This is part two of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes. Part one here.
I mentioned Tuesday that we’re nearing a point with Patrick Mahomes where it won’t matter what the defense does. That he’ll just rise above it.
The Chiefs played tonight without about 48% of their defensive salary cap, an IOL of Erving, Devey and Wylie, played a bad half of football and almost beat New England at home.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 15, 2018
Franchise quarterbacks are worth well beyond the salary cap hit that they incur. They find ways to elevate organizations all around them. The circumstances weren’t perfect in New England. There were injuries on both sides of the ball, a lot of talent had to miss the game. It didn’t matter. Yes, the game started out rough, but regardless of the struggles, Mahomes elevated his play and made up for significant losses to come back and take the lead against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. There are positive things from that game, and we’ll talk about a few here today.
This is a sneaky great play by Mahomes, both from the mental and physical side.
#SomethingSmart The Patriots were trying to confuse Mahomes late after he ID'd the mike in protection by moving guys after. Good idea. Didn't matter here. He identified man coverage, held the middle field safety and delivered an excellent ball in the corner for a TD. pic.twitter.com/eajArVQVyF— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 17, 2018
Late in the third quarter, with the Chiefs trailing 27-19, Mahomes and company have a chance to come within one (they do) or tie (I would’ve) the Patriots. They’re in the red zone at the New England 14-yard line on a second-and-10.
The Chiefs are lined up in a closed formation with Travis Kelce lined up into the boundary, attached to the offensive line with three receivers lined up to the field and Kareem Hunt in the backfield to the field side as well.
The Patriots are showing man-free coverage (Cover 1). They had done a good job of muddying things up for Mahomes earlier in the game with a variety of tweaks to the pre-snap looks. One thing they had success with was moving one or two players in the box around after Mahomes had set the protection.
On this play, Mahomes initially sets the protection to No. 23, Patrick Chung, lined up in the box but adjusts to No. 53, Kyle Van Noy. After the protection is set, Chung slides over to cover Hunt. On the snap, Van Noy blitzes. Mahomes knows it’s man-free coverage.
There is a big void in the boundary-side corner of the end zone if the Chiefs can get someone over there. Luckily for them, they have the fastest player in the NFL lined up as the No. 3 receiver in the slot. Hill ran vertically for two yards and then darted to the corner of the end zone. With Kelce running an underneath route across the field, there’s plenty of space to deliver a ball. If the middle-field safety can be occupied long enough, there’s a window to throw. Mahomes knows this and holds the safety by looking to the wide side of the field.
The throw is nothing short of perfect. At the absolute perfect time, Mahomes flips his hips and eyes to deliver the throw. He waited for the last second to deliver the ball into the corner. The placement, touch and accuracy of the throw were perfect. Great design to get the talent in a perfect place to succeed and excellent execution by both quarterback and receiver.
The last throw of Mahomes’ first half was something bad and led to a turnover and a lost opportunity for points. The next chance the kid got to deliver a throw? Whew.
#SomethingSpecial Gutsy 3rd and 2 play. Mahomes brought the energy back early in the second half. This is a concept the Chiefs like to run with Kelce, Hill and Hunt in the boundary. Mahomes normally hits Hunt early on this, had to create out of structure. He, uh...he did. pic.twitter.com/6Ey0OE4iMK— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 17, 2018
The Chiefs need to convert this critical third-and-2. Already down 24-9, they simply can’t give the ball back to the Patriots.
The Chiefs are lined up in a familiar look they like to run in situations like these. They have Kelce, Hill and Hunt all lined up into the boundary in a condensed look. We talked about it in the season’s first edition of 45 seconds:
Kelce is going to run a whip route, Hill is going to run a middle curl and Hunt is going to run a swing. As the video above shows, they’ve been able to hit Hunt on the swing with space to convert. The Patriots are in Cover 2, so the boundary corner is playing the flats.
Mahomes wanted to hit Hunt again, but with the corner covering him, he had to improvise. He rolls to his right and Hunt turns upfield. A reminder—this is third-and-2. It’s as gutsy as it gets to deliver a ball in this situation down the field. If the Chiefs don’t convert, they’re likely to give the ball back to the Patriots who are already up two scores. That didn’t shake the kid. The second view of the throw is my favorite.
This is the best view of that 3rd and 2 conversion for a touchdown that started the second half. pic.twitter.com/uR35P04lrV— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 17, 2018
This was the first pass attempt for Mahomes after his second interception. This is a critical play in prime time. In that situation, he delivers a throw with small margin for error.
The fearlessness Mahomes displays rubs off on people. He’s confident and more than capable of doing things that elevate the team around him. Both sides of the ball are energized by these kinds of plays and the frequency we’re seeing them at. He’s running out of things to prove and it’s only Week 6. The kid is for real.