By all indications, Patrick Mahomes was built in a laboratory with one purpose in life: to be an NFL quarterback.
He has the pedigree of a professional athlete, gaining behind-the-scenes experience watching baseball legends like Alex Rodriguez put in the work. Demonstrating poise and class, he quietly navigated his transition to NFL backup — and then to NFL starter and NFL star. He says (and does) the right things — both on and off the field.
For my money, when he’s on the field, he’s the world’s best quarterback.
There is so much about his public life that is structured, measured and well-maintained. It’s remarkable how well he has handled this whole thing — but again: he was built in a laboratory.
So learning he is also good at throwing shade was a pleasant surprise.
Counting to ten on my hands all day. pic.twitter.com/5XaMoq7U9M— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 23, 2019
Mahomes is not short on personality; he’s endearing to about everyone except the Denver Broncos. But this reminder to the Chicago Bears (and Sunday Night Football’s national audience) that nine teams made a huge mistake by not selecting him before the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to get him with the 10th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft was... perfect.
He’s been a professional throughout this whole process. But part of being a professional athlete is having a chip on your shoulder. Patrick Lavon Mahomes showed that deep inside, he is a stone cold killer — and just before the clock turned January, he put the league on notice.
For Christmas Week, we’ll cover the three Mahomes plays I want to to talk about from Sunday’s game in one article.
Thank you so much for engaging with our work. I’m immensely grateful for the chance to talk Chiefs with you. It’s never lost on me how lucky I am to be part of a place like Arrowhead Pride.
We have to start with another ho-hum third-and-very-long conversion.
There's a lot of talk about 3rd and 18, but what's funny is they often just run basic sticks concepts on these kind of downs. Not the first time they've hit this. Mahomes hitched into the pocket and delivered a strike with anticipation to Hill. Good chemistry between these two. pic.twitter.com/4xmM2YWFQ0— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 24, 2019
Since Mahomes became the starter, the Chiefs have been in situations like this a few times. They’ve run a basic sticks concept like this one on more than one of those occasions.
Sticks is simple: receivers run to a yard or two past the sticks, turn around and find space. In this concept, the Chiefs typically use 7-man protections, with a running back and tight end leaking to the flats after their protection responsibilities are completed.
Mahomes does a great job on this play. He stays in the pocket, giving the structure a chance. He hitches up into the pocket and drives a ball to Tyreek Hill with anticipation. Hill’s speed to threaten vertically, Mahomes’ anticipation and velocity — and the chemistry between them — is special.
There are many layers in this play worth discussing — but overall, it’s a really smart play by Mahomes.
Unique play design. Shows like sprint out initially but Mahomes stops, looking to throw back into the boundary to Hill. Notice how Mahomes peeks back to see who is rushing to his left. Pressure in his face, but gets enough on it to Hill. Really special throw/play. pic.twitter.com/6kqFWzpXgp— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 24, 2019
Initially, this looks like it’s going to be a sprint out. Both Mahomes and the line are selling a sprint pass to the field.
But Mahomes spins out of it to work what is actually a pass play to the boundary. Travis Kelce stays in protection. Hill’s route stem looks like he’s running a crossing route with the flow of the sprint, but then he flips his hips back into the boundary.
Mahomes faces pressure and has to get the ball out quickly. But the intel he gains as it happens allows this broken play to work.
Watching Mahomes on the end zone view, you see him peek back to the boundary, taking inventory of what’s happening where the play will ultimately go; he’s looking for who is rushing, who could drop into coverage and so on — trying to have an idea of what’s happening in case he has to make a quick decision.
He sees safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix rushing, so he knows that if he has to lay it up short to Hill, he can do it without risk of interception; there’s no underneath defender working with edge rusher Aaron Lynch. He makes an athletic play to release the ball — and his arm talent gives him enough to get it there. Hill works back to the ball and is able to gain a few more yards after the catch for a first down.
That quick glance is a very common technique on plays like this — and other similar concepts like a bootlegs.
The improvements in the pocket continue.
Drill work coming in play here with Mahomes. So much has been talked about with his pocket management lately, but this was perfect. Step up with front side pressure, rip up and through with the football, eyes downfield to find Kelce working across the field. pic.twitter.com/9WzBokTwh4— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 24, 2019
It’s not the flashiest play you’ll see, but with the recent struggles we’ve seen with consistency in the pocket, seeing Mahomes execute this play was a welcome sight; the extra work he’s been putting in on pocket management is paying off.
Mahomes feels front-side pressure and uses two hands to rip through the potential contact. The good ball protection — and the step up into the pocket — is great, but it’s magnified because he keeps his eyes up; he’s able to find Kelce working across the field.
We all knew it would come back, but Mahomes’ consistency from the pocket — and his mechanics when he’s in there — have improved.