This is part one of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes.
What do you say to appropriately describe the emotions surrounding something you’ve anticipated your entire life?
I’ve re-written the lede a few times already. It’s hard to accurately describe what the Chiefs victory over the Colts in the divisional round meant to me and what I think it meant for this city.
The parallels to previous pain were obvious. It was nearly the All-Punt Game for the Colts in the first half. All but one possession in the game’s first 30 minutes resulted in work for the Colts’ Rigoberto Sanchez. The one possession that didn’t had its own poetic justice. Adam Vinatieri, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, missed a point-blank field goal. You’re off the hook, Lin Elliott. As someone who drove back in the snow after “38-10,” it seemed fitting the Chiefs returned the favor to those driving back to the Hoosier State on Saturday.
Sure, there is plenty to analyze from Patrick Mahomes’ first performance in the playoffs. We’re certainly going to talk about the positive and negative this week, but that’s not what matters. What does matter is that the Chiefs are still playing, and the young quarterback gets yet another opportunity and a chance to lead Kansas City and all their fans to a well deserved and overdue Super Bowl appearance.
You would have no clue it was Mahomes’ first playoff game on the first drive.
#SomethingGood Mahomes' first play of his postseason was a Slant/Flat RPO. Anthony Walker is the conflict player. A few steps on the run creates a space for Mahomes to deliver a strike to Hill. There's always a chance he can break one of these. pic.twitter.com/jF33yhHb98— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) January 14, 2019
Mahomes’ first play of his postseason was a slant-flat RPO. He’s reading linebacker Anthony Walker who takes just a few steps with the flow of the run play, but it’s enough for Mahomes to elect to throw the slant to Tyreek Hill. These plays are so dangerous with Hill as we saw on Mahomes’ first career touchdown against the Chargers. There’s potential for him to outrun the defense. Great start to the drive.
#SomethingGood The Chiefs utilized option routes with Kelce this week. On the first drive against basic Cover 2, Kelce broke out to space with Harris occupying the flat. Easy completion and YAC. pic.twitter.com/EUaRnrKWIb— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) January 14, 2019
The next pass play, the Colts run a basic cover 2 defense with five underneath zones and two deep safeties splitting the field in half. With Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris lined up in the boundary, the Chiefs run a flat-option with Harris occupying the flight and Kelce reading the leverage of the underneath coverage and find space. Mahomes is on-time and on the same page as Kelce who catches the ball on an out break and gets yards after the catch to the 46 yard line.
Clear Zone ID for Mahomes unless you think Jabaal Sheard and/or Anthony Walker are going to cover Tyreek Hill. Plus the corner bouncing out with the RB. Mahomes keeps eyes to the field before working the Dig/Choice in the boundary. Anticipation and placement is excellent. pic.twitter.com/U0TN5xe218— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) January 14, 2019
The next play, the Chiefs motion into an empty formation and the corner bounces out with Damien Williams. There’s a zone coverage ID for Mahomes. Also, do we really think the Colts would be dumb enough to line up Jabaal Sheard and Anthony Walker on Tyreek Hill? No. Mahomes quickly realizes this is likely Tampa 2, and the way he executes this play shows that. His eyes are to the field on the snap of the ball. As Walker, the Tampa linebacker, carries Hill on the vertical, Mahomes knows he’s coming back to Watkins and Kelce. They’re running a dig-choice concept. Kelce is on a short-option route where he’s breaking based on leverage of the defender. Watkins runs a seam stem into a dig route behind Kelce occupying Darius Leonard. Mahomes helps maintains space with his eyes and comes back to Watkins and delivers a ball with anticipation to Watkins. The ball is perfectly placed, giving Watkins the opportunity to run after the catch for a gain of 34 yards. Outstanding execution on a drive that ultimately ended in a touchdown run for Damien Williams.
It wasn’t all perfect for Mahomes. He did miss a touchdown to start the second quarter.
#SomethingBad This may have been weather aided, but a bad miss on a drive that resulted in a field goal instead of a touchdown. Wanted Hill splitting the deep safeties, but put it behind him. pic.twitter.com/b58eWd5F2X pic.twitter.com/DLhMfVpOPX— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) January 14, 2019
The Colts are again in a Tampa 2 defense. Hill clears the Tampa linebacker and runs up the middle of the field between the safeties. There’s space for him to work with. He just misses. The ball is behind and short of Hill. It was a prime opportunity wasted by an uncharacteristically errant throw. This is likely is just one where the weather go to him. The trajectory is too bizarre.
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 there’s so much to prepare for, you may only get a few opportunities in practice to prove that a new play design is worth calling in a game. Whether it’s a special play or just a new install specific for the week, coaches want to see it executed well in practice or they’ll dismiss the idea and move on. If you like the call, you better make sure you can show it’ll work.