This is part one of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes.
Records are meant to be broken. Len Dawson’s single-season touchdown pass record of 30 finally fell on Sunday. It should’ve been broken a long time ago. In 2017, the Chiefs finally broke a 34-year streak of not drafting a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft with the selection of the man who knocked Dawson off the mountaintop with his 31st touchdown (in just 10 games), Patrick Mahomes.
Dawson’s record started 19 years before the Chiefs selected Todd Blackledge and lasted until Mahomes was given the keys to this organization. There’s a correlation between that gap in investing at quarterback and the streak extending to over a half-century. Finally, the Chiefs tried to do the one thing that has reaped Super Bowl success more than any path, and Mahomes quickly etched his name atop the list the first chance he got. In 10 games, the young signal-caller has amassed 31 touchdowns and halted the sad streak just one year short of receiving a discount on coffee at McDonald’s.
The kid is making up for all the lost time this city hasn’t had a quarterback to call its own in unprecedented fashion. I can’t wait to watch how many times he surpasses his own number.
We’ll talk about the record-breaking throw Wednesday, but let’s look at the drive that tied it.
The first throw of the game was an excellent ball and a well-designed play by Andy Reid. On the first few steps, the optics of the play look a little like a slant-flat combination off the run-pass options the Chiefs have leaned on this season. It’s actually a play-action shot with mirrored 9-flat mirrored concepts.
The Cardinals are in Cover 1 (man coverage with a single high safety deep) and Mahomes is patient with the run action. He also gives a pump fake before re-setting and delivering.
Tyreek Hill gives a little nod like he’s breaking on a slant before running a fade route. Patrick Peterson bites and Hill has separation down the sideline. The placement on this throw is perfect. Mahomes throws the ball with drive, so that Tre Boston can’t get there to contest it. Also impressive is the fact that he’s facing pressure as he throws. Any less velocity and Hill gets smoked for a likely incompletion. This throw was correct usage of the arm talent.
Two plays later, Mahomes ties Dawson.
The Cardinals are in a split-safety coverage look and the Chiefs are lined up in empty with Hill as the number three receiver to the wide side of the field. Against middle-field open looks like this one, splitting the safeties with a receiver up the middle can be lucrative, especially if it’s someone as fast as Hill.
Mahomes checks the outside release vertical and Kelce on a choice route in the boundary. The safety in the boundary honors the vertical down the sideline and when Mahomes brings his eyes back to Hill, he sees that Boston has maintained alignment between the hash and numbers, leaving a big space to deliver a ball. Mahomes throws a perfect up-and-down ball over the underneath defender for a touchdown. Great find, great ball to tie the record.
You never want a trick play wasted.
The Chiefs have tried to lull people to sleep with motions back into the backfield of running backs before only to hit them with plays like this. Yes, defenses even have to pay attention to simple things like that when they play Kansas City.
Hill and Chris Conley are pretending to correct Hunt’s alignment on the play and Mahomes tries to quick-snap while Hunt “corrects” himself and throws the ball to him for a first down. Unfortunately at least three players weren’t set on the play and the Chiefs were called for an illegal shift.
The very smart and handsome @HisDirkness on Twitter double checked to confirm that the receivers were, in fact, not permitted to be pointing or moving on the snap.
Best I got......I am ready to concede after 7 minutes of strenuous research pic.twitter.com/DobZzb8mZO— His Dirkness (@HisDirknesS) November 13, 2018
Even if the receivers had been set, this play likely still gets called for an illegal shift because Mahomes isn’t set either. You never want plays like this to be wasted because of the quarterback. It very well could have been Mahomes’ fault on this play as he initiates the snap before he himself is set. Little things like this never need to be the fault of the quarterback. One of the phrases thrown around by coaches is that quarterbacks should be perfect on the little things. This was a little thing.
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.
Quarterbacks will often communicate protection rules to the receivers pre-snap. If players that aren’t accounted for in the protection blitz, certain receivers are designated to adjust their routes to beat quick pressure. If you heard Mahomes yell “hot off these two” this week as the first half was winding down, he was communicating whoever was hot that they need to adjust their route if the two players he indicated are to blitz. Understanding and communicating protections is just one of several things that are required of quarterback pre-snap.