Welcome to the Mahomes Report, a weekly breakdown from Brendan Dzwierzynski of what Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes did, either good or bad, during the most recent Chiefs game. For past editions, click here.
Every win is a good win in the NFL, but it certainly didn’t feel that way for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 when they housed the Denver Broncos but lost quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a knee injury. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said this weekend that it could be just 3-5 weeks that the MVP misses, but that’s still a number of crucial games for the Chiefs.
There are just a couple plays to get to this week illustrating Mahomes’ effort, given that he didn’t even play a full half and that the playbook was, once again due to his ankle injury, limited. But we are also taking a look at backup quarterback Matt Moore, who played the majority of last Thursday’s game and will be under center as long as Mahomes is out. We’ll look at what he did against the Broncos and what he’s shown he can do in the pass.
First, though, Mahomes.
Mahomes did throw a touchdown pass in the Week 7 win over Denver, and while it was a short one he still had to make a nice play to complete the throw in the first place.
One of the most, if not the singular most, important part of Mahomes’ limited mobility due to the ankle injury is less escapability. He’s so good at breaking out of the pocket at an instant when he faces pressure, but he can’t do that as easily on a bum ankle. Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) is working Laurent Duvernay-Tardif right into Mahomes’ face on this play. Despite the fact he can’t evade that pressure, Mahomes adjusts his posture on the throw, releasing the pass over the top while over turning to his left. He’s still able to somehow thread the throw past safety Will Parks (34) to Mecole Hardman, who does the rest. That’s irregular body movement by No. 15 but he’s able to make it work.
While he can’t run away from defenders like normal, Mahomes is still able to manipulate them without actually letting go of the ball. The following play is a short completion, but it’s opened up because of a pump fake.
Chris Harris Jr. (25) is frozen by the pump fake. That allows Travis Kelce, who’s just sitting in the zone, to follow his quarter to the right (his left) to open a throwing window. That option is only open because of the pump fake, otherwise Harris is doing his job by closing off that lane. This is a textbook example of the quarterback’s actions forcing a defender to play by their rules.
We’ve already admired one standout example of different release points, body movement, etc. from Week 7. Check out another here, where Mahomes uses a compact, quick release to throw a dart to Kelce.
Kelce and Blake Bell run the exact same route, so if this throw is any slower getting out it’s going to create problems. No matter, though, because Mahomes uses little windup here, quickly bringing the ball up and firing with fluidity. He’s able to generate some of the velocity on the throw by torquing his upper body on the release, which is additionally important because it’s harder to get off a powerful throw while leaning away from the play. Again, any slower release or development of the throw and fourth down is likely coming up.
For our last positive throw for this week (to repeat: there are several reasons there aren’t many examples for Week 7) Mahomes has a wide-open tight end thanks to an excellent route combination.
Kansas City is running the double dig concept here, with Kelce and LeSean McCoy as the two parts of the combination. Kelce is matched up by Harris on the right and runs a dig, while McCoy does the same with linebacker Alexander Johnson (45) assigned to him, but he starts out of the backfield. By bringing McCoy out to the right in the pattern, Johnson is forced to move to that side, which creates a screen on Harris. When the two defenders collide, it creates separation on the deeper dig route for Kelce. Harris is effectively out of the play once he gets picked and Kelce is able to pick up a good gain on first down. There are also trips receivers to the left, all running vertical routes. Mahomes checks there first before coming back to his right and our highlighted route combination. It’s a smart play by Mahomes, recognizing that he can check for a big play first knowing that Kelce will be open because of the manufactured screen.
There’s only bad one worth pointing out this week, but it was a miscommunication that could have cost the Chiefs four points.
Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are running the switch concept, with Hardman running a wheel from the slot and Robinson running a post from the outside. This is a zone killer. Both run past the underneath coverage and Denver is left with just one player, cornerback Davontae Harris (27), who has to account for both receivers. He breaks inside with the post, which leaves Hardman all alone along the sideline. This would have been a touchdown had the throw not been three yards behind the target. This could have been a miscommunication with Mahomes expecting Hardman to turn for the ball quicker, but regardless it kept Kansas City out of the end zone. The Chiefs would settle for a field goal.
