Rather than trying to hold the reigning world champs, defenses are content to give up plays of 10 or less. Teams are terrified of the track meet — selling out to take away explosive pass plays. They’re happy to let the Chiefs have their way between the 20s and hope and pray they can hold them to a field goal or get lucky with a turnover. The measures have looked more extreme than in previous years — with more resources devoted to the intermediate and deep passing game.
The Bills played with light boxes the entire night — and positioned linebackers deeper. They were daring the Chiefs to take the ball out of Mahomes’ hands and into the grasp of rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Mahomes had picked on soft coverage with short routes on the outside and let Edwards-Helaire run wild all over a strategically minimal run defense. The Bills weren’t the first team to try this, but the Chiefs made them pay this week. That’s important — and moving forward, they’ll need to be able to win when they have the numbers.
The recurring challenge for Mahomes will be patience. Teams are taking serious measures to dictate how the Chiefs will score — death by a thousand papercuts. This can make for some boring football at times compared to what Chiefs fans have grown used to watching. There are less explosive plays and more sustained drives.
Make no mistake about it, though.
Andy Reid has more than enough play calls ready for big games, big moments and a playoff run. This offense is going to have to win differently — but that can be a good thing. Being able to win games in different ways will be valuable in January as the Chiefs look to defend their championship. It may not always be pretty, but if the group commits to the process, good things will happen when they need them the most.
This throw from Mahomes had to be on time to beat a good call by the Bills playing Cover 2. Chiefs run smash with Kelce to the corner and CEH underneath. Cornerback Tre'Davious White pauses just enough with the out by the running back. Great throw beats good coverage. pic.twitter.com/INuoCcNjTX— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 21, 2020
Everything is sped up in the red zone.
As the game becomes more condensed the closer you get to the end zone, decisions have to be made quickly and the ball needs to get out of the quarterback’s hands on time.
Mahomes does that here on this play. The Bills are playing Cover 2, and cornerback Tre’Davious White is going to play a sink technique for depth until he’s threatened in the flat. The Chiefs are running a smash concept with Travis Kelce running the high corner and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is coming out of the backfield on an out route. White hesitates just enough when Edwards-Helaire breaks out to open the window to throw the corner to Kelce just a little bit more.
Mahomes’ perfect throw beats the safety and the Chiefs finish a drive for a touchdown.
One of the few poor plays from Mahomes on the day on a 3rd and 7. Leaves pocket quick, looks to create outside of the pocket to extend the drive, near interception trying to hit Demarcus Robinson past the sticks. pic.twitter.com/jKlD5HFW6h— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 21, 2020
This play is not as simple as Mahomes leaving the pocket too early, bouncing out to the right and nearly throwing an interception. There are still some reasons for why the play happened the way it did. The play call wasn’t great.
The Chiefs are running their rub concept to the running back in the boundary — even though they got a zone coverage ID. They’re trying to occupy and create traffic to get the running back in the flat. You see Byron Pringle collide with the defensive back then turn around right after contact, trying to slow him down enough to get the ball to the running back.
That concept in the boundary doesn’t do much for him, so he’s determined to work the other side of the field — even if it means getting out of the pocket the hard way. To the field, he has Demarcus Robinson working at the sticks, but because he’s scrambling out of the pocket, the timing is off.
Without many options, he tries to force the ball to Robinson to keep the drive alive. It fails, and the ball is nearly intercepted.
Amidst this Yakity Sax of a play was a heady move by Mahomes to get right at the line to gain.
Mahomes checked to see that he had gone too far past the line of scrimmage. Passing was no longer an option so he changed course to get what was there and almost converted for a first down. pic.twitter.com/mEN3dY39wR— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 21, 2020
It’s a third down in the red zone. Mahomes sees the linebackers bail after showing pressure on the line of scrimmage and tries to create options outside of the pocket to extend the drive. He gets to the top of his drop and sprints to the field. He’s caught between throwing and trying to run for a first down, as he’s running out of space on the sidelines.
Mahomes turns around and checks to see if he’s crossed the line of scrimmage. The whole body has to be across — and Mahomes tries to figure out on the fly if he is — even going as far as to take a few steps back away from the line to gain. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds over pursues and slides out of bounds. Mahomes turns and quickly decides to stick his head down and try to get the necessary yardage by running it. He gets within inches, and the Chiefs would score and fourth-and-short the next play.
Mahomes operated in chaos and was quick to process the situation, where he was on the field, and he turned it into a positive play. Multiple small, fast decisions gave the Chiefs a chance to go for it the next play.
Look. Teams are making it harder for the Chiefs to be the same explosive, downfield passing attack fans have been spoiled in watching. But that doesn’t put it completely at bay. Sometimes, it just has to happen on a broken play — when your team needs it.
Critical 3rd and 12 play late in the 4th quarter and Mahomes generates the biggest past play of the game for the Chiefs scrambling and finding Byron Pringle working across the field for a big gain that put them in FG range in a one score game. pic.twitter.com/wsrCDqu6WY— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 21, 2020
The Chiefs are trying to ice the game in upstate New York and need to run the last few minutes of the clock down as much as they can. They’re facing a third-and-12 — only up six after the defense just gave up a touchdown. Mahomes initially wants to hit Kelce in the rhythm of the drop, but with Jerry Hughes walking Mike Remmers back into him, he elects to bounce out of the pocket into the boundary.
Instead of getting the ball to his outlet in the flat — Darrell Williams — he tries to find a more lucrative option down the field. Enter Pringle — who works across the field with Mahomes and gets depth behind Kelce, sitting in the middle of the field. The reigning MVP finds Pringle streaking off the field for a gain of 37 to get the Chiefs all the way into the fringe (in the rain) of field goal range.
Harrison Butker would later close out the game with a kick and the Chiefs win. This big play late was massive in deciding the outcome of this game. Credit to Mahomes — and Pringle for stepping up after limited opportunities the first five games of the season.
Something you might have missed: the no-look pass
Yes, Mahomes had another no-look pass.
Another no-look pass from Mahomes to Demarcus Robinson. This off an RPO - DB bites on the motion into the box, Mahomes throws to the void.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 21, 2020
The defensive end tries to contest a pass he thinks is going over his head. Eyes and platform selling wider throw. pic.twitter.com/ae12brf6rd
Off of a run-pass option, Mahomes popped a slant to Robinson without looking. When defensive back Taron Johnson bites on the run action, Mahomes attacked the void with a slant behind him. You can see how the eyes and body affected both Johnson and pass rusher Bryan Cox Jr. — the latter jumping to contest a pass he thinks is going over his head.
Johnson’s initial step is to his left as if the throw is going to be wide of him. It’s a perfectly placed ball, and the skill was used in a functional way to help slow down two defenders and keep them out of the window of delivery.