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Film review: Patrick Mahomes flaunted confidence with every Week 1 throw

Kansas City’s quarterback was oozing confidence throughout Sunday afternoon’s victory in Arizona.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

As the Kansas City Chiefs handled the Arizona Cardinals in their 44-21 victory during Week 1, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was noticeably locked in.

His production bore that out. He racked up a league-leading 364 yards and five touchdowns — but you could also see it as he marched the offense up and down the field during any of the team’s seven scoring drives.

He had help from clean pass protection, plus good performances from pass-catchers — but there was a look in Mahomes’ eye. After he casually tossed his fourth touchdown of the afternoon, he wanted the Cardinals’ defense to know his updated stat line.

The Chiefs’ quarterback was feeling himself to open the season. Let’s take a closer look at what went into his confident performance:

Confident decisions

Most NFL defenses know the rule: don’t blitz Mahomes. Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph doesn’t live under a rock — but on Sunday, he called his defense as if he does. In fairness, we should remind ourselves that he was shorthanded on his defensive front, forcing him to find other ways to create pressure.

The Cardinals blitzed on 24 of Mahomes’ 41 dropbacks in the game. The Kansas City quarterback countered with 16 completions on 23 attempts on those snaps, throwing all five touchdowns while also moving the chains eight other times. He was not sacked once.

Even though Arizona made things simpler with a heavy dose of blitzing, the ease with which Mahomes beat it during the opening week of a season — while dealing with multiple new faces in his receiving corps — was incredible.

But first... he relied upon a familiar face.

Here, Arizona brings pressure from the right edge, where Mahomes initially wants to throw. The routes are open behind the blitz, which could tempt Mahomes to try lobbing it over — but instead, he quickly pivots back to where he knows tight end Travis Kelce is operating. Once Kelce clears coverage, the ball is out before the rush can get home.

Later in the same drive, Mahomes goes to Kelce again — even though the routine execution for this play-action scheme is to target the receiver coming across into the flat. The extra rusher gets on Mahomes quickly, but it’s too late; the gunslinger has already confirmed the leverage Kelce has on his defender and is already lobbing it up to the spot where only Kelce can come down with it.

The highlight of this play is the lack of attention Mahomes gives to 260-pound defensive end Markus Golden — who coming right at his face; he flicks the touch pass like there’s no one in his vicinity.

As the Chiefs drove for a field goal before halftime, Mahomes once again made the blitz look like it wasn’t there.

This time, he manipulates the blitz off the left edge by dropping to a deeper depth, then timing a subtle step up to perfectly negate that rushing angle. The open space in the front of the pocket gives him the platform for a flick-of-the-wrist pass to Kelce as he breaks open into a throwing window.

As he avoids the pressure, Mahomes never takes his eyes away from what’s happening downfield.

Confident throws

Even when the target isn’t as clear to Mahomes as they were in those plays, he was still able to fit the ball into the places where he wanted it to go.

On this second-and-long play, Arizona drops Golden into a short zone — right where two high and low crossing routes are developing in Kansas City’s pass concept. Being in position to defend the higher route — and come up on the lower one — Golden is occupying the space pretty well. But Mahomes doesn’t care. He whizzes it by Golden’s ear to wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who is running right behind the defensive end.

On this big first-down play to open the second half, the Chiefs want the Cardinals to think run — so they line up with three tight ends and show play action. The run fake holds the linebackers enough for Kelce to get behind them on a deep crossing pattern. There isn’t much room to fit the ball into Kelce’s hands — trailing in coverage, the linebacker makes up a lot of ground — but Mahomes’ throw looks like it’s executed on air.

Confident moments

On the opening drive, we saw our first connection between Mahomes and Juju Smith-Schuster.

You’ll see plenty of quarterbacks execute the spin out of an edge pressure like this. But ask yourself this: how many of them are resetting as quickly — and throwing as powerfully as Mahomes does — just a split-second after having their backs to the defense?

It speaks to how unbelievably fast Mahomes processes a defense, how well he knows the routes (and where everyone is supposed to be) at a given point in the play.

The fourth touchdown of the day might have been the most confident throw of them all.

This play is set up for Mahomes to fake a quick look right, then come back to one of the crossing patterns executed by tight ends Jody Fortson and Travis Kelce. He executes the fake, sees rushers beelining for him — and then, off his back foot as he’s sandwiched between two rushers — he casually flips it out in front of Fortson. The ball goes to where only Fortson can catch it. Touchdown.

Don’t mistake this casual-looking throw for poor mechanics. This is an uber-confident Mahomes reminding the world that he can make it look easy. Go off, King!

The bottom line

With his Week 1 performance, Patrick Mahomes wanted to make a statement. And he did. But most NFL teams aren’t going to blitz him on nearly 60% of his dropbacks for a game. In fact, some teams won’t blitz him at all.

It will be important to see him manufacture these highlight-reel plays against a conservative defense that tests his patience more — like most of the AFC’s defenses have learned to do.

Either way, Week 1 did nothing but raise Mahomes’ confidence as he and his teammates head into the home opener: Thursday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers.

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