A common topic of conversation this offseason has been Patrick Mahomes’ expected regression.
When you put up a top-three all-time single-season performance, people are naturally going to come out with doubt that you’ll be able to sustain the other-worldly nature of a 5,000-yard and 50-touchdown season.
While the results may or may not be the same fantasy output that won some early believers a championship or three on in their leagues last year, I am confident after watching Mahomes’ final performance of the season, the process by which those results were realized will not be the problem.
I won’t blame anyone for refusing to relive the AFC championship game. It’s a painful experience to watch as a fourth-quarter Charvarius Ward interception is called back due to San Francisco 49er EDGE Dee Ford lining up offside, Chris Jones grazing Tom Brady’s helmet for a personal foul, and Bob Sutton’s defense getting into three straight third-and-10s in overtime only to come up short.
The tragedies of that game came at the hands of the defense, as the did the entirety of the season. Those dreadful memories are inhibiting a large faction of Chiefs fans from remembering and appreciating a truly special 30 minutes of football by the 23-year-old MVP.
Watching how he responded to the excellent game plan put together by the greatest coach of all time, Bill Belichick, and his staff (hello, Brendan Daly) in the second half of the game should bring you optimism for both his statistics and the process by which he’ll achieve lofty goals.
Nothing about what he did showed regression; It was quite the opposite, actually.
He saved some of his best for last.
We forget that Mahomes saved some of his best for last in the AFCCG. It's a painful experience to relive that game but it shouldn't take away from the fact that his final half of football was exceptional, starting with the 3rd down conversion to Watkins that sparked the comeback. pic.twitter.com/KynSXzFfQe— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) July 2, 2019
The Patriots got the Chiefs in the first half with physical man coverage and a variety or pressures that Mahomes did not sort out well. They beat him. The response to that first half was some of his best work the season.
The first third down Mahomes faced, he created out of structure for the biggest play of the game to Sammy Watkins, sending the Chiefs in the red zone.
Another 3rd down and Mahomes makes an adjustment to beat a free rusher in his face to convert. His athleticism, instincts and creativity are innate. He's also not done growing and developing mentally. That should scare people. pic.twitter.com/B4llFGW9PP— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) July 2, 2019
New England is showing Cover-0 pressure, forcing the Chiefs and their five-man protection to sort through it. Mahomes might not have made the right decision on this play. I don’t know for sure, but he’s forced to deal with a free rusher in his face. He makes an athletic adjustment after setting his feet to throw around the defensive end to find Watkins again on another third-down conversion.
What should scare teams moving forward is that Mahomes will learn from all these looks he sees from other teams. Whether this is an example or not, he’s not going to have to bail himself out of as much as he did in his first year. He’s growing and learning from everything he saw in his initial campaign as a starting quarterback.
The Chiefs scored 28 points in the first 29:30 of the second half. Mahomes even led them to a lead at one point. He stared the dynasty in the face, took their best shots and mounted a game-tying drive with his final two completions of the season.
There's 32 seconds remaining in the season, your team needs a field goal to tie, a 23 year old Mahomes is going toe-to-toe with the dynasty and makes this throw when his team needs it the most. The loss kills the legacy of this play and it shouldn't. pic.twitter.com/m3ufymHsxd— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) July 2, 2019
This play should be revered the same way the fourth-and-9 pass, the left-hander against the Broncos and the no-look throws against the Ravens are. I gave it one-seed in the Mahomes Madness bracket because it deserves the praise.
This is the most significant moment of the season—more significant than all the aforementioned moments.
This play and performance get lost in the sadness of being on the doorstep of hoisting the Lamar Hunt trophy in Arrowhead. This play should have the same kind of legacy. Time is running out and he’s creating out of structure to find a streaking running back and delivering a ball in an extremely tight window for a chunk play that leads to a chance to tie the game.
This is a 23-year-old kid making the rarest of throws in the waning moments of the season against the most dominant football franchise of the millennium. He outplayed Tom Brady by a large margin in this game, and specifically in the second half. He followed up with his final completion of the season—another extraordinary special play.
The follow up to the throw to Ware. 23 seconds left in the season, this play puts them in field goal range. Toughness to deliver a ball with accuracy and touch in the face of pressure. Dialed in on the biggest stage in the biggest moment. Pat's beyond KC's wildest dreams. pic.twitter.com/ukIO5qAdlX— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) July 2, 2019
The kid wasn’t remotely afraid of the moment. In fact, he thrived in it. He didn’t lose that game; he just ran out of time. Those final two, back-to-back completions show what Mahomes truly is: a generational talent.
He displayed all the characteristics you want in that second half: creativity, athleticism, arm talent, touch, anticipation, toughness. It’s all there. And there is still room to grow mentally. He’s not yet scratched the surface of what he’ll become.
Chiefs fans have spent so long craving a franchise quarterback. Their patience and suffering yielded them a generational talent instead. There’s a difference. They bypassed what has been desired for something beyond their wildest dreams.
The stats may see regression, but the process by which he achieved those gaudy numbers is only going to improve. And the process can’t be replicated by anyone on the planet.