“We do not have to do anything else other than being ourselves." pic.twitter.com/JbNrJZW7uT— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 30, 2019
Whether it was the first time or the next five times I watched the Kansas City Chiefs’ come-from-behind road win against the Detroit Lions, I couldn’t help but noticing how calm Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was throughout the game. Clips like these confirm it. Through the first quarter of the season, there’s a confident, workmanlike approach to how Mahomes has performed.
It’s safe to say this was not the performance (or result) that Chiefs fans envisioned in Mahomes’ first game in a dome. The climate-controlled environment didn’t do much of anything to assist the quarterback. The building was loud — and things weren’t working right offensively. There were too many fumbles — and receivers were struggling to separate with consistency.
As Chiefs head coach Andy Reid might say, it wasn’t one of Mozart’s best paintings. But throughout the game — in both good and bad stretches — Mahomes showed focus and poise that is usually reserved for the best players in the league.
The moment wasn’t too big for the kid. Aside from a few first halves where the energy probably needed to be controlled (see: both 2018 New England Patriots games), Mahomes has been a steady a presence in the biggest moments. Even in those games, he’s still given his team the lead (or a tie) with minimal time to work. He’s been nearly perfect when answering the bell. Outside of the Monday Night Football thriller against the Los Angeles Rams, his record in those moments has been just about spotless.
Sunday at Ford Field was no different.
More on the finish tomorrow, but let’s discuss something good and something bad from the first half — which had a clutch moment of its own.
But first, I owe you a GIF from The Office.
Deon Yelder's first quarter. pic.twitter.com/NAlZ8KPuaA— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 30, 2019
Not a bad start for the young tight end.
Welcome to the NFL, Deon Yelder. Here's to more crossers in your future. pic.twitter.com/aMuB6hxfR2— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 1, 2019
A beautiful throw to Darrel Williams helped set up a field goal to tie the game late in the first half.
#SomethingGood :32 left in the first half, and Mahomes delivers an excellent ball to Darrel Williams out of the backfield to put the Chiefs in field goal range. Good job navigating front side pressure and finding the Barrel against 2-Man. pic.twitter.com/LRewMelYAa— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 1, 2019
First off, let’s acknowledge how impressive WIlliams has been in his opportunities. He’s not the most dynamic player, but this is an excellent, difficult catch for a running back.
The Chiefs are getting cover 2 man coverage on this play. Two deep safeties are splitting the field and have man coverage underneath (you’ll need to know this tomorrow, too). They bring a three-man rush — and a spy on Mahomes. Williams beats linebacker Jarad Davis (40) up the seam. With front side pressure closing, Mahomes has to step up. He sets and delivers a 20-yard strike over the shoulder (and in stride) to Williams. The Chiefs get a chance to tie the game going into the half — which Harrison Butker would convert.
For Mahomes, it was an outstanding situational football throw. He needed a chunk play to put his team in position to get points. He showed perfect drive and exceptional accuracy on the ball, which allowed for a big catch and run so Butker could close the drive.
What’s amazing about Mahomes’ performance is that he did it without much of any success challenging the Lions vertically.
#SomethingBad Mahomes was just a tick off down the field this week for a litany of reasons. Be it pressure, miscommunication, disruption from defensive backs, a potential no-look attempt (?), the explosive passing game was limited more than in previous weeks. pic.twitter.com/JembIWuWbt— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 1, 2019
It didn’t matter if it was Travis Kelce, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman or Sammy Watkins; on Sunday, Mahomes struggled on deeper throws. He was trying to challenge the Lions banged-up secondary, but just wasn’t able to connect.
It wasn’t entirely his fault. Receivers were unable to get consistent separation for most of the game. Hardman and Robinson both needed to get uncovered — and were unable to do so with any frequency. Watkins had his own inconsistencies.
You can certainly credit coverage and pass rush for affecting the timing and comfort of the quarterback — but at times, it was somewhat self-inflicted, too.
It appears on the second throw in this clip. Mahomes might have been trying a no-look pass — or perhaps he was establishing his base and shoulders to the throw. Sometimes there seemed to be some miscommunication, too — like on the attempted back shoulder throw to Robinson. Simply put, a wide variety of small misses helped reduce the explosiveness of the Chiefs’ passing game.
What’s important is that regardless of the small issues — and the three lost fumbles — the Chiefs offense was still able to put 27 points on the board. They operated differently, but did enough to win. More on that tomorrow.