Heading into the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 8 matchup against the New York Jets, it had seemed as though the rest of the league’s teams had agreed that if they were going to lose to the Chiefs, it would not be via long gains through the air.
The Jets took a different approach, zoning in on the run game. And the Jets zigging offered the Chiefs the much-desired opportunity to zag. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished with 416 passing yards and five touchdowns in Kansas City’s 35-9 win. 416 yards was Mahomes’ highest output of the season.
“The offense was able to move the ball well in the air,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the game. “It’s funny because we have this whole RPO (run-pass option) thing going and some of those runs ended up being throws, but we’ll just count them as yards. I thought it was a nice job by Patrick. Again, he had complete command of everything going on.”
In the Chiefs’ Week 6 game against Buffalo, for example, the Bills had a different plan than their division-rival Jets, going with more defensive backs and lighter boxes. In those games, Mahomes chose to hand the ball off more often than not, and Kansas City finished with 245 rushing yards.
Not Sunday against the Jets, against whom they had only 50 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
“They were really focused on stopping the run, which they did a good job of doing,” Mahomes noted. “We obviously have to try to be there, but they were coming down fast and guys were getting open in space and I was putting it in their hands. I think the biggest thing was he kept calling those plays, [Reid] kept giving me the option to run or throw the pass and I think when we do that, it puts a lot of stress on the defense.”
Mahomes hit 10 different receivers on the day and four different receivers had at least one touchdown.
“These guys make that easy, or as easy as it can be in the NFL,” Reid said of his pass-catchers. “I mean, there’s such great competition out here. But the best thing that I see and like is that they’re on the same page. So, they’re thinking right along how the coaches are thinking when we’re over on the sideline thinking we know everything. So, they’re kind of right in line with it and actually executing it in game time, but it’s impressive.”
Now in his third season as a starter, Mahomes continues to make correct decisions based upon his pre and post-snap reads, and that gives Reid more confidence to leave it up to him.
“He was spot on today,” Reid said of Mahomes. “He was seeing and shooting, and he’s very accurate with those things, seeing them I’m saying, and then his throws are good too if he pulls it. But at the same time, he’s patient with the run part of it, and he’s got a good feel of the game and what’s happening with it down-and-distance-wise, field position, all those things. So, full trust in him with it.”
If there is one storyline synonymous with the Chiefs’ season, it is that they can find a way to score against the opposition no matter what the look. And that makes them all the more a threat to repeat as champions at 2020’s halfway point.
“We have a lot ways we can beat teams,” added Mahomes. “[Sunday], they were doing a good job of kind of stopping up the run and we took it to air, threw the ball and we made plays happen that way. Now that you can kind of see it, we can throw the ball on teams, run the ball on teams and it’s about taking what’s there and finding the best way to win a football game.”
Mahomes was asked after the game if this season feels different than last year.
“I wouldn’t say a different feel,” answered the quarterback “The thing to me that I’ve learned from in my experiences is we have a team that can go get whatever we want to go get. Going into the last two seasons you haven’t had that Super Bowl championship, you don’t know for sure, you think you do but you don’t know for sure and I know we have the players in this locker room and now it’s about the effort we put in every single day and the grind every single day of not taking anything for granted.
“That’s what it’s going to take and I think we have the leaders in this locker room to try and make a run at it.”