After Mahomes went down with the knee injury the world was reintroduced to Matt Moore, the longtime backup, a decent one at that. In all honesty, there are far worse backups you could have. And his numbers as a starter aren’t all that bad, all things considered.
You don’t want those stats in a franchise quarterback, but you could do a lot worse in a backup who’s pressed into service. The Chiefs didn’t need him to do much in Week 7 because the Broncos were completely hapless. It didn’t take much to hold on for an easy victory. We’ll take a look at a couple plays to see what Kansas City will be dealing with while Mahomes is out.
First up is the best play of the night, a touch pass to Tyreek Hill that went for a long touchdown.
There are a couple things to like about this, beyond the fact that it went for a score. Moore is able to dodge pressure in the pocket when Von Miller (58) approaches from his right. That gives him time to (less than gracefully) get the ball out to Hill. Moore’s arm strength isn’t great and will take some getting used to after watching Mahomes throw rockets all the time, but he got enough behind this one to lead Hill to the ball. He’s faster than Harris, which allows him to cruise for the score. Moore also got help from play design, with Hill running a drag wheel across the formation, which Harris admitted he wasn’t ready for. Excellent play here all around.
There will be a lot of throws underneath in the next few weeks, so it’s good to see Moore be able to work quick, easy routes.
Nothing fancy at all here, just a six-yard stop route about Robinson on the outside. Moore makes his read, fires it in and Robinson is able to work his way for a first down. Andy Reid is going to scheme up a lot of plays like this against zone coverages to make things easier on his replacement quarterback. It’s a positive, as unspectacular and remedial as it may seem, that Moore can operate in that situation. Not every backup can.
It wasn’t all good for Moore last Thursday, and he showed why the offense is going to look wildly different as long as he’s in the starting lineup.
It’s unfair to compare Moore to Mahomes, that needs to be accepted. But on a play like this No. 15 almost always knows how much touch to put on a pass in order to drop the pass in, or at least get it close. No. 8, however, doesn’t even get this ball close to Hill. Plays like this are going to be much fewer and far between.
Additionally, there are concerns about Moore’s accuracy, which is why plays like the earlier completion to Robinson is such an important thing to see.
Kelce doesn’t get a perfect release, but this pass is nowhere near him and could have been intercepted. This one was probably a miscommunication, as it appears Moore thought Kelce was going to continue running up the sideline. That may make this play somewhat unfair to use as a lone visual judgement, but there were several shorter throws that Moore couldn’t complete. Ones like this, where Kelce is matched up on a linebacker, though, need to be completed.
The last time Moore started a game was for the 2017 Miami Dolphins (he even started a playoff game for them in 2016). He showed some flashes that year that support why he was always so revered as one of the league’s better backups, but also showed why that was his ceiling for the first long stretch of his career.
We’ll use his last start, Week 12 of 2017 against New England for reference. When it comes to good plays, take a look at this completion to Jarvis Landry.
This is a professional throw by Moore. Good protection by the offensive line helps, although he still needs to maneuver around when things start to get messy. He does so, sliding right and delivering a strike to Landry on a crossing route. For the Chiefs’ purposes, you like seeing that Moore can handle a play like this because you’ve got the weapons who can create separation and make plays downfield. You can easily picture Demarcus Robinson playing the Landry role here.
On the flip side, we also saw his accuracy inconsistencies on display in Miami.
There’s an awkward angle at play here, but an NFL quarterback needs to make this throw, it’s as simple as that. Moore will have to make plenty of short throws and work the flat in the next few weeks, and you have to be able to complete this.
And then there’s the arm strength question.
Moore chucks this ball and it still falls well short of Landry in the end zone. Stephon Gilmore picks it up and kills the Miami drive. Landry is running a corner route and if the ball is thrown deeper it’s a score, or at least there’s a shot at a touchdown. Instead it flutters meekly and gets picked off. Again, this is an example of why the offense is going to look wildly different without Mahomes. Moore simply isn’t able to get the ball deep down the field like Mahomes can. That’s not exactly breaking news, though.
That’s why the accuracy is so important until No. 15 is back. Moore has to be able to hit flat routes or anything in the intermediate range to Kelce. The bright side is that he’s shown he can do that and that Reid will create a scheme that he capable of thriving in. Consistency is going to be the key to keeping the Chiefs in their next few games against tough opponents.