This is part one of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes.
Winning breeds more opportunities to learn, grow and develop than most young quarterbacks are afforded. Winning teams with big goals can’t waste any chance to add a tally to their win column. Whereas developing quarterbacks on lesser teams can grow amidst mediocrity, winning teams don’t provide that luxury. Everything is magnified and the ceiling of your team is dependent on your response time after time when they need you the most.
It’s rare for someone playing the most important position in sports to have the quantity of chances to check off the boxes Patrick Mahomes has been given in merely 12 games as the leader of the organization. He’s handled them mostly well. This week brought something different.
Kareem Hunt’s release from the Chiefs brought unique adversity that even veteran quarterbacks have never faced. One of the leagues best talents at the running back position and, by all indications, a friend of Mahomes was no longer going to be in the backfield with him. His team was dealing with personal and professional emotions merely days before facing a rival opponent.
Oakland is a bad football team. Very bad. The three first-round picks they have in next year’s draft will not come close to solving this team’s problems or closing the talent gap they created to acquire two of those three first-rounders. It didn’t matter on Sunday. The Chiefs were in a dogfight. Mahomes was inconsistent early, Tyreek Hill had his worst game of the season and the defense didn’t give them any breathing room.
Mahomes needed to drag himself and his team through a poor showing. He had the ball late and needed to bury the Raiders (more on that later this week). His final line in a rough game (emotionally and physically) still resulted in 295 yards through the air, four touchdowns, no interceptions, a team-leading 52 yards on the ground, a last-minute drive for a touchdown in the first half, a game-finishing drive in the fourth quarter and...
...exceptional moments on third downs throughout the game.
#SomethingGood 3rd and 9 and the Chiefs dial up a basic sticks concept (receivers working past the sticks and finding space). Mahomes steps up against pressure and fits a ball in a tight window for the conversion. pic.twitter.com/MJ9wnAup1v— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 4, 2018
Third-and-9 in the second quarter. The Chiefs are running a basic sticks play (receivers run just past the line to gain and find space to work. Mahomes is facing pressure, steps up and finds Kelce in a tight window to convert. A few plays later he ups the degree of difficulty.
#SomethingGood hEy DiD YoU kNoW mAhOmEs PlAyeD bAsEbAlL?— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 4, 2018
We somehow are growing accustomed to throws like this. Good escape, athletic delivery to convert on 3rd and 15. pic.twitter.com/m66rN5sNVg
Third-and-15, Mahomes is facing a three-man rush that somehow gets home and he has to step up and then scramble to his left to find a play. He rolls left and finds Kelce on the sideline to convert on a great catch by the tight end. This was another athletic throw we’ve grown accustomed to with this kid. He’s normalizing rare talent.
He wasn’t helped by Hill on this third-down attempt.
#SomethingGood Again Mahomes came through on 3rd down. This time Hill lets him down. Raiders were late to rotate into their pressure, Mahomes moves to his left and delivers a well placed ball to his right on the corner route. Hill just drops it. pic.twitter.com/PBTUH1JHfr— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 4, 2018
Mahomes sets the protection correctly and the line and running back do a great job sorting through the pressure. He has Hill on a corner route, and delivers an excellent throw on time, with accuracy. The Raiders actually timed their roll into pressure well, but Mahomes slides away from the front-side pressure and delivers a great ball. Hill just drops it, and the Chiefs have to punt.
Mahomes connected with Kelce later in the quarter for what was nearly a touchdown.
#SomethingGood This is vintage Mahomes. Yet another 3rd down and Mahomes escapes pressure to his right and throws a laser downfield to Kelce, out of the reach of the defending safety. The trust level is special between these two. Great play. pic.twitter.com/nD3Qfzbf6d— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 4, 2018
The Raiders again bring pressure and Mahomes rolls right and sees Kelce down the field against a safety. With a defender closing, Mahomes throws a ball up to Kelce to give him a chance to make a play. The ball is an absolute rope, something we shouldn’t be so accustomed to, but we’re just spoiled. It’s out of the reach of the safety and Kelce comes down with it. In the situation, on third down, with the throw deep in Raider territory, I have no issue with taking a risk aggressively downfield. If it’s intercepted, it’s a good punt. Instead, the throw was great, and the Chiefs converted.
Finally, Mahomes’ final touchdown was a third-down conversion.
#SomethingGood This is a simple rub concept. Mahomes gets a man coverage ID. Kelce and Conley are trying to get open under the flat routes. Kelce is double teamed so he works to his second option, Conley. Mahomes ends the day with a critical 3rd and Goal conversion. pic.twitter.com/SNmeqmGws0— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 4, 2018
If the Chiefs don’t get this, they’re kicking a field goal and running the risk of losing the game the way the defense had been playing. Mahomes doesn’t give them that chance. The Chiefs get a man coverage ID with Kelce being followed on the motion. They dial up a mirrored (both sides running the same thing) rub concept to try and create traffic and free up both Chris Conley and Kelce. Hill and Demetrius Harris are running flat routes with Conely and Kelce running underneath them.
Because they know this is man coverage, the Chiefs are trying to make it hard for the defenders to sort through the switch release and traffic to clear the inside receivers. Mahomes has a simple read here on the inside receivers. With Kelce being double teamed, Mahomes works to the left to find an open Conley for a game-sealing touchdown.
We have a few more third-down plays to discuss Wednesday.
Funny that one of Hill’s mere two catches came on what should have been an interception.
#SomethingBad Mahomes is working this whip-dig concept inside but he's bad with his eyes and the linebacker falls off the whip into the passing lane he's trying to throw into. This should have been a pick but is somehow one of Hill's two catches on his rough day. pic.twitter.com/AuJIOPhv3D— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 4, 2018
The Chiefs are working a whip-dig combination inside with Demetrius Harris running the whip route and Hill coming in behind him. If the linebacker bites on Harris, there’s a void to throw to Hill. Mahomes stares down the void he wants to work in and the linebacker reads his eyes and falls off Harris to get his hands on the ball. Luckily, the ball has too much velocity on it and Hill makes a fantastic catch on the deflection to convert. Mahomes needs to be better with his eyes. This could have been a game-changing mistake.
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.
Because quarterbacks are so in tune with gameplan and the overall playbook, coaches may not even need to say the entire play for the quarterback to know exactly what they’re running. The coordinator might start calling the play, and because they’re so well prepared, they could call it correctly even with only a portion of the information. On some plays, coach and QB can even discuss a play on the sidelines with just one or two words of the call. “Hey, you like Seam 74 here?”