We have all seen the highlights of Tom Brady’s NFL Combine performance.
His metrics made us all feel good about ourselves — a 5.28 40-yard dash and a beer league softball body. He did not earn the reputation as the current G.O.A.T. on athletic traits — Brady is a known technician with a high IQ — possessing a wealth of knowledge built up over time.
On Sunday in Tampa, Brady was beat at his own game by a man with superior athletic traits and unrivaled arm talent.
Yes, Patrick Mahomes is able to do several things that Brady can’t on the football field, but in the fourth matchup between the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, it was the kid that was putting on a technical show. The level of command of the offense Mahomes showed on Sunday looked like a quarterback that was 35 — not 25. He was processing the game at a rapid rate and letting natural gifts torch one of the better defenses in the National Football League to the tune of 462 yards and three touchdowns.
It was a masterful game from the best player in the world, and he only gained ground in the race for the regular-season MVP. If he plays as he did on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, he’ll earn a second MVP trophy on that same field in late February.
Let’s not take anything away from Tyreek Hill, either. He was a man possessed against Tampa — on the receiving end of 269 yards of Mahomes’ output for the day and all three touchdowns. He jumped from 14th in the league in receiving yards to first in one game. Number two? His teammate Travis Kelce.
Here are some of the best moments from Mahomes’ performance on Sunday:
A clean, easy 75-yard touchdown
Such a clean play from Mahomes. Got his zone ID with Kelce motion, confirmed cover 3 post-snap. Excellent feet and good operation from the pocket. Eyes in the boundary to hold MF safety. Extra hitch, 60 air yards on a rope. Outstanding execution and a 75 yard touchdown. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/Fh2x2XSLyb— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
We talk about footwork from Mahomes and it getting away from him sometimes, but this deep throw was absolutely beautiful.
He gets to the top of his drop — hitches up to gain the momentum to deliver a ball 60 yards in the air. Just normal stuff, right? It is also worth appreciating that he kept his eyes in the boundary to help hold the middle-field safety between the hashes long enough to keep him out of making a play on the ball. Mahomes quickly identified Cover 3 and was confident working back to Hill that he was going to beat Carlton Davis on the double-move.
There is so much trust build up between these two. It was all just an exceptionally executed play by Mahomes within structure and inside the pocket. Where we’ve been critical of some drifting beyond the landmarks of the protection at times, this was the “teach” tape to show what happens when protection, design and execution are perfect between offensive line and quarterback.
The Travis Kelce fake hook and ladder got the tweets for this play, but Patrick Mahomes is normalizing flat 25 yard field throws. Absolute laser over the linebacker.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
Again, excellent footwork. When he's throwing in rhythm/in structure it's beautiful. pic.twitter.com/kasLloGhvn
I know Kelce faking the hook and ladder got the attention on this play, but Mahomes delivers an absolute strike in a very tight window to the tight end here.
Again, Mahomes is in rhythm and in structure — driving a ball 25 yards to the field without any issue. This is a special kind of throw that very few can execute. Mahomes knows what he can do on the field — which is more than anyone else on the planet. Fantastic throw.
Good eyes, better throw
One of the reasons the Chiefs like to iso Kelce backside is to get coverage IDs. Safety on 87, safety down to cover the running back, Mahomes knows it's man free. Eyes to the field to hold the MOF safety, late back to Hill. Throws the ball off his back foot. Perfectly placed. TD. pic.twitter.com/U4NHy7tyky— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
Another excellent throw within structure and on time from Mahomes. The flashy plays running around and creating are amazing, but these perfectly-executed plays are just as appealing. One of the many reasons the Chiefs like to isolate Travis Kelce on the backside of a 3x1 formation is to help them get good man coverage identifications.
If a corner is playing over him, it’s likely zone. Cornerback Carlton Davis followed Hill into the slot and a safety Andrew Adams sat over the top of tight end Travis Kelce. The Buccaneers are playing Cover 1 and rushing five. They’re man-to-man with a free safety playing the middle of the field.
Mahomes gives eyes to the field — the three-receiver side — to help hold the safety. Hill is working across the field on a deep over. Putting Mecole Hardman next to Hill on the snap puts the safety in a tough spot as it is — but when Mahomes places a ball like that to Hill after holding his eyes to the field — it’s impossible to defend.
