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Patrick Mahomes converted key third downs in first game back

Evaluating the reigning MVP’s return performance against the Tennessee Titans.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are doing a terrible job tanking; they were able to notch their second win in as many weeks by stunning the Indianapolis Colts.

Even with Brian Hoyer leading the offense in the absence of Jacoby Brissett, this was supposed to be another victory for Indianapolis. The Colts were at home, playing a team that has intentionally depleted the talent of their roster. Yet there was Brian Flores and his team fighting for another victory. There’s a very real chance that now, they’ll pick no better than third in this year’s NFL Draft, limiting their ability to draft the quarterback of their choosing.

Had things gone the way they were expected to in Nashville, Chiefs fans would be celebrating the stunning upset. With a hobbling Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs gave away a game on national television to Indianapolis just a few short weeks ago. They followed that up by falling to another AFC South opponent in the Houston Texans, again at Arrowhead. But after stunning the Minnesota Vikings with Matt Moore last week, all the Chiefs had to do was beat the AFC South third-place Tennessee Titans, and they’d be up in the win column on the Colts for playoff positioning — one step closer to gaining a more favorable path. Maintain that lead, feast on a soft schedule, hope the Texans lose a few with their tough schedule, tie Baltimore in record, and they could have even had a first-round bye.

We all know what happened. The momentum of a massive team win last week, and the insertion of Mahomes back into the lineup was stopped before it even had a chance to breathe. The Chiefs squandered a big opportunity to get the stretch run started off on a positive note. Instead, they’re in a dogfight for the AFC West with two massive games before facing the New England Patriots.

This team still has the reigning MVP, who played exceptional football in his first game back in 24 days. But the frustrating part of this stretch of futility is that they’ve made their lives much more difficult than they’ve needed to be. They should have been a slam-dunk one or two seed, even with Mahomes’ injury. Instead, the supporting cast has let them down consistently. Just when they gave you hope, the loss happened.

Even with the loss, there were so many plays from Mahomes worth discussing this week. We start with some conversions:

Something good

Mahomes and company put forth some fantastic efforts to move the chains on third down.

The quarterback saved some of his best for key downs throughout the game (more on one throw, in particular, on Wednesday).

The first play was an example of the quick processing that keeps improving with Mahomes. He knows he has the corner route to Hill if he pulls the trigger fast. He gets the ball out on time and drives it in a tight window to convert the third down.

On the second play, Mahomes beats pressure on the crossing route to Hill behind underneath defenders. He throws the ball early and with touch. Ultimate touch and trust in Hill to throw that ball. He sees it; he pulls it.

On play three, Mahomes initially wants to try to create out of structure when protection breaks down, but he decides against it. After a pump-fake on an edge defender meeting him outside the pocket, he cuts back in and finds Robinson working back toward the quarterback. He gets rid of the ball with a high elbow at an awkward angle but successfully gets it to Robinson, who converts.

On the final conversion, Mahomes shows his exceptional vision. He gets to the top of his drops, drifts one step to his right but sees space to drive a ball to Hill for another conversion. This was thrown with anticipation and an at an angle few can execute. Hill gains 29 yards on the play, and the Chiefs get another set of downs.

Something bad

I could’ve critiqued a few near-interceptions, but it doesn’t feel right.

Mahomes is back, and he was the least of this team’s problems. Instead, let’s talk about a few key drops that contributed to the Chiefs losing.

With the Chiefs up 10-0 and nearing Titans territory on a third-and-10, Sammy Watkins let a first down drop between his hands.

Mahomes anticipated front-side pressure with the late movement down into the box by the safety. He is quick out of his drop to start backpedaling away from the pressure he’s expecting. He’s buying his time a little more unconventionally than we’ve seen in the past, and that could very well be because of the knee injury.

The time bought by drifting away gave Mahomes time to loft a ball to a crossing Watkins past the sticks. Even without the yards after catch the receiver was sure to get, it was enough to continue the drive. The ball was inexplicably dropped. Watkins appeared to have been looking for a drive safety, but regardless, an unacceptable lack of focus led to a punt.

Watkins wasn’t done dropping excellent passes from Mahomes.

Trailing by one in the third quarter, the Chiefs tag a rub concept to this run play. Watkins delays his release on the snap of the ball and then bursts into a shoot route down the sideline. Mahomes has to beat the pressure in his face with Schwartz late to get hands on the free rusher. The ball gets off in time and is perfectly placed in and out of the hands of Watkins. A completion results in an and-goal situation for the offense. Instead, the drive stalls and the Chiefs are forced to kick a field goal.

Mahomes had some of his key weapons let him down, or else a 450-plus yard performance could have been even more. The final result was a loss, but this offense will still be terrifying defenses for the remainder of the season.

We’ll talk about what makes it scary in part two of the Mahomes film review on Wednesday.

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