There’s an old football saying that the tape is never as good as you think it is, and it’s never as bad as you think it is.
This was absolutely the case in the Kansas City Chiefs’ big AFC West win against the visiting Oakland Raiders. The scoreboard reflected a 40-9 blowout, and there were certainly some great things to take away from the performance — especially with the defense.
However, it wasn’t by any means a clean game from the offense.
Since Patrick Mahomes’ reinsertion into the lineup after a dislocated knee injury, there have been inconsistencies with the offensive unit that we haven’t been accustomed to seeing.
That statement should not be taken as any form of panic but rather a moment of honesty about the potential and championship-level ceiling this team has. This group, not firing on all cylinders, remained capable of some explosive plays and more than enough points to win the game.
If the goal was to win that one game against Oakland, then they succeeded. However, this team has sights set on the ultimate goal. They want a Super Bowl. The performance from this offense and Patrick Mahomes on Sunday probably does not achieve those heights. The good news is there is plenty of time to get right.
Mahomes still seems to be getting back into the swing of things after the knee injury. Let’s look at a couple plays when things are going right, along with a play that exemplifies some of the issues that have showed up at times in this recent stretch.
Since Mahomes has returned to the lineup, there have been bouts of impatience and what appears to be a some lack of trust in his offensive line. This play is a prime example.
A lot to unpack here. The Chiefs are working a deep concept to the field side with Hill and Watkins. Mahomes exits a clean pocket to his right, away from the concept. He makes a bad play worse trying to throw across the field to Watkins. Should have been an INT. Rough sequence. pic.twitter.com/PpvrnPfNBO— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 3, 2019
This play is designed to be thrown to the field. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins’ route stems show as if this play is all working into the boundary before both are going to break out into the wide side of the field. Mahomes feels a little bit of pressure from his backside by Maxx Crosby and bails from a clean-enough pocket that he could have hung and delivered the ball. The problem is Mahomes bails away from the concept he’s trying to throw. He’s hung out to dry running away from the play. Had he stepped up in the pocket and let Crosby clear, he could have rolled to his left with his receivers and space to throw.
Mahomes makes a bad play worse in windy weather. Instead of living to fight another down, he risks it all by trying to throw across his body deep in the middle of the field. The ball doesn’t come close to the intended receiver (Watkins) and is nearly intercepted. It was an overly aggressive, impatient decision after Mahomes had taken himself out of good position to extend the play with success.
This play involves a few points that have brought inconsistency to the offense lately. For one, this isn’t the first play in which Mahomes has exited the pocket early. There seems to be some distrust in the protection up front. It can be reflected by early exits like on this play. Teams have been forcing the Chiefs to drive the ball, intent on eliminating explosive, vertical plays. There seems to be some growing frustration and impatience with Mahomes not getting to go out and do some of the things he’s normalized. This beyond-risky throw into the middle of the field is one of a few overly aggressive throws like the interception last week.
Mahomes remains the best quarterback in the world, but there are some uncharacteristic things occurring right now. It’s not a reason to overreact, but there have definitely been some differences to the steady, dynamic presence he’s been. This week against New England will be a massive challenge for him in trusting his group up front and being willing to take what is given to him. Mistakes need to be at a minimum, and the performance against the Raiders likely won’t cut it in Foxborough.
This is what it looks like when Mahomes is delivering with confidence, on time and from the pocket.
Really like this throw from Mahomes. On time, in rhythm and perfectly placed. 3 step drop with a hitch and ball is out. Well timed, well executed. pic.twitter.com/EVtAuIdWp7— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 3, 2019
Even better throw here. Tight window between three defenders on a corner route to Kelce. Timing, touch, anticipation. Ball is out on time, beats stunt. pic.twitter.com/3YlYHY5U22— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 3, 2019
These throws to Hill and Travis Kelce are made at the top of his drop, in rhythm and well-placed.
The Chiefs seemed to love throwing outside the numbers this week. These two throws are what the Chiefs want to see. Mahomes gets the ball out at the top of his drop on both these plays. The first one is a three-step drop with a hitch to Hill, who is perfectly led to the sideline. Just picture-perfect rhythm and delivery from the quarterback.
The second play might be an even better throw. The Chiefs are at their own goal line and the Raiders run a stunt up front. Mahomes calmly delivers the ball with anticipation and touch to Kelce between three defenders in a very tight window. He does throw this a little bit off his back foot. Not that this is a problem — but since coming back, Mahomes has seemed a little more timid stepping into throws from the pocket.
These aren’t easy throws, but Mahomes was excellent with both.
The bottom line
I’m not panicking in the slightest.
I believe Mahomes will get back to his standard, and this offense will start clicking on all cylinders soon. He’s going to be fine, this team will get back into a rhythm and can still turn all hopes into realities.
They face a massive test to their preparation and execution going up against the team that ended their season last year. The challenge could be coming at the perfect time.