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.
In the past three games the Kansas City Chiefs have a 2-1 record. In one game, Patrick Mahomes had a highlight reel chock full of thrilling plays and he put up over 400 yards through the air. The Chiefs lost.
The other two, the last two, featured less than 200 yards passing in each by Mahomes and passer ratings of 72.7 and 81.8. The Chiefs won each of those games.
Sunday’s dominant win over the Oakland Raiders wasn’t the most exhilarating performance of Mahomes’ career, although he still made enough throws that were deserving of our attention. If Kansas City can win without getting a superhuman output from No. 15, it’s in great shape as the playoffs near.
Mahomes only threw one touchdown pass in Sunday’s win, a simple one to Darrel Williams.
There’s nothing fancy at play here, just a screen out of the backfield to Williams. This will go down as one of the easiest touchdown passes of Mahomes’ career, but it counts all the same.
He only completed two passes of 15 or more yards in Week 13 (on seven attempts), so the long ball wasn’t a factor in this victory. That was in stark contrast to Week 2 when the Chiefs tore the Raiders up with deep throws. Instead, touch passes were key for Mahomes in this one. First up, this third-down conversion pass to Tyreek Hill.
This play features a designed rollout to the quarterback’s left. Mahomes is moving to his non-dominant side, but the shift makes it a shorter throw out to the sideline. Plus, he’s got good protection keeping the pocket. Meanwhile, Hill runs a tremendous route, as he cuts inside behind his teammate to create separation for outside break. Hill ends up wide open and Mahomes lofts it right to him. This is a beautifully designed play.
Then, in the third quarter, Travis Kelce receives one of these gentle passes from QB1.
At 23 yards, this was the longest completion of the day (in terms of air yards) for Mahomes. Kelce is running a deep crosser against zone defense, and the route takes him into wide open space between the dropping linebackers and the defensive backs. Mahomes has decent time to set up and throw to his deep option (he also had an open checkdown target). He can’t completely follow through or step into the pass because pressure does get close late, but he still drops the ball in accurately where Kelce can catch it in stride and turn upfield. He showed off tremendous accuracy on this one.
Kelce led the Chiefs in receiving this week, so we’ll stick with the throws to him. Next up is the Mahomes’ best throw of the day, with pinpoint accuracy despite running backward.
Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) breezes by Blake Bell and has a free run at Mahomes. The quarterback, seeing the pressure right in his face, backpedals more than five yards after a play fake but never stops going through his progressions. Kelce, who started the play bunched tight to the right, sits in the middle of the field with linebackers in coverage. Mahomes has the arm strength to make any throw while moving in any direction, which he shows here. His momentum is carrying him away from the play, but he has the natural arm talent to make a throw on a line to his tight end. Kelce’s ability to climb the ladder and make a catch in the air is a big help here.
Defending the Chiefs with a zone is suicide. Mahomes and Kelce took advantage of the Raiders’ zone several times in Week 13.
Rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen bumps Kelce but then stays underneath to cover the running back in the flat. With the safety deep and linebacker playing catchup, Kelce is open on a corner route. Mahomes has enough time to go through his reads, see Kelce and deliver an accurate ball. He’s so good against zones because he’s able to throw into any window and because he never panics, giving himself the chance to always find the open man. He did that here.
Late in the game, Mahomes trusted Kelce as well, making this long throw to move the chains on Kansas City’s last scoring drive.
Mahomes saves his pump fakes for special situations, and you don’t often see a triple clutch. This time, though, the fake buys him a split of extra time and some help for right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, because it gets defensive end Benson Mayowa (91) to leave his feet. Before Crosby gets through the line to hit Mahomes, the quarterback sees that Kelce has shaken off his man and is open on the sideline. The throw is is accurate and it nets the Chiefs a first down. With the extra space cleared out by a vertical route up the sideline, it becomes an easy conversion on third down.
Let’s get to one more throw from Mahomes to Kelce, a dart from a messy pocket.
There weren’t any true lasers this week from Mahomes, so we’ll take him making something happen with a contact bearing down on him in the pocket. He has to adjust his arm angle to a more over-the-top one with a higher release point. This is what we mean by “all the throws.” Kelce gets separation on a dig, but with the state of the pocket Mahomes has to fire this ball with high velocity to get it to his man. Of course, he does.
This final throw was to Hill, coming on the first touchdown drive of the game for the Chiefs, and was one of the longest of the day from Mahomes
Hill lines up on the inside of trips right and is able to get open A) thanks to being faster than everyone else and B) crossing post route with his corner route. Mahomes doesn’t have to worry about pressure here and can wind up to get more behind this throw. He leads Hill right to the ball and the sideline for a big pickup on third and long. Once again this is a perfectly accurate throw.
