All week — actually, make that all offseason — we were anticipating the matchup of two of the best young talents at the quarterback position in the NFL. The last two league MVPs were scheduled for an early-season battle that could ultimately decide who gets the precious sole bye week in the AFC.
The takes were flying all week for a primetime game on Monday Night Football — who’s the best quarterback in the league? There were comparisons to the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry. We’re still waiting on it to be a rivalry — and the comparisons need to stop. There is Patrick Mahomes and then there’s everyone else.
League experts so desperately want someone to step up and match what Mahomes has done in such a short time — a true challenger for supremacy. No matter how many storylines are created — no one has been able to step up to the challenge. All due respect to Russell Wilson, there is a tier of one, and it’s Patrick Lavon Mahomes.
Appreciate what you’re seeing right now from a young man who has just turned 25 and has normalized things that some of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game are physically incapable of doing. His highlight reel already rivals about everyone who has played this game to date — and he’s washed that down with a league and Super Bowl MVP before he hit the quarter-century mark. He’s running away from fantastic young quarterbacks with bright futures and gold jacket aspirations like Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson.
Mahomes shut another round of debates down on Monday night.
He’s not chasing anyone — and probably won’t for quite some time (maybe Trevor Lawrence will give him a run). He’s chasing legacy and is positioning himself well for the easiest path to a world championship — being the only AFC quarterback with a first-round bye.
Here are some of the plays he made in Baltimore to give his team a leg up in the AFC:
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s first highlight as a pass-catcher (that counted) was an outstanding throw from Mahomes.
Want to know why CEH's skill was such a good fit for the Chiefs? Prime example here. Corner route out of the backfield, excellent tracking the ball over his shoulder.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 30, 2020
Outstanding touch throw by Mahomes here to his newest weapon. pic.twitter.com/wyJMma4jXW
This is a prime example of why Edwards-Helaire is in Kansas City — he can be asked to execute anything the Chiefs want to do with their running backs in the passing game. His best catch to this point is a great representation of one of the most diverse route trees of any running back. Andy Reid trusts his rookie to execute a tough assignment.
The Ravens are playing man coverage, and Edwards-Helaire free-releases out of the backfield into his route. Matching up with him is his former teammate and draft crush of a large faction of Chiefs fans (including all of us on the AP draft team) — Patrick Queen.
Edwards-Helaire gets the best of the matchup, catching Queen too flat-footed and blowing past him and angled to the sideline. Mahomes rewards Edwards-Helaire with a perfect throw over his shoulder — on time, with great touch and anticipation. The ball-tracking of Edwards-Helaire is part of what makes him special — he tracks like a wide receiver. This is just one of many throw-and-catches we’ll see from this pair in the future.
If you’ve ever read these Mahomes’ articles, you’ve probably seen this before:
Anticipation is a byproduct of the study and preparation made by a quarterback throughout the week.
On the Tyreek Hill touchdown, he's barely out of his break to the corner when Mahomes starts to throw the ball. Fantastic anticipation. Tons of trust between these two. pic.twitter.com/5MV6ldR7DM— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 30, 2020
The beautiful touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill was a result of excellent anticipation on the throw from Mahomes. The Ravens are again in man coverage with a deep safety in the middle of the field — confirmed by the safety following Travis Kelce across the formation.
The design is an excellent man-beater — with fullback Anthony Sherman getting to the flat, the linebacker to cover him creates a natural rub on Marcus Peters, who is covering Hill. The former Chief was actually in pretty good coverage despite the bump as Hill broke for the corner.
Mahomes comes out of play-action and doesn’t need much time to know where this ball is going — he kept the play on with confirmation of man coverage by the motion and was prepared to get this ball to Hill when he saw he was even with Peters.
Right as he starts to throw. Even is open with Tyreek Hill. pic.twitter.com/NSNOFSwLHm— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 30, 2020
Mahomes was preparing to throw the ball as Hill was breaking for the corner. He threw with a quick release and exceptional touch — the ball beat pressure and was placed perfectly to Hill for a huge touchdown.
Much has been made of the deep drops from week two against the Chargers. Sometimes the result is a special play like Wasp or this outstanding throw on Monday Night Football:
This is the flip side to last week's deep drop discussion. If you can buy the time, and have the ability to throw 55 yard lasers like this, you can get away with not always operating by the rules. pic.twitter.com/pq39RW88Tc— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 30, 2020
This is basically a two-man route concept with chips and late leaks to the flat by Kelce and Demarcus Robinson. The Chiefs are lined up in one of their standard condensed formations with Hill and Mecole Hardman out on a deep concept. Hill will run a dig and Hardman an out-n-up. This is a five-man protection and Baltimore has seven on the line of scrimmage. Linebackers Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bower are going to drop and the Ravens are bringing five to pressure Mahomes — including cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
The Chiefs should have five blockers for five defenders, but Mahomes is going to drop away from pressure to buy time for this play — he’s feeling front-side pressure with Humphrey and safety Chuck Clark. He’s gaining depth and moving away from the concept — Hill’s dig route is moving opposite him, as is the out-n-up.
That’s what makes the throw so impressive. Mahomes throws the ball from the opposite hash 55 yards down the field to Hardman on the double move. It wasn’t a clean weight transition either — this throw is a little off the back foot. It doesn’t matter. Mahomes delivers a rope to Hardman for a crucial touchdown to stretch the Chiefs’ lead on Baltimore. Where the drawbacks have been discussed with the inconsistent drops, this play was effective — partially because Mahomes has rare arm talent to gain the depth he did.
Something you might have missed
Mahomes threw this ball with Eric Fisher in his lap. pic.twitter.com/zOZNLfGDZc— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 30, 2020
McPhee is going to bull rush Eric Fisher into the lap of Mahomes on this play — and he is still able to get this throw off despite it. Mid-motion, Mahomes has a problem and no time to fix it. He has to adjust mid release in order to deliver the throw — he literally has Fisher in his face. Mahomes isn’t able to follow through entirely but still is able to lead Watkins away from the defender on the curl route for a nice completion.