The Chiefs are 4-0 after enduring a difficult first quarter of the season that saw them overcome a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, their top contender in the AFC in Baltimore and closing with the thorn in Patrick Mahomes’ side — Bill Belichick.
Of all the teams Mahomes has played in his young career, one of the greatest coaches of all time has matched wits with Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ offense on every occasion. That’s not to say that Mahomes does not eventually figure it out — which he has proven to do time and time again. But every matchup, Belichick has bought his team time through at least roughly a half of football.
This go around, the Patriots were content on rushing three or four for the vast majority of the game. They were dropping with eyes on the quarterback underneath and trying to keep a lid on the Chiefs offense by staying over the top of Tyreek Hill. It was largely effective — even though eventually the Chiefs were able to put together a couple of second-half drives for touchdowns.
This isn’t saying what it may mean for other quarterbacks because Mahomes is the best football player in the world — but this might have been his worst game as a Chief. With the aid of a defensive touchdown, the Chiefs still had a league-average scoring output — their 26 points would be 17th in the league.
Mahomes was not good, but he still had very good moments. This week, we’ll start with the bad and close with some bright moments from Week 4 — and there were still plenty.
This is one of those throw people thought you'd have to coach out of Mahomes coming out. It's a rarity to see this from the MVP. Tries to throw to a double teamed Tyreek Hill and the guy guarding Demarcus Robinson comes off of him to nearly intercept the pass. pic.twitter.com/365VGyMi4Z— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 8, 2020
This decision to give Hill a chance in double coverage is a tough one to understand. This feels like the kind of throw that people originally thought was going to be littered throughout Mahomes’ game as professional and something that would be required to be coached out for him to come close to reaching his ceiling. How silly that sounds now — and how uncommon this is when Mahomes takes the field.
The Patriots are playing Cover 1 (man coverage with a deep safety). They have an underneath defender ready to carry with Hill if he crosses the field and the post safety is staying over the top — as Hill is the league’s fastest player. Trying to throw into that coverage is not going to end well. The cornerback guarding Demarcus Robinson actually falls off to make the best attempt at intercepting the pass.
In reality, there are three defenders there. Mahomes somehow hits Hill in the hands, but the process was not good. This is also the second time this season we’ve discussed this, but Mahomes had Kelce underneath for a nice gain but instead took an aggressive shot downfield.
This was one of the few times the Patriots brought more than four, and Mahomes could not make them pay.
Not totally sure what happened here. I wonder if Mahomes thought Watkins was taking it flat but even then it's not a good decision with the safety over the top. pic.twitter.com/LVPitcY2Tz— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 7, 2020
You don’t see a throw like this from Mahomes very often. The likeliest answer is some kind of miscommunication — maybe Mahomes thought that Sammy Watkins was going to work more flat which would explain where the ball landed. If not, it was just a bad throw caught between two receivers, and the middle-field safety is able to get to the throw and nearly gave Mahomes his first interception of the season.
OK, we’ve gotten a few near-interceptions out of the way. It’s time to talk about some of the positives that were still evident.
This is about perfect from Mahomes. In rhythm, on-time. Ideal velocity, great placement allows Kelce to turn upfield without losing stride for a big gain. Can't ask for much more. pic.twitter.com/S509sGvC3V— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 7, 2020
Far from the sexiest play you’re going to see from the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but great nonetheless. Kelce runs an outstanding corner route against trail coverage. Mahomes executes the throw perfectly to reward the route. He does a great job with eyes in the middle of the field all the way to the top of his drop before working to Kelce once he’s ready to deliver the throw.
Mahomes gets the ball off with perfect timing, velocity and placement to his tight end, who’s able to run after the catch because of how well the ball was delivered to him. Great play.
I really appreciated Mahomes slowing down Kelce on this corner route to avoid Stephon Gilmore being able to make a play on the football.
(Note: Play the sound with this clip.)
Andy Reid knows what he can ask his players to execute and operates within that better than anyone in the league.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 6, 2020
Great design and execution by the Chiefs.
Sound on. pic.twitter.com/4bk2IL7Fdx
If you can’t watch the video, here’s the clip and explanation:
Mahomes slows down Kelce to keep him from continuing up field with Stephon Gilmore driving on the throw. Once Kelce cleared the linebacker on the V7, Mahomes drives a ball on the tight end for a nice gain. pic.twitter.com/XfDNR1vlCo— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 7, 2020
The Patriots are in Cover 3, and the Chiefs knew they were in zone pre-snap with Kelce’s motion confirming. Kelce is going to run a V7 — crossing the face of the linebacker with a sharp angle inside before breaking back out to the corner once he’s behind him.
The only vertical threat for the field corner (Gilmore) is Hill, who is working his away across the field. Gilmore still needs to be aware of making a break back to the sideline — think Wasp. Instead, it’s Kelce working underneath.
Gilmore is ready to break on the ball, but Mahomes doesn’t lead Kelce into him. Alternatively, he slows him down with a ball more directly on him, keeping Gilmore out of the play.
Mahomes and his relationship with his receivers out of structure is special. Hill starts working away from his quarterback in a scramble situation because he knows Mahomes can and will get the ball back into the field. pic.twitter.com/kqesUOijrq— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 7, 2020
We all know that Mahomes is one of the most creative players out of structure in the NFL, and his receivers adjust accordingly. Hill is working across the field with Mahomes when he breaks the pocket, but rather continuing with him on the plain his route started, he slows down and starts backing up — anticipating a throw back into the field!
How many receivers are expecting their quarterback to make throws back into the middle of the field? That is not a normal response to a broken play, but with Mahomes, nothing is normal.
Mahomes has normalized some of these throws and has found great success throwing across his body and back in between the numbers from outside the pocket. The feel Mahomes and Hill had on this play led to a nice gain on a broken play.
Something you might have missed
The Chiefs built off a look they had shown previously against the Patriots.
Andy building off what he's shown in the past.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 6, 2020
Last year against NE: Kelce direct snap TD run out of diamond formation.
Last night: Are Kelce and Mahomes flipping? Kelce direct snap again? Nope. Motions out, inside run to Darrel Williams to pick up a 3rd and 1. pic.twitter.com/B65pQAV87h
Last season, against New England, the Chiefs scored on a third down in the red zone, flipping Kelce and Mahomes in a diamond formation. Kelce took a direct snap to convert the third down and ended up in the end zone.
This week, the Chiefs went back to the same formation on a third-and-1. Kelce motions up — are he and Mahomes going to flip? Nope. He gets out of the backfield and the Chiefs hand it off inside to Darrel Williams, who converts the play for a first down.