In Thursday’s press conferences, quarterback coach Mike Kafka was asked about Patrick Mahomes and his growth evaluating film — and he was requested to provide an example.
“Pat does a phenomenal job in the film room watching, studying tape — very intricate details of defenders and indicators. One example that comes to mind was last year against Denver. We were playing Denver late in the season and they had brought a pressure midway to early in the season. There was only one time they’d shown it. We had watched it through our blitz cutups but them only bringing it one time Pat was able to diagnose it they actually brought it in the game — I think we hit Tyreek on the sideline one of them but he was able to see it post-snap, identify it and get the ball out of his hands — and that ended up being a big third-down conversion.”
While not on the sideline, this catch by Tyreek Hill is his only third-down catch of the day and one of two catches of more than 10 yards (the other was a 41-yard touchdown off play-action — against no blitz).
It’s also against a pressure dialed up by Denver’s head coach and defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio. This third-and-5 play is a near-identical description despite Kafka classifying it as more of a sideline catch. Regardless of whether it is the play in question, it’s great identification and textbook execution by Mahomes.
I believe this is the pressure Chiefs QB coach Mike Kafka cited to show Mahomes' film study and recall. Only 3rd down catch from Hill Wk 15.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 28, 2020
Field safety tips blitzing nickel, Mahomes throws into the pressure and beats it.
Kafka said they'd only seen Denver run it once on film. pic.twitter.com/5vAQaH8NZE
The Broncos rush three plus the nickel in the slot — dropping vaunted pass rusher Von Miller into coverage. Mahomes is tipped off by the safety to the field side with a late rotation behind the nickel. This is not a common move by a safety unless they’re trying to get over the top of a receiver to cover in place of a blitzing nickel. It’s an example of what Kafka called an “indicator” — it’s a tell the defense is giving Mahomes and critical to the pre-snap process.
Film study allows a quarterback to compile a database of these indicators and player tendencies that give them the best information at the snap of the ball. A lot of the pre-snap process is done in the film room — identifying as many of these indicators and tips as possible. At the snap of the ball, a quarterback’s pre-snap identification is either confirmed or denied and they’re forced to act accordingly. Even though Mahomes is young, he doesn’t get caught very often — and when he does he’s able to escape with his athleticism. He puts in the work and because of it is able to process the game quickly — one of his best traits.
On this play, the safety rotating over the nickel tipped him off to pressure — and Mahomes does exactly what you’re taught to do to beat pressure — throw into it. You can catch defenses late trying to get in position after disguising their look and get mismatches by attacking where the pressure came from. In this instance, Hill is matched up with the safety who helped tip the pressure — a clear advantage for the Chiefs. Sammy Watkins occupies the linebacker and Mahomes throws behind him to an open Hill for a key conversion.
Mahomes’ year two tape has several examples of him processing and executing at a high level. Sometimes it’s as simple as how quick the ball is out of his hands on plays — he knows where his best option is and wastes no time getting there. Mahomes has yet to reach his athletic prime, which is terrifying for the rest of the NFL and the legacies of the all-time great quarterbacks. What should be equally as scary is how well his game should age — he’s clearly a student of the game and a bright football mind.