In the wake of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 33-29 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, many Chiefs observers have expressed concern over the team’s reliance on wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce in the passing game. Among Sunday’s 34 targets, 22 of them went to Hill and Kelce. That left only 12 to be distributed among the other six players Mahomes targeted.
To be fair, those two players typically see the lion’s share of passing targets; it’s just that their proportion was higher than usual on Sunday. Given that the offseason gave us no clear answer on how the Chiefs plan to replace the production of now-departed wideout Sammy Watkins, that raises concerns.
But according to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it was just a matter of how the game played out.
“To me, it’s just kind of going through the reads of the game and seeing what the defense kind of gives you,” he told reporters on Wednesday, as he and his teammates prepared for this week’s matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. “This last week, they kind of left the middle of the field a little bit open, so I was able to hit Tyreek and Trav over the middle a lot.”
Mahomes said that it isn’t likely to be that way in every week of the season — particularly during this week’s Sunday Night Football game in Baltimore.
“As we get into games like this week, where they play more man coverage — I’m sure they’ll have a plan for Tyreek and Trav — that’ll give other guys more opportunities. We have play-calls for every single person. They know in every single play, they have a chance of getting the ball.”
Mahomes flatly denied that it was a matter of favoritism — that is, that he trusts Hill and Kelce more than the team’s other pass-catchers.
“I have full confidence in everybody who’s on that football field,” he insisted. “I mean, we have guys that can make plays everywhere. This last week, Trav and Tyreek made the plays. But I’m sure that throughout the entire season — and what we’ve seen in our past — is that we have guys like Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle who can make the big play happen at any moment. I have full confidence in that.”
For this reason, Mahomes said he never wants any of his receivers to feel like they won’t get a chance to contribute.
“I hope they’re never thinking that,” he said. “Because with me, it’s whoever’s open is going to get the football. So whatever guys go out there and run their routes, they know they’re going to get their opportunity — so they’re hoping, and they’re going to go out there with the mindset that every single play, there’s a chance that they could be catching a touchdown. I think that’s kind of how I roll — and how coach Reid rolls.”
But for the moment, both Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid are slowing their roll — just a little — as they prepare for the Ravens. After they conveniently opened the season by playing against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday — giving Chiefs players and coaches an opportunity to watch two upcoming opponents at once — Reid had one word to describe the Baltimore defense.
“Fast,” he said. “They get to the ball. Justin Houston is actually playing very well for them. I don’t want to slight that; I’m a fan of his, too. He’s a good football player — and he knows this offense. But those other guys? They play. They play hard and aggressive. You've got to be accurate in what you do.”
But for Mahomes, it will come down to the same thing it always does: adjusting to what the opponent does on Sunday night.
“Obviously, they’re a very good defense,” he acknowledged. “They do a lot of great things [and] they have a lot of great players. And it seems like every single week, they have a brand-new scheme from the defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
“So for me, it’s about trying to go through my reads and getting the ball out of my hand. If you hold on to the ball too long against a defense like this, usually bad things happen. So I try to get it out of my hand — and let the playmakers make plays.”
No matter which names are on the backs of their jerseys.