It was one of the 17 catches he has made this season, leading the Chiefs’ wide receivers despite having the least experience of anyone. The volume indicates Rice has earned the trust of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the offensive coaching staff.
Mahomes confirmed that when asked about the rookie on Tuesday, speaking with reporters.
“He is doing a great job of being in the right spot at the right time,” Mahomes noted. “That’s the biggest thing. He plays hard, he plays fast, when he gets his opportunities, he makes the most out of them. He’ll just continue to learn.”
Patrick Mahomes noted today how much Rashee Rice can learn from an incompletion like this— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 10, 2023
"I wanted him to go over the top. We didn’t teach that, it’s one of those things that would be a veteran-type move. He saw that, he learned from that.”
Chemistry isn't built overnight! pic.twitter.com/KHcXWeJCje
Before he spiked the ball into the purple turf and celebrated a touchdown, Rice was targeted on a pass into the end zone two snaps prior. The ball fell incomplete, just past the outstretched hands of Rice. If you look closer, you can see Rice hesitate in his route once he approaches the defender, and that causes the missed opportunity.
“I wanted him to go over the top,” Mahomes explained to reporters. “We didn’t teach that — it’s one of those things that would be a veteran-type move. He saw that, he learned from that.”
It was refreshing to see the quarterback be almost overconfident in a receiver, almost putting too much faith that they’d make the extracurricular play. It’s in contrast to the many times Mahomes has been unwilling to target a receiver this year.
Mahomes revealed Rice's TD came vs. an unanticipated look today— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 10, 2023
"We got a coverage that we weren’t expecting... He was able to still win and be there at the right spot."
"It’s learning on the go, that’s what you have to do as a rookie in this league. He’s doing a great job.” pic.twitter.com/YrERPGROpl
When the two hooked up for a score, it appeared to be a simple slant from the slot. Mahomes revealed there was more to it than that.
“We got a coverage that we weren’t expecting to that play,” Mahomes recalled. “He was able to still win and be there at the right spot.”
The in-play adjustment is a very encouraging sign for Rice at this point of his NFL career. The game doesn’t slow down and wait for rookies to prepare; some handle that better than others.
“It’s just learning on the go,” Mahomes described. “That’s what you have to do as a rookie in this league. He’s doing a great job of it.”
Rice’s career is off to a very positive start, so positive that the Chiefs may not be able to wait much longer to increase his snap count. He has played 50% of the offensive snaps in only one game this season.
If more opportunity comes Rice’s way, it’s because of the trust he has quickly earned from his coaches and quarterback.