Patrick Mahomes (45) has as many career touchdown passes as every Chiefs quarterback draft pick from 1982-2016 combined. I don't know whether I'm happy or sad.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 19, 2018
The Chiefs have not taken the most important position in football seriously enough in my lifetime. They’ve always leaned on re-tread quarterbacks. The best chance at a real, sustained Super Bowl window is to have an elite quarterback. The Chiefs didn’t even try until they traded up for Patrick Mahomes.
I was there as the Chiefs blew the insurmountable lead in Indianapolis. The playoff loss streak extended for a couple years beyond that. It was depressing.
But the Chiefs’ chances to hoist a Lombardi Trophy are real now. The Chiefs went from a team that needed everything to go right for them to have a real shot at a Super Bowl to a team that can expect to be in the mix every year that Mahomes is on the field.
Everything is different now. My expectations have changed, so anything getting in the way of attaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and an opportunity to use the next few weeks to get healthy was immensely frustrating. It’s not going to take as much to go right for Mahomes to lead this team deep into the playoffs as it was always going to be with Smith, Cassel, Green, Grbac. This is different. The expectations and optimism should be too.
Mahomes has really come a long way in his time in Kansas City. This clip is rich in visible improvements.
#SomethingImproved You look back to last year, even this year, and you see how far Mahomes has come with how and when he elects to escape the pocket. He's processing quicker out of structure too. Eyes are getting out quick from this spin out, sees Kelce, delivers athletic throw. pic.twitter.com/AZIFBdkcNy— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 20, 2018
Early on, the decisions Mahomes made about how and when he would escape the pocket were sporadic. He still made phenomenal plays working out of structure but sometimes he would make it harder on himself than he needed too. He’s been making better decisions as time goes on about how he is escaping. This was a good example.
Mahomes elects to spin out of pressure. Even his spin-outs look better than they have in the past. They are more direct and explosive. Believe it or not, I think that matters when you’re eluding pressure. What’s more he gets his eyes quickly back into the field. That looks better than it was last year too. The time he saved with his feet and eyes helped him find Kelce working his direction. He does an excellent job getting his shoulders in a position to deliver an athletic throw to Kelce in a very tight window.
Mahomes is more refined. It’s so impressive and so encouraging.
It wasn’t all good this week, however. Mahomes had a rough stretch in the fourth quarter of a close game.
#NeedsImprovement This was a rough sequence for Mahomes to start the 4th quarter in a close game. I think he was trying a little too hard. Held onto a ball mid-throw, tried a left handed pass, threw Damien Williams out of bounds on a swing and tried to force a ball to Conley. pic.twitter.com/xFARJjOHAb— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 20, 2018
I mentioned a few times on the radio this week that the final touchdown drive for the Chiefs was a struggle, and they’re lucky that they found pay dirt. That partially fell on Mahomes. With the fourth quarter starting and the Chiefs up seven, Mahomes had one of his rougher sequences of the season.
We talked this week about the throw that Mahomes tried to hold back in what looked like a moment of hesitancy. That kicked off four plays where it looked like he was trying a little too hard. After throwing a ball well short of Demarcus Robinson/Tyreek Hill, Mahomes attempted a risky left handed throw on a third and ten that ultimately resulted in a defensive holding to extend the drive. The very next play, Mahomes throws a swing to Damien Williams that carries him out of bounds for no gain. Finally, he tries to fit a ball to Chris Conley on a run-pass option with a high difficulty level. He could’ve hit Kelce in the flat for a positive gain.
The stretch very easily could’ve cost the Chiefs points. The game seems to be slowing down immensely for Mahomes, but I’m not sure the moments always are. He’ll develop that over time.
What’s encouraging is immediately after this stretch, Mahomes made a great play to extend the drive.
#SomethingSpecial Really nice pressure from the Chargers. Andrew Wylie is late to the linebacker and Mahomes faces pressure, but is able to throw a ball of his back foot with accuracy to Kelce who gets some YAC and a first down. pic.twitter.com/YwDjgHwj2N— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 19, 2018
We detailed this play and more in yesterday’s article.
Just like all the improvements Mahomes has made with time, these kinds of stretches will be fewer and farther between. The expectations should be changing, and the immense of amount of positive indicators and production should bring hope that Chiefs fans aren’t long for the heartbreak they’ve grown accustomed to.
Miss this week’s episode of the AP Laboratory? We discussed Eric Berry, the Chiefense, the most disappointing players this season and more.If you can’t see the player below, click here.
45 Seconds with Kent Swanson
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