It was obvious that during the preseason Week 2 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wasn’t on his A-game. So naturally, Mahomes came out the following week and looked completely unstoppable in the final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
He and the starting offense were on the field for 15 plays in two possessions; both drives ended in a touchdown. Mahomes finished with eight completions on nine attempts for 117 passing yards and two scores — which adds up to a perfect passer rating.
In his press conference after the game, Mahomes noted that the preparation leading into the preseason finale was closer to a legitimate game plan than it had been for the first two exhibition games — and it showed.
Reading the defense
On his second pass attempt, Mahomes threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a deep route down the right sideline. His pre-snap recognition of the defense made it an easy throw-and-catch.
Tyreek TD. Trent Green broke it down on the broadcast— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 30, 2021
Vikings start in 2-high; SS gives away Cover 1 man by rolling down into Robber role pre-snap. Deep S is too far left to get over the top of Tyreek
Mahomes sees it pre-snap, confirms it post-snap, then fires away #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/Kf9fhz4xRM
The Vikings come out in a two-high safety look — but as the snap draws near, the strong safety creeps closer to the line of scrimmage. This indicates to Mahomes that the defense will likely be in Cover 1 man coverage — meaning that there will be only one safety helping over the top as defenders cover their men.
Because the Vikings first want to show a two-high safety look, the deep safety is already cheated towards the left of the offensive formation. This makes it hard for the deep safety to help over the top of a deep route on the right side. Mahomes recognizes this — so he knows that on Hill’s go-route on the right, cornerback Bashaud Breeland will be the only player with any chance to stop it.
After the snap, Mahomes quickly confirms the Vikings are indeed in one-high safety coverage — and then let its rip to Hill. Breeland doesn’t stand a chance of keeping up with Hill — and the perfectly accurate pass results in a touchdown.
Classic Mahomes play on the Bell TD— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 30, 2021
Rolls right, sees none of his primary reads as open, knows exactly when Bell will release on route, purposefully throws low to keep Bell safe from big hit/ball possibly popping up in air because of it
Great play by Bell to get into EZ #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/QNFj0RIvgf
On his second touchdown pass, Mahomes read the defense post-snap rather than pre-snap.
Out of a four-tight end set, the Chiefs run one of their favorite red-zone concepts: a rollout that immediately has the running back running to the play-side flat. The defense covers the primary reads well — but Mahomes knows when tight end Blake Bell will be releasing into a route, so he quickly fires it back across his body to Bell. The purposefully low pass protects Bell from a big hit — and Bell makes a nice play to get into the end zone.
On this play, Mahomes’ peripheral vision allowed him to see the window where he could throw to Bell. We’ve seen him make these plays plenty of times — but it never gets old watching him dissect a defense that has actually covered the play well.
In the Arizona game, Mahomes made a few questionable decisions as a scrambler (and while in the pocket) that led to bad plays. Against Minnesota, Mahomes made the right play every time he dropped back to pass.
A Mahomes hard count gets him a free play. Instead of trying to do too much because of the free play, he stays in rhythm on his 5-step drop and fires to D-Rob on the dig route w/ great timing— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 30, 2021
Calm in the pocket even as he likely feels the blindside pressure coming #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/4upqTjKI8l
Here, Mahomes gets the Vikings to jump offsides with a hard count. Instead of going for the long-shot deep ball or extending the play just because he knows it’s a free play, he calmly takes his five-step drop and delivers an on-time pass to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson on the intermediate in-breaking route. Even though he likely feels the pressure coming from his blind side, Mahomes stays in rhythm and executes the play-call.
Mahomes’ only incompletion of the game was a brilliant, disciplined decision.
Mahomes' only incompletion was a smart, safe decision on 1&10— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 30, 2021
Doesn't drift too far back on his dropback, steps up into pocket, and throws out of back of the end zone when no receiver was open in his view
I like that he didn't try to scramble. No reason to possibly take a hit pic.twitter.com/XuIK5powbx
On this play — a first down in the red zone — Mahomes takes a three-step drop. His drop doesn’t go any deeper than it needs to, allowing him to climb the pocket and keep his eyes downfield for his target.
This was an improvement from the pocket presence he sometimes showed against the Cardinals, when he would escape the pocket unnecessarily, putting himself in a disadvantageous position to make a play.
But in this rep, no receivers pop open in his line of vision. Understanding that by this time, he’s nearly at the line of scrimmage, Mahomes throws it out of the back of the end zone, setting up second down.
Instead of scrambling and possibly getting hit, he understood that he had two more downs; he didn’t need to do too much — especially in a preseason game — which showed great situational awareness.
The bottom line
On Friday night, Mahomes looked like the guy we knew him to be: the league’s best player. (Being voted by his peers as the NFL’s top player — as was announced over the weekend — was just a formality). Each throw he made ended up where it needed to be. He showed great pocket awareness — and didn’t make any bad decisions.
He looks fully prepared for the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns — for which he and his teammates now have two full weeks to prepare.