Mahomes also ran the ball effectively this week, including taking home his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Three routes are run to the right side of the pattern, plus Kelce cuts off his crossing route and bounces back inside. That holds linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59), which Mahomes recognizes and triggers his instinct to take off. We’ve said it plenty of times before, but he has underrated speed, so by the time anyone on the Raiders is able to react to the play it’s too late. His speed allows him to make the play, but it’s a smart decision in general by Mahomes.
He also ran the read option effectively against Oakland.
Crosby doesn’t respect Mahomes’ running ability at all, not even hesitating before attacking the running back. That’s a bad decision, considering the quarterback already showed off his wheels earlier in the first half. Mahomes sees Crosby crash inside and takes off for a good gain on first down. The Chiefs don’t pull out the read option much, but it’s effective when they do.
You don’t end up barely completing half your passes with a mediocre passer rating without making a handful of mistakes. Two of the ones Mahomes made in Week 13 came on consecutive plays. First, we’ll highlight a simple one that was just a microcosm of the whole game for the Kansas City offense.
We saw Mahomes making a ton of beautiful, accurate throws earlier, yet in the second quarter he somehow missed this easy toss to the flat. Things happen, but on a day in which nothing seemed to flow particularly well for the offense, this was an emblematic play. It was weird to see this.
Just one snap later, there was a near disaster.
One of the main credos of the Mahomes Report is that you will live with the occasional bad decision because the good plays are so great with No. 15. This pass, however, is inexcusable. It’s a windy day (more on that later) you’re only up one score and it’s far too early to be forcing the ball anywhere. It’s hard to tell if he thought Sammy Watkins would be able to make his way back to the ball more easily, if he didn’t see safety Erik Harris camping out at midfield or if he just though he could make a better throw. Whatever the reasoning was, it doesn’t stop this from being a bad decision. You can’t rely on butterfingers in the secondary to save you from yourself.
Back to the wind, it likely affected one deep ball that normally Mahomes would complete.
This isn’t an easy throw for normal quarterbacks, but it’s one that Mahomes has made time and again, especially with momentum in the direction of the play. On the TV broadcast Tony Romo was beside himself that this ball fell incomplete.
The Chiefs’ defense played a fantastic game against the Raiders, forcing three turnovers (one of which was on special teams) and making life miserable for Derek Carr. Juan Thornhill had a particularly good day, which included the first touchdown of his career.
This is a veteran play by the rookie safety. He follows Carr’s eyes, anticipates the throw and breaks on it. It’s reasonable to say that Tyrann Mathieu’s influence (and he also had an interception on Sunday) is rubbing off on Thornhill.
To continue that thought, Thornhill’s strong play went beyond making splashes in the passing game and continued with strong tackling, too.
What a fun play to watch. Thornhill enters to from the right and follows Trevor Davis (11) right away. He commits to attacking the ball carrier but doesn’t over pursue, allowing him to make a play once he turns upfield. Davis is hardly a physical runner, but it’s still difficult to make that tackle in space without giving up any ground. This was the best game of a strong debut season for Thornhill.
He wasn’t the only young breakout player who had a great day against the Raiders. Tanoh Kpassagnon continued his emergence with another good game this weekend, which included this sack, one of two for the Chiefs on the game.
There’s a lot to like here. It helps that the coverage is good and Carr lingers in the pocket forever, but Kpassagnon is able to fight off a good left tackle in Kolton Miller (74) to get home. Additionally, his jump off the ball is perfectly timed. Against a lesser tackle he would have been in Carr’s face instantly.
Kpassagnon used his excellent get-off and size to make an impact on special teams as well.
Lined up on the left shoulder of offensive lineman Denzelle Good, Kpassagnon gets another good jump and is able to get to the holder with no resistance. Credit to Charvarius Ward for picking the ball up on the run and taking it all the way for two points, but this play is all about the third-year defensive lineman. His football IQ has risen astronomically this year and he’s finally using his size to make plays consistently.
Outside of some inaccuracies by Mahomes, it was a well-played game all around for Kansas City. The offense was able to rack up 31 points on its own, (plus the defensive and special teams scores), the defense limited Oakland to six yards per play with a +3 turnover margin. The only major negative was the run defense once again, and even that was a total non-factor in the second half. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs, one of the top rushers in the NFL this year, had over 100 yards for the game but had merely three carries for nine yards after halftime.
The Raiders are struggling, but this was undeniably a great showing for the Chiefs. The offense scored plenty without a great performance from the quarterback, the special teams had its best game of the year and the defense may be able to say the same. Those are all great signs heading into a game against the New England Patriots next weekend.