The Kansas City Chiefs have largely been in control of games during the Patrick Mahomes era. Very rarely has this football team been in a position late in the fourth quarter where it needed to mount a game-winning drive. That’s one of the many luxuries that having the best player in the world affords you.
I don’t need to tell you Patrick Mahomes is built different. Everything about this organization has changed and will continue to change as long as No. 15 is playing for this team. There are less games that require chewing on fingernails than other fanbases have to deal with. On Sunday Night Football, we were given the rare chance to see Mahomes operate a two-minute drill — needing a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win.
The Raiders gave him 103 seconds; he needed only 75.
Mahomes has flown under the radar in the MVP race — well, as under the radar as you can be in an MVP conversation. People are bored with the idea of giving him the award. He’s making it harder to ignore. Last night, Mahomes gave the world another reason to write his name first on all the ballots cast later in the year. He executed a comeback drive to perfection and entrenched himself firmly as the favorite for the highest regular-season honor the NFL gives out for on-field performance.
Here’s the latest MVP moment from Patrick Lavon Mahomes:
1:43 — first-and-10
1:43 - 1st and 10— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
Drive starter. Simple sticks with even spacing by wide receivers, Kelce and Williams late to the flats. Easy completion to start to the drive against Tampa 2.
Subtle little movement left by Mahomes before coming back to Hill in the middle of the field. pic.twitter.com/Mp5msfDlOL
A lot of teams like to begin a two-minute drill with what they call a drive-starter — a staple play to open the possession up with an easy completion. The Chiefs ran a sticks concept with good spacing between all three receivers running curls at the line to gain with Travis Kelce and Darrel Williams late into the flats. Mahomes gives a subtle slide, like he’s working to the wide side of the field before coming back to Hill in between the hashes for a fresh set of downs. Then the no-huddle begins.
1:26 — first-and-10
1:26 - 1st and 10— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
Well timed Will/Safety pressure in no huddle forces Mahomes out of the pocket with a free rushing Jeff Heath. Throws the ball away near Raiders DC Paul Guenther who punches the ball in excitement. That's the last time he'll be happy this game. pic.twitter.com/caLzz3jmXt
The Chiefs go no-huddle and bring a well-timed safety blitz. Mahomes sees it and is quick to escape the pocket — the safety, Jeff Heath, chases him down, and Mahomes is forced to throw the ball away. Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther punches the ball excitedly — the last time he’ll be happy the rest of the game.
1:20 — second-and-10
1:20 - 2nd and 10— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
Mahomes takes an easy matchup against soft Cover 3. Tyreek Hill - the fastest receiver in the NFL - threatening (the other, other CB from Ohio State and) a limited athlete in Damon Arnette.
Easy completion and a favorable matchup to exploit. pic.twitter.com/m62MBmFqwf
Mahomes connects with Hill again — this time picking on rookie cornerback Damon Arnette — for an easy completion again at the sticks. Mahomes liked the leverage and the matchup — as he should. If they’re going to play soft and line up an inexperienced, athletically-limited cornerback up against one of the fastest, most talented receivers in football, you exploit it. Sometimes, it’s just that simple. Hill took a step back on the completion, forcing a third down.
1:14 — third-and-1
1:14 - 3rd and 1— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
What a huge catch coming in cold by Mecole Hardman. Hasn't practiced since coming off the COVID list and was a "break in case of emergency" receiver. Well they broke the glass with Pringle's injury, and he came up with a huge catch on a critical down. pic.twitter.com/Ra6t6Nwdra
Mecole Hardman was more or less a “break in case of emergency” receiver this week after just returning from the COVID-19 list. When Byron Pringle went out, the Chiefs needed a receiver for their 11 personnel looks. Enter Hardman on the final drive of the game. Cornerback Nevin Lawson is playing off-man coverage with outside leverage. Hardman runs a quick three-step slant and the ball is on him quick for an excellent 16-yard gain. Great execution by Mahomes — but special attention to Hardman for coming in cold and executing on a critical down.
0:56 — first-and-10
:56 1st and 10— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
Outstanding call in no-huddle.
The Chiefs high-low linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski with their two best offensive weapons in the middle of the field. Split field coverage, the linebacker can't be right. He sits down with Hill and Mahomes throws to Kelce behind him. pic.twitter.com/iAZ0nCDK76
The Raiders dial up split-field coverage and the Chiefs are trying to put linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski in conflict. They run their two best offensive weapons — Kelce and Hill short and deep in the middle of the field. They’re forcing the linebacker to commit to one or the other. Kwiatkowski holds short on Hill, leaving space in the middle of the field behind him and between the safeties. A great call on the fly by Mahomes in the no-huddle against split-field coverage. A gain of 15 and another first down.
0:40 — first-and-10
Johnathan Abram could have really changed the outcome of this play if it weren’t for a boneheaded play by Abram the very next play (more on that in a second).
:40 1st and 10— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
Johnathan Abram wishes his game ended on this high note for him.
Looks like six rushing to Mahomes, he quickly gets the ball to the flat to Darrel Williams who looks unaccounted for. In flies Abram to make a huge tackle in bounds - forcing the final KC timeout. pic.twitter.com/g9fWDgARnf
The clock is running and the Chiefs have yet to use their lone remaining timeout and what has been a relatively effortless drive so far by the offense. Mahomes sees the Raiders show six and rush five — and gets the ball out of his hand quickly to the free-releasing Williams in the flat. Abram closes quickly from deep and makes an outstanding tackle to keep Williams in bounds and forcing the Chiefs to burn their final timeout of the game. If the day had stopped there for the second-year safety, he’d probably feel good about it. But it didn’t — and he made a critical error that the best player in the world capitalized on.
0:34 — second-and-7
:34 2nd and 7— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
C4 Solo. Vertical by Kelce is Abram's responsibility. He's flat footed through the play, and drives immediately when Mahomes scrambles. They might have been able to get it over him even if he didn't drive.
Big mistake and Mahomes capitalizes for a defining moment. pic.twitter.com/zYMXVK18uq
The game-winner. Again, split field coverage — Cover 4 Solo to be exact. The Chiefs are running four verticals out of a 3x1 look — pretty standard for this team.
Abram is the safety in the boundary here and is supposed to take the deep over by Kelce if he comes. At the top of his drop, Mahomes rolls to his right with the entire pass rush walled off to the left by the offensive line. Not more than two steps into his exit to the right, Abram comes flying down to try and close on the running threat of Mahomes. He was in no man’s land before the scramble — and had Mahomes not rolled out, he might have been able to get a ball over him, anyway, as Abram was flat-footed and not gaining depth with the threat of the deep over. Really inexplicable — he wanted to make a play on Mahomes running so badly.
Mahomes saw it real quick. Peeked at Abram, saw him driving. Touchdown. pic.twitter.com/uv2TO4w47D— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
By the end zone view, you can see how quickly Mahomes knew he had this. He saw Kelce clear Kwiatkowski and once he saw Abram in no man’s land, elected to throw the ball to his tight end for a game-winner with plenty of time to spare. It was really inexplicable by the Raiders, but Mahomes capped off an exceptional drive by capitalizing on a big mistake by a young, aggressive defensive back.
The bottom line
There isn’t much more you can ask from Mahomes to this point. He’s been highly productive and efficient — and is exceptional on critical downs. There haven’t been many situations like Sunday night afforded to him because he’s so good. But when his team needed a defining moment — he made it look easy.
The MVP campaign has picked up steam — and shows no signs of slowing down.