There have been large stretches of the season where Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been the clear-cut favorite to be NFL’s 2020 MVP. No knock on Wilson, but after an exceptional passing performance against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Arrowhead Stadium, maybe someone else will finally get their due and enter the conversation in a meaningful way. As impressive and consistent as he is, some may see him as a boring pick — but in my mind, he undoubtedly deserves it.
I am, of course, talking about Kansas City Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend.
Townsend boasts a 100% completion percentage — and his yards per attempt is an astounding 13 yards. That’s double the number for Denver Broncos’ second-year quarterback Drew Lock — and 4.5 yards higher than reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Lavon Mahomes.
Sure... Mahomes’ sample size might be a little bit bigger. Sure... Mahomes threw for 416 yards and five touchdowns on Sunday. But if I’m voting today, it’s Townsend, Mahomes and Wilson.
Let’s take a look at the top two candidates for the MVP:
What an absolute dime from Sunshine himself.
Is that Trevor Lawrence? Nope. It’s just a punter with an absolute cannon.
I would bet that Townsend — like Mahomes — is a former pitcher. You can see how wide his stride and base are as he makes the throw to Byron Pringle. Among baseball players — especially pitchers — that’s normal. The ball does sail a tad, but Townsend delivers it with some zip.
It‘s a heady play design from special-teams coordinator Dave Toub, who takes advantage of the a hard inside shade by the vice covering Pringle — and the poor leverage at the sticks. Pringle stops and the ball is there on time to convert the fourth-down fake.
So... back to that Mahomes guy, I guess.
Against the Jets, the Chiefs were having a lot of success throwing the ball in their run-pass option plays.
The Chiefs were gashing the Jets with their RPO game passing the ball. They've been getting run read a lot this season - it was fun to see this working. pic.twitter.com/a5Rusu8JsO— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 3, 2020
So far this season, the run reads have been heavy on these plays — but on Sunday, they were finally able to get some passes going, popping slants behind second-level defenders in conflict.
The design on this play — getting the jet motion involved as part of the look — is great. If you can get safeties spinning down with the jet, popping a slant away from the safeties as they roll away is a good way to beat them. A fantastic throw behind cornerback Brian Poole gets a first down — and considering how some defenders freeze, Mahomes might be using a hint of a no-look.
Here, excellent execution by Mahomes and Tyreek Hill lead to an explosive pass play for a touchdown.
Mahomes gives hard eyes to the boundary and the Tampa back opens with him. Tyreek Hill gets the safety to bite on the 7 pump and Mahomes places the ball perfectly for a TD. pic.twitter.com/UFfaVJva6T— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 3, 2020
The Chiefs line up in their standard condensed 2x2 formation to take a shot play. The Jets are running Tampa 2 — a two-high structure with a linebacker running up the seam to carry anything vertical in the middle of the field.
On the snap, Mahomes immediately puts his eyes into the boundary. The Tampa linebacker (#46 Neville Hewitt) opens into the boundary as he gains depth. He finally peeks over to the field side — but when he does, he sees Hill before he makes his double move to the post; as he’s looking, Hill is breaking for the sideline on a flat 7 route.
Excellent timing keeps the play from being challenged — and Mahomes giving hard eyes to the boundary before coming back to Hill on the double move helps make it work. Mahomes displays excellent trust, too; he trusts his pre-snap read and holds on to the boundary for a long time before delivering a perfect throw to Hill. It’s a fantastic play from two fantastic players.
The level of difficulty on this throw is so high. All arm, falling away from the target, trying to get the point of the ball far enough into the field. You don't see it often, but another wildly creative play by Mahomes. pic.twitter.com/C7FAL4nUcM— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 3, 2020
Can we just take a second to appreciate the variety of ways that the world’s best football player continues to surprise us? Mahomes always seems to have something up his sleeve that we haven’t yet seen. Maybe we should be calling him “Magic.”
This creative little pass back into the field to Mecole Hardman is excellent. It has some similarities to some of the plays we saw from Mahomes in the red zone during last season’s Divisional round game— running out of time on the sideline and still finding a way to fit a ball at an awkward angle. No one else really tries these plays — let alone complete them.
Here we see a pure arm throw when all of his momentum is moving away from him — making it a challenge to place the ball accurately; getting the nose of the ball at an angle to deliver it far enough into the field to lead Hardman is difficult. Credit to Hardman: he doesn’t give up on the play and comes up with a difficult catch. Excellent effort from both players — but we also see creativity in finding a solution while running out of space.
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On this play, the way Mahomes threw the ball got all the attention — but the play design should be appreciated, too.
Andy Reid: so good at getting his best players lost with motion/timing— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 3, 2020
- 3x2 L formation, motion Hardman over.
- Motion Hill across at snap
- Looks like sprint rub to the flat with your fastest player
- Pursuit to the sideline
- Kelce gets off block
- Slick underhand pass pic.twitter.com/VA79EEzqdB
I frequently talk about Andy Reid’s ability to get his best players lost — and in this red-zone play, we see yet another example of how he does it.
The Chiefs have had a lot of success diverting attention from Travis Kelce through middle screens — and this one is a doozy. The Chiefs line up in an “L” with three receivers stacked tight in the boundary. Hardman motions across, which puts an attached bunch on the field side. Then Hill motions across — and at the snap, zooms into the flat.
It looks like a standard rub concept with a bunch creating traffic — a quick hitter to Hill in the flat after Mahomes sprints out. So the defense is flowing to the sideline. Kelce holds a block for a count before releasing and looking back for the throw. As he sprints out, Mahomes flips it to Kelce underhanded — like he did with Anthony Sherman against the Baltimore Ravens — and the tight end easily gets into the end zone. It’s a fantastic play design, threatening the Jets laterally with excellent speed — which frees Kelce in the middle of the field.