On the opening drive of Sunday’s battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Kansas City Chiefs got down to the 1-yard line, giving themselves a great chance to set the tone with a touchdown. Then they decided to make an even bigger statement by attempting to score on a trick play.
Later, we learned the play is called Black Pearl. The double-reverse ends with the ball in tight end Travis Kelce’s hands, so he can attempt a pass to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But on second down, the play failed — and the Chiefs eventually settled for a field goal.
The failure to score six at that point could have been a momentum shift towards Tampa Bay — but the Chiefs jumped out to an early lead anyway, holding on to win 27-24.
And even though Black Pearl was unsuccessful, it still had a positive impact on the players who ran it.
“It keeps the guys alive, it keeps everyone involved,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters on Wednesday. “They get into those. Kelce has taken a beating over his maneuvering with the football... We have a wrinkle here or there that we have fun with. Hopefully it works; we’re trying to score. I just go off of when I feel that it’s right to do. Then we’ll do it.”
It’s a give and take. When such a play succeeds, players rejoice and coach Reid looks like a genius. But when the play fails, media and fans will question the decision — and accuse Reid of being “too cute.” Reid never downplays how seriously he takes the sport — which actually contributes to why he calls the plays.
“This is a serious business, so we’re grinding away,” Reid pointed out. “There’s a lot of hours put in, so you give the guys a little something. Now, you want it to be a good play — we’re not making a mockery out of the thing. We’re trying to make it another opportunity to score a touchdown — and as you saw, we had people available; it just didn’t work out. 24 did a heck of a job with it too, you have to give him credit... It’s a good ‘get everyone involved’ play.”
Patrick Mahomes was credited for inventing the pre-snap quarterback motion that has been featured multiple times since the team first ran Ferrari Right in Week 9. Mahomes owned up to his creativity — but made sure to credit the person that truly makes the unorthodox play calls successful.
“If I have an idea, we usually get it in, but there are a lot of times where [coach Reid] tweaks it to make it more accustomed to the offense — basically, to make it work,” Mahomes explained to reporters on Wednesday. “I’ll come up with ideas of plays I’m trying to do and trying to get guys in certain situations and in certain places and coverages. Then he goes and really details it up to make it really work in a game.”
It’s not just Mahomes, either. His whole position group gets in on the innovation and creativity.
“It comes from the quarterback room in general,” said Mahomes. “We do a great job of watching film and finding different ways we can take advantage of certain things defenses do. We hone it in, make it to where it’s a play, get coach Reid to think about it. Once it gets into his room, where you have (offensive coordinator) [Eric] Bieniemy and (quarterbacks coach) [Mike] Kafka, they really detail it up so that we can explain it to the offense and make plays that go out there and have success.”
The creativity is always flowing on the offensive side of the ball — so much so that the number of plays that Mahomes has envisioned are nowhere near the number that have made it into a game.
“I couldn’t count how many times there are plays we’ve come up with that didn’t get ran in the game — and never really got ran,” Mahomes admitted. “We’re just trying to be creative, try to have fun out there, enjoy it day in and day out. Coach Reid lets us be creative out there by putting in plays like that. Obviously, we try to execute the base plays as much as possible — and then we get the opportunity, we try to execute those trick plays so he can call them more often.”
The first time, it didn’t look like Black Pearl was executed properly. It appeared that Kelce should have tucked the ball away and plowed over the cornerback — but after the game, Mahomes mentioned that he may have gotten into Kelce’s head too much with the idea of throwing it to him.
Either way, the team was able to have fun with it — and plays like Black Pearl aren’t costing the team wins. In fact, the ability to break one out at any time forces the defense to account for the possibility they could be called — a slight strategic advantage that makes them worth calling.