I’m a terrible golfer. My handicap is my birth year. I can never direct the ball where I want it to go, and getting the ball up in the air is a coin flip. I still enjoy playing from time to time, but if you’re trying to win a scramble, I’m dead weight.
The world’s best golfers can’t rely just on the ability to drive or be a good putter. You’ve got to play a well-rounded game. You have to be able to place the ball where you want it, sometimes with distance, keep yourself out of as many bad situations as you can, get out of them when you do, and oh yeah...have enough touch to putt.
If Patrick Mahomes was a golfer, he could drive a golf ball farther than anyone. But the subtleties to his game he reveals every week are what will eventually have him at the top of the leaderboard. This week wasn’t requiring him to pull out the 1-wood as much as other weeks, but he got a chance to show how well rounded the rest of his game is starting to become.
It felt like the game slowed down a little for him this week.
#SomethingImproved Mahomes didn't have his flashiest performance this week, but it was poised and controlled. He was smart and efficient with the football most of the game. Found the right outlet with frequency. Here's a cut up of some of those plays. pic.twitter.com/nLBZPlmBWe— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 25, 2018
Quickly finding the right play is an ability. Mahomes showed comfort in the pocket, good navigation of the pocket and quick decision-making in the face of pressure when required. Where Mahomes has been having to manage the juice at the start of games, he settled in quickly this week. He looked like he was playing with supreme confidence and poise all game. It’s revealed in the three plays above.
- Play one: Mahomes is working through the front-side concept. He feels pressure both to his front and back, steps up in the pocket and has the awareness to know the drag route by Kareem Hunt is working into his line of sight. It was such a quick response to pressure and to find the outlet. He couldn’t have responded just by seeing. He was processing the play as it was happening.
- Play two: Feeling pressure on the drop, knowing he needs to bail backward and delivering a ball quick to his outlet who finishes for a touchdown. It’s an athletic throw to deliver that ball and a smart, poised decision with a rusher at his feet.
- Play three: Not having anyone open on the vertical routes and getting the ball down to Hunt in the flat quickly and decisively. He’s early to the flat route by Hunt, but in a good way. He wastes no time seeing the depth of the defense to get the ball to the running back with space to run.
Check-downs and shorter throws got a bad rap when we see them too much. In proper context, they go a long way in winning football games. A good short game when properly utilized wins. Mahomes is picking the right clubs with consistency.
These weren’t the rarest of plays he’s made, and none of these will be on the highlight reel at the end of the year. They’re just indicators of comfort, control, command and an understanding of all facets of the game happening in front of him. He looked as prepared and quick to process as he has. The timing to get the ball to his outlets was perfect and it yielded great results.
It was the most veteran-like performance for the young quarterback, and the subtleties should leave you encouraged. There was no urge to make everything happen at all at once. He was fantastic in allowing the game to happen and leaning on his preparation. He continues to develop right before our eyes, and it’s happening week to week.
There’s been one kind of throw that we’ve yet to see Mahomes hit yet, and it’s kind of amazing he hasn’t.
#NeedsImprovement It's kind of surprising, but Mahomes hasn't had success with posts/deep middle field throws over the top of the defense. He's hit them, but they've been in front of safeties. Here's a cut up of the five I've found. pic.twitter.com/wZDEuW3yln— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 25, 2018
This is a cut of plays where the receiver is streaking down the middle of the field and there’s no defender between the receiver and the end zone. These plays resulted in four incompletions and an interception. I can’t recall one being hit in the first seven games.
These are not the easiest throws and this is admittedly a narrow scenario that’s happening about once a game, but we’re starting to get enough of a sample size to notice it. For some reason, Mahomes has shown inconsistencies on middle-field throws that are thrown over the entire defense. Plays in which the receiver (almost always Tyreek Hill) are in position to or already have run away from everyone on the defense, we’ve yet to see Mahomes connect.
Now don’t get me wrong, he’s hit his fair share of deep passes, but if you notice, they’ve hit in front of a defender.
This play I wrote about yesterday might’ve ended up being the first one Mahomes lets Sammy Watkins run underneath, but Carlos Dunlap has other plans and forces the ball short.
#SomethingSpecial Carlos Dunlap gets his hand on Mahomes as he's setting up to deliver a deep ball to Hill and upsets his timing. Mahomes is still able to get the ball off with enough behind it to get to Watkins regardless. pic.twitter.com/eKkRXlhRcg— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 24, 2018
When there’s a middle-field throw, typically a post route, and Mahomes has a chance to let his receiver run under it, we haven’t seen the connection work nearly halfway through the season. It’s interesting. Mahomes provided a quote after the game on what was his only interception against the Bengals.
“Yeah, he burnt the dude and it wasn’t a bad read. It was cover-four and Tyreek was the post-alert and I had been asking Coach Reid for it all game. I got there and I was like “I don’t want to overthrow him”, but then forgot that you can’t overthrow him. I left it short and they picked it off. You look back and the defense got a stop right there and kind of kept the momentum in our hands and we finished off the game strong.” - Patrick Mahomes on his interception against Cincinnati
It sounds like he may just trying to understand still how far he can stretch the arm out on these kinds of alerts or shot plays. There are a few instances in the above cut-up of vertical shots where Mahomes has under-thrown the receiver and diminished the separation the receiver was creating.
It’s kind of confusing. We KNOW he’s capable of throws similar to this...
#SomethingSpecial This is going to be a fun category to write about every week and Mahomes kicked it off with a bang. I've got plenty to say about it tomorrow on @ArrowheadPride. pic.twitter.com/EDGTcUTqds— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 20, 2018
...he just hasn’t hit them in a real game. Whether he’s struggling to gauge how far to leave it out for (specifically) Hill, or the timing is just off, it’s surprisingly not something that he’s executed to count for his yardage totals. He’ll hit one of these assuredly soon, but it’s worth mentioning there are at least five plays where he hasn’t.
He’s been good on throws to receivers open down the sidelines, but middle-field shots haven’t been part of the regular-season highlight real yet. You would’ve expected him to have hit on a couple by now.
Hopefully, this week is when we finally get a play of this nature.
Miss this week’s episode of the AP Laboratory? If you can’t see the player, click here.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss videos like this from Kent!