time learning and playing the game.
If you’ve ever heard that picked up a quarterback saying that on a broadcast microphone, you might have wondered what that meant. The quarterback gives two plays in the huddle and based on what the defense is doing. The play call might sound something like:
“Wide Right Jet Right 544 F-Whip...Kill...3 Zone”
The pass play is called in the huddle, but if they like the look to run they can kill into a zone-run play. If the quarterback elects to run the original call, he goes through his normal cadence. If he likes his numbers in the box, he would yell “Kill, Kill” into the run play.