This is part two of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes. Part one here.
There have been so many fascinating pieces of information from the early moments of Patrick Mahomes. It’s going to be hard for fans to completely grasp the abnormality of what has happened through two weeks in Kansas City. Not to the fault of anyone—it’s just so much more than we’re capable of consuming. I’m firmly in that boat. Little reminders keep popping up.
Lost in everything from yesterday is the fact that Patrick Mahomes has went toe-to-toe with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks this season and outplayed them both.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 17, 2018
Fans would probably be over the moon for 75 percent of what’s happened to this point. Mahomes is exceeding expectations that seemed unattainable. He’s been that great. It’s almost felt a little excessive how much fun these first two weeks have been.
Today is the day we fawn over the mental and physical capabilities of recently-turned 23-year-old Mahomes. There are reasons he outshined a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday.
Going back to his time in Lubbock at Texas Tech, Mahomes has developed a comfort playing out of empty formations.
#SomethingSmart Mahomes IDs Cover 2, and holds the safety to create a little more room for Kelce with hard eyes to his left. As @ChiefinCarolina mentioned, the shift led to what looks like a coverage bust. I think Pat might have picked up on it. pic.twitter.com/v3Uf6gljiF— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 19, 2018
I wrote this summer that I anticipated them using empty looks a good amount. I didn’t expect it would be this much. Mahomes was fantastic out of empty this week.
On this play, the Steelers are playing a two-high safety shell. If a team plays Cover 2 in this 3x2 formation, Travis Kelce is licking his chops. Lined up inside and detached from the line, he is in a prime position to split the two safeties down the middle of the field if they maintain that shell and the safeties split the field in half. It’s likely that he’s reading this play. If he is capped with a safety sitting in the middle of the field, he would sit down and find space. Instead, he’s got a chance to score.
Mahomes knows that if he can hold the safety, he can work back to Kelce for six. On the snap, Mahomes peaks to his right to check blitz/confirm coverage, then stares hard to his left to hold the safety, keeping him from tightening to Kelce. He does a fantastic job of holding as long as he can, giving Kelce as much space to work as possible.
As Matt Lane mentioned in his excellent article, the pre-snap shifts seemed to have caused a busted coverage on this look for the underneath defenders as well. Three defenders are in man underneath, the rest in zone with no one over the running back.
After using motion once to create an open window for Kelce, Chiefs come back to it. Pre-motion Pitt is in position to match everyone in man as the Chiefs motion 3 players the Pitt defense gets confused. End up with 3 guys in man w/ a box zone open in MOF & no one takes the RB out pic.twitter.com/fus3M0PGQQ— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 18, 2018
With Conley getting chased across the formation, no one over the running back and the alignment the Steelers seem to be sorting through late, Mahomes had to know they weren’t sound.
The throw wasn’t perfect, it was a little low, but it didn’t matter. Mahomes understood the opportunity based on the coverage and even though he threw it low, Kelce was still able to finish the play for a touchdown.
Empty looks can be beneficial to a young quarterback if he can handle it. Mahomes’ background is paying dividends in that regard.
The Mahomes-to-Kelce connection was providing several moments of promise this week. That duo made up for lost time in a big way.
#SomethingSpecial Mahomes saved his best fastball to beat sound coverage up the seam. Excellent anticipation and ball placement to protect Kelce as much as he could. pic.twitter.com/wZcLWFezy6— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 19, 2018
Quarterbacks make their money on third down and in the red zone. Performance in those two areas is usually telling of the abilities of a quarterback.
The Steelers are showing a single-high safety look, but it’s merely a disguise for their Tampa 2 coverage, which is Cover 2 with a middle linebacker running to a deep middle zone. The Chiefs are running a simple four verticals out of a 2x2 look post-Hill’s motion into the boundary.
Where this week’s something special required Mahomes to hold a defender with his eyes, here he had to use excellent anticipation, ball placement and rare velocity to exploit sound coverage up the seam.
Just before the ball is released. Kelce had just cleared the seam-hook defender. Safety is still getting width. He trusted what he saw and ripped it. pic.twitter.com/vXrW39myfF— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 19, 2018
The seam-hook defender, Vince Williams, runs with Kelce all the way to the top of his drop. The deep middle zone defender, Jon Bostic opens up to the strength of the pass play (the boundary with Kelce, Hill and Hunt) to carry the vertical but has no chance to challenge the throw because the ball is out so quick. At the release of the ball, the safety is getting width to maintain leverage on both Kelce and Hill and has no chance to close because of the anticipation, accuracy and velocity on the ball. There wasn’t much any defender could do,
You might think that the ball was slightly inaccurate. That ball placement was absolutely intentional. Kelce is in a tight space between three defenders dropping into coverage. He didn’t want to pull Kelce to close to the inside linebacker running vertically so he split the space in half to protect him. Mahomes was drawing Kelce away from as much contact as possible.
We’re yet to even talk about the velocity on the ball. That ball appeared to me to be the one with the most zip on it all day. He put something behind that in order to place the ball where he wanted. That’s a remarkable throw. A rare throw.