The MVP frontrunner threw a ball off his back foot, yet it hit Hill in stride. The receiver took care of the rest.
Appreciate the little things
This is just a simple curl to Kelce. Well covered by one of the best linebackers in the game Lavonte David. Perfect throw, on time before David can get his eyes on the ball. Decisive, eyes are on him late, and a quick release. You can't beat a great throw. pic.twitter.com/pHjqauylx4— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
I don’t want to diminish how impressive of a throw this is — yet again, a perfectly in rhythm and well-placed ball.
Linebacker Lavonte David isn’t in bad position here in coverage. Unfortunately for him, a flawlessly timed and accurate throw will beat good coverage every day. As soon as David’s eyes turn to the quarterback, the ball is gone and placed on the shoulder away from David.
Kelce catches the ball, and it’s in such a good position that he’s able to get yards after the catch. A route at the sticks with outstanding execution leads to a big gain.
This was a simple drive-starter concept that yielded a great result.
Break ‘em off, Patrick!
Don't do it to them like that, 15!— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
3rd and 1. Closed formation, safety is force player in boundary (it's man).
Overpursuit by Devin White, Mahomes makes it worse by faking the pitch to CEH. Bursts up field inside Keizer for a nice gain when they only need a yard. Smart play. pic.twitter.com/QNrX7P7XBj
Mahomes shook two defenders out of their shoes on a beautifully executed option play on a key third-and-1. The Chiefs are lined up in a closed formation (no one outside the tight end in the boundary) and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting tips their hand with man coverage.
Mahomes and Clyde Edwards-Helaire run the option and with both safety Jordan Whitehead and linebacker Devin White over-pursuing to the running back, Mahomes pump-fakes a pitch and then turns upfield for a sizable gain on an important down. A heads-up play by Mahomes with perfect execution.
Fade and convert
3rd and 2 in the 4th quarter. Trying to extend a drive.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
Mahomes just drifts away from front side pressure to buy time. Finds Mecole Hardman sitting in the middle of zone coverage and drives a ball 25+ yards for a big conversion. Up and down ball over a linebacker. Wow. pic.twitter.com/Vy1IzMt77X
This drive ultimately turned into a flag fest and a punt, but it was not on Mahomes.
The Buccaneers send pressure front side and Mahomes drifts deep and away into the boundary to buy himself time. Tampa is playing Cover 3, and Hardman sits down in the middle of the field behind the linebackers and in front of the safety. Mahomes calmly throws a terrific ball off his back foot — back into the middle of the field 25-plus yards for a crucial first down. He went up and over the linebacker and underneath the safety. It was just an outstanding play and on a money down no less.
Sprint out, close out
This game winner isn't as easy as it might have looked on broadcast. Not a simple sprint throw.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 30, 2020
Mahomes cut up inside, burst toward the line of scrimmage which stopped Devin White. He drives a ball over his head for the completion.
Conversion. Game. Blouses. pic.twitter.com/yu7tuLwus4
The game-winner wasn’t as easy as Mahomes made it look.
The Chiefs dialed up a safe, designed sprint out with Hill working to the line to gain from the slot and Kelce working across the field. Sammy Watkins is clearing out, and everything is working underneath him. Mahomes cuts up inside left tackle Eric Fisher when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul forces the play and the quarterback shows a little burst toward the line of scrimmage as if he might take off and attempt to get the line to gain with his legs.
Linebacker Devin White stops getting width when he sees Mahomes step up and is in the passing lane. Because Mahomes is so decisive, he gets the ball off before White is able to get a hand up to contest. Everything is happening so fast from Mahomes cutting up: White’s transition, Mahomes’ release of the ball and the linebacker’s attempt to challenge the throw.
Quick decision-making by the quarterback led to a big completion to an open Hill. The Chiefs ran out the clock to ice the game.
The bottom line
It should scare the league how rapidly Mahomes’ growth is occurring. He’s made everyone forget he’s still a player in his third year on the field.
We’ve yet to see his peak — but the 25-year-old version of him is the best player in the world. It’s not always the flashy plays that terrify opposing defenses. It’s also games like this week where he cleanly, calmly dominated one of the best defenses in football.
The Chiefs showed at times the best version of themselves in the last three seasons under Mahomes. It was astonishingly good. If they play to any level similar the remainder of the season, they’ll be back-to-back Super Bowl champions.