Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the now fastest (and youngest) quarterback in NFL history to reach 100 passing touchdowns. Not only that, he’s accomplished this feat with a redshirt year in his rookie season, fewer than 20 career interceptions and a win percentage of 0.800.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP enters the bye week fresh off a 372-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Carolina Panthers. The game put him firmly in this season’s MVP conversation — and he deserves it. Mahomes would have to average more than one interception per game for the rest of the season to break double digits; he’s turned the ball over exactly once this year.
As the season heats up, Mahomes is starting to hit his stride, notching nine touchdown passes over the last two games. There are some big challenges looming — and Mahomes will surely be slinging it. These marquee games will solidify his positioning for postseason honors. If he continues to play like he has been, his acceptance speech for his second MVP will be have to be recorded in advance — because he’ll be getting ready for his second Super Bowl.
Let’s take a closer look at Mamhomes’ performance against the Panthers on Sunday.
Chiefs fans are blessed to have a play-caller willing to try things like Ferrari Right.
Rose Bowl. Hungry Pig. Now Ferrari. What a gift Andy Reid is.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 10, 2020
The design screwed up the linebackers terribly. Demarcus Robinson is wide open with no underneath defenders in sight.
I bet there's some kind of direct snap to the RB off of this too. pic.twitter.com/2rAXOUlbLk
Motioning the quarterback into the snap? Whaaaat?
You might wonder how this could be legal — but it’s absolutely within the rules. Just as with any other offensive position, as long as the quarterback isn’t motioning forward at the snap, the motion is completely legal.
The beauty of the quarterback motion is that it looks like a sprint-out to the boundary — which the Panthers had seen the Chiefs do on film. You can see the defenders flow to the play as if it’s a sprint-out; the linebackers are in full pursuit. What’s more, the fact that Mahomes is moving makes it easier for him to flip back and the roll out in the opposite direction. The design leads to a wide-open touchdown to Demarcus Robinson — who slips to the backline off the fake sprint-action towards him.
I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see Ferrari. There is likely a series of plays the Chiefs can run out of this look in the red zone. They could actually do a sprint-out to the boundary and then slip a little middle screen to Travis Kelce. Or motion with Mahomes, but then direct snap to the running back. Or toss a throwback screen to the running back after Mahomes rolls out. Linebackers’ heads would be spinning.
Bad miss on the end of half drive. Mahomes couldn't overcome closed hips to the flat here. It's tough to throw all the way to your left if your hips aren't open to it. pic.twitter.com/YWntSUoEPU— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 10, 2020
It ultimately didn’t matter because an offensive pass interference penalty, but if Mahomes hadn’t sailed the ball over running back Darrel Williams’ head, this could have been a play that put the Chiefs in field goal range.
Sometimes there are some inconsistencies with some of these plays in the flat. But in this instance, Mahomes tried to throw wide to his left with a closed hip. The problem is that when you can’t entirely open your hips to the target, more variables come to play; your upper body has to account for the lack of a good base, making it more of an adventure to complete the pass.
Here, Mahomes is locked up because he was late to get to the back — something that is not all that uncommon for him. It’s not entirely a bad thing. Sometimes it can give him time to give downfield plays more of a chance or be late to a checkdown — but here, it means that he’s not in the best position to make a throw to his left.
Quarterbacks who are highly prepared can process the game quickly and throw with anticipation. I say this once a year: when a quarterback is throwing with anticipation, it’s because of the work they put in during the week. Understanding your own concepts (and the coverages you might see) allows you to process the game quickly enough to have confidence about where you can throw.
This is insane anticipation by Mahomes on this throw. Hardman has barely broken to the MOF and Mahomes just throws a ball behind the linebacker like it's an 18 yard dig. Wild arm talent. pic.twitter.com/7U4C9GD7Bl— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 9, 2020
On this play, we can clearly see Mahomes did his work during the week. He’s quickly keys on the Tampa 2 coverage, allowing him to be ready ahead of time to throw the ball to a space where he knows no one will be.
This is what it looks like when Mahomes is throwing the ball. pic.twitter.com/32jXytn2qT— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 9, 2020
On this play, Mahomes hits Mecole Hardman on a corner post — and when the ball is thrown, the second-year receiver has barely broken for the middle of the field. Carolina linebacker Shaq Thompson — an athletic player — is running the seam in Tampa coverage. Mahomes confidently tries to get the ball behind him. He’s successful, driving the ball like it’s an 18-yard route.
Mahomes can fit a ball wherever he wants — especially with this kind of anticipation.
Mahomes has more ability to throw from an unstable base than anyone in the league.
Mahomes has so many arm angles from a variety of platforms that he can deliver a ball with accuracy consistently. Pressure closing, he accounts for his base with arm angle and is able to still lead Kelce for a nice gain as he's getting hit. pic.twitter.com/fH0GYDklVk— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 10, 2020
Earlier, I pointed out a flaw in a route to the flat — but that doesn’t mean Mahomes can’t still throw from a variety of platforms. No one has more ways to deliver a ball than he does — which makes the occasional lapses in the flat (particularly to his left) surprising.
On this play, Mahomes is able to easily account for his unstable base. Where earlier there were issues with his closed hip, this is accounting for the inverse. Mahomes’ hips are more open than he’d like when throwing to his right — but with a defensive lineman closing, he’s running out of time. He can’t set his feet more towards his target, so he adjusts his arm angle to more easily lead Kelce on the throw. This allows him to beat the pressure, throwing an accurate ball to a tight window.
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If you’ve been worried about some of the Mahomes’ previous issues with pocket management, this clip will give you some confidence in the future.
Mahomes stepping up in the pocket with frontside pressure and finding Kelce on a Y-Wrap for a big gain on 3rd and 7. pic.twitter.com/uTZEM8qja2— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 10, 2020
In some weeks, we’ve seen Mahomes fading, dropping too deep or unnecessarily bouncing out of the pocket. But on this play, he steps up against front-side pressure and keeps his eyes up. Then while on the run, he delivers a great throw (with touch) to Kelce, who is beating a poor defender on a Y-Wrap.
Moving forward, this is a positive indicator. Mahomes isn’t always perfect in the pocket — but seeing good reps like this one is important for the remainder of the season. They represent growth.