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Film review: Patrick Mahomes strengthened his case for NFL MVP in Houston

In a win that was too close for comfort, the Chiefs’ quarterback still had a near-flawless performance.

Kansas City Chiefs v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

From start to finish, the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t make things comfortable in their 30-24 overtime win over the 1-12-1 Houston Texans. That will happen when the offense turns the ball over twice by a fumble, and the entire team commits 10 penalties for over 100 yards.

The negative did its best to overshadow a brilliant performance from quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He had 36 completions on 41 pass attempts; the 88% completion rate was the highest in NFL history for a quarterback with at least 40 passes in a game. It came with three touchdowns, two through the air and one scrambling.

With no turnovers, he created 346 yards of total offense in an efficient fashion — but did so while the pass offense still left big plays on the table. A few inches here or there, and this becomes one of Mahomes’ all-time box scores.

I looked at the most impressive parts of his game, highlighting things you may have missed on the broadcast:

Missed shot plays

Part of what made the offense’s performance feel very sloppy was how they started the game. Both of their first two drives ended in punts, the second doomed by a sack on first down; running back Isiah Pacheco missed his assignment in blitz pickup. Three of the five incompletions Mahomes had on Sunday occurred in that sequence.

On the opening drive’s failed third down, the Chiefs face man coverage with one safety over the top. The call is a Smash concept, which assigns wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to run the corner route from a slot alignment. Against one-high coverage, this route adjusts to be a big play — angling vertically to take advantage of the lack of safety help.

Valdes-Scantling’s route creates ideal separation, but the ball is short and cannot be dug out for a completion. I thought Mahomes might have misread the coverage and anticipated a route flatter to the sideline, but a closer look shows left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. getting walked back into Mahomes’ throwing bubble, stepping on his plant foot and allowing the rusher to affect the follow-through. It’s a disappointing rep, considering Brown’s strength; he should be able to swallow up this bull rush.

Backed up late in the first half, head coach Andy Reid wants to take advantage of something he rarely gets: a defensive look that heavily anticipates the run. They fake their go-to short-yardage play — the fullback dive — and send wide receiver Justin Watson on a deep crossing route; he gets on top of the only deep safety because of the attention on tight end Travis Kelce underneath.

Initial pressure allowed by reserve offensive tackle Lucas Niang forces this throw to be more out of structure than the Chiefs would prefer, but he puts plenty of air on the 55-yard throw while moving to his right and avoiding the defender leaping toward him. Watson tries to play it safe and catch it as he goes to the ground, but he fails to secure it.

This is where it would have been nice to get a shot opportunity for rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore. I believe this pass should have been tracked down better, caught in the air, and potentially taken for a score with any missed tackle.

Maximum Efficiency

Just before halftime, a goal-to-go pass fell incomplete to tight end Jody Fortson — setting up a third down. It would end up being Mahomes’ last incompletion on the day.

On the next snap, a designed roll-out pass was threaded to Valdes-Scantling in the end zone and on the sideline; the receiver gripped it with both hands for the score. The pass is harder to complete than it looks: Houston safety Jalen Pitre has a good jump and angle to try and take the throw away, but the velocity and placement of Mahomes’ pass eliminate Pitre’s presence.

The pinpoint accuracy became a theme for the rest of the game, and it was boosted by Mahomes’ decision-making. In the rare case he couldn’t fit a pass into a receiver, he took off and made positive plays with his feet.

Mahomes scrambled three times in Houston: one for 12 yards, moving the chains on second down. One for 14 yards, moving the chains on third down. Then a touchdown, getting in from five yards away on second and goal. It was another great example of Mahomes never wasting a dropback; he rarely scrambles unnecessarily but can get the most out of the times he does.

One forced error

Somehow, four quarters of Mahomes’ amazing play wasn’t enough to top Houston — forcing Kansas City to win in overtime. Getting the ball first, the Chiefs drove past midfield quickly but faced third and 4.

Like his first third-down incompletion of the game, he sees Houston come out with man coverage and only one safety deep. The play calls for two vertical receivers, one threatening each side of the field. Mahomes locks in on the safety with his eyes, reading his movement to decide which vertical route will have more space to work with.

You can tell Mahomes wants to go to Valdes-Scantling because he tries to pull the safety toward Watson’s route with his footwork. Pitre doesn’t bite, but Mahomes is too stubborn to come off his desired target. Once he realizes there’s no window for Valdes-Scantling, he has to just eat a crucial sack.

If he had read Pitre correctly, he would have thrown to Watson — who had a few steps on his defender toward the end zone.

The bottom line

Everything about this game was sloppy for four quarters — except the performance of Patrick Mahomes.

Ironically, that flipped in overtime, where an undisciplined dropback nearly gave the game away. Yet, if the players surrounding him executed their roles on some of the aforementioned plays, the game wouldn’t have gotten to the extra period.

And if Mahomes doesn’t complete 31 of his 33 attempts after the sloppy two opening possessions, there’s a chance this is a loss and a blown opportunity to steal home-field advantage.

It’s precisely why it strengthened Mahomes’ case for NFL MVP.

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