It should be repeated that I will never, ever complain about getting to cover Patrick Mahomes. The 25-year-old has a chance to be the greatest player in the history of the National Football League when it’s all said and done.
But Sunday’s loss against the Las Vegas Raiders was one of the most unique games of his young career to analyze. Early on, Mahomes had some of his brightest moments of the 2020 season and looked on his way to four quarters of scorched-earth football after a lackluster performance against the New England Patriots. That’s where you’ll see the plays that helped the Chiefs score 32 points.
The game was lost during a horrendous second half in which Mahomes shared some of the blame. We’ll break down a couple of key mistakes in between some fantastic plays that need to be discussed.
There are so many incredible throws from Mahomes in the Chiefs' week four loss that it's wild to think they had one of the worst offensive stretches for almost all of the second half.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 13, 2020
Stepped up in pocket, out to his left, strike back into the field. Not even his best throw. pic.twitter.com/QBGW7ArF89
There is a chance this was just a little bit of luck. Mahomes could have been targeting Demarcus Robinson and thrown behind him. Regardless, the result was an excellent play between Mahomes and Travis Kelce for a big gain.
Very little momentum is heading toward his target — evidenced by the fall away from the release of the ball. The body control and arm strength to give this play a chance is special regardless of who he was targeting.
It’s a shame this — and some other great plays we’ll talk about — came in a loss.
Plays like these fueled a divisional defeat against a bitter rival.
#26 Nevin Lawson carries Mecole Hardman (vertical across the field) to the robber, falls off in middle of the field.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 14, 2020
I don't think Mahomes saw him because Kelce starts to throttle down and he throws this ball like he's leading him. Nearly intercepted. pic.twitter.com/DeFGbYZlbx
A hat-tip is deserved for Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther for getting Mahomes on this third-and-8 play. The Raiders are playing 1 Cross — a man-free variation. Cornerback Nevin Lawson is going to carry the vertical from Mecole Hardman to the robber — safety Erik Harris (No. 25) — and then replace the robber in the middle of the field.
How Mahomes throws this ball makes me believe he didn’t see the pass off and doesn’t see Lawson in the middle of the field. He wants to hit Kelce in the middle of the field and throws the ball as if he is going to find him in stride. Kelce sees Lawson and starts to throttle down, expecting a ball on him at the sticks to beat the closing cornerback. Kelce is forced to dive for the errant throw, and it could have been intercepted.
It is rare Mahomes gets caught like this, but there were things he typically sees and feels that he didn’t against Las Vegas.
Something you rarely see from Mahomes - a lack of spatial awareness. Thinks he's free and clear stepping up and rolling right but Maxx Crosby spun off Mitchell Schwartz quick to put a hit on Mahomes. Impressive he held onto the football. pic.twitter.com/qHE0Q7FazZ— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 14, 2020
Mahomes has some of the best spatial awareness in the National Football League at the quarterback position — it’s part of what makes his timing and ability to escape pressure what it is. But not on this play.
Mahomes steps up after Mitchell Schwartz pushes Maxx Crosby past him. He expects to be able to roll right free and clear but doesn’t feel Crosby spin back quickly to chase him. Mahomes has no clue there is anyone closing behind him — and is setting up for a deep throw. Crosby gets to Mahomes for a big sack — and a near-fumble. The fact he held onto the football was impressive.
These kind of mental errors are uncommon to see in Mahomes. He is a smart, creative, instinctual player almost every snap of every game, but he struggled against the Raiders. The second half saw his instincts and mind fail him a couple of times in key situations.
A big third-down conversion sets up the first score of the game for the Chiefs.
Mahomes is ready for the overload blitz to the field and drifts into the boundary on his drop to buy time and find an open Kelce for a big play inside the five - setting up a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/AS2zF8zdtT— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 13, 2020
The Raiders send an overload blitz to the field on third-and-7.
They want to force Mahomes to beat pressure on schedule or force him into the boundary with a contain rusher waiting for him. Mahomes is able to extend his time in the pocket with a small roll and drift to the right away from the pressure to the field — long enough for him to get the ball to Kelce.
It’s a perfect throw that hits the tight end in stride, and Kelce is able to get the ball all the way down to the 3-yard line. A great identification by Mahomes and a subtle adjustment to beat the pressure.
WHY DID THIS PLAY HAVE TO BE CALLED BACK!?
This is a top ten Mahomes throw. I don't think we're talking enough about it. It's a perfectly placed 65 yard throw that hits Tyreek Hill in stride over a closing middle field safety. pic.twitter.com/s2f5EZb0Mx— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 13, 2020
In a career littered with some of the rarest throws we’ve seen from a quarterback, this one certainly makes the top 10 for me. This would be the career highlight for some of the few quarterbacks who can even throw a ball 65 yards in the air.
Hardman is going to work across the field on the deep over and Hill is going to get vertical just inside the numbers. The middle field safety — Harris — is stressed trying to maintain good spacing with the verticals and does a decent job. Mahomes steps up with front-side pressure, steps into the throw and delivers a perfect one — right over the safety.
The ball is on a rope and placed perfectly over Hill in stride for a touchdown. Of course, the play was called back due to a holding call — but the remarkable nature of it is not changed.
Something you might have missed
Darrel Williams chopped someone down in pass protection, and Mahomes somehow found him for a two-point conversion.
Darrel Williams isn't even supposed to be out for a pass and somehow Mahomes still sees him in the back of the end zone. Structurally (even with scramble) nothing is supposed to be working back there and he still finds him, running out of real estate and against pressure. pic.twitter.com/sbckbMSEo4— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 13, 2020
Williams is supposed to cut the end man on the line of scrimmage on this sprint-out concept for the two-point conversion. When the play doesn’t work as designed and Mahomes is forced to continue rolling right, Williams pops up and sneaks behind the defense to the back line. Somehow — as Mahomes is running out of space on the sideline — he sees Williams working back late and throws a great ball with pressure closing to an open Williams.
The ball found the running back after he did his job. Good to see Williams rewarded for taking care of the dirty work, as he does here.