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Mahomes Report: Week 14 vs. New England

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.

 

Comp.% Yards TD INT Rate
65 283 1 1 83.6

Mahomes Good

Mahomes has just one touchdown pass in each of the last three games. This week’s featured the return of both the deep ball and Mecole Hardman.

The Patriots (specifically Bill Belichick) are known for taking away the opponents’ best weapon. They did a decent enough job on Travis Kelce on Tyreek Hill, but early in the game missed the true biggest weapon: explosive plays. New England hasn’t allowed many this season, but gave up a costly one here. Mahomes under throws the pass a bit, which can be explained away by the fact he had pressure in his face and was forced to throw off his back foot while fading away. Even with the under throw, it’s a beautiful deep, arcing throw that Hardman is able to track and make a play on. Mahomes does a good job here of going through his progressions and still getting the throw off before contact.

Sometimes you can take Mahomes’ arm strength for granted, given the fact he shows it off consistently every week. With an additional handicap against New England he was still able to unleash some tough throws that take a lot of strength, like this one:

He throws arguably the prettiest spiral in the game and is able to do so from nearly any platform. If Mahomes is throwing ducks, something is clearly wrong. That said, even his ducks are better throws than what most quarterbacks can do without a hand issue. On this play the Chiefs are using the dagger concept on the left side of the pattern, with Hardman running a go from the slot and Hill running a deep dig. The go clears space for Hill to cross the middle freely, and Mahomes identifies the step he has on Jonathan Jones (31). The slight roll to the right buys him more time and gives him space to step into the throw, which is essential on this third and long. Excellent throw taking advantage of a simple yet effective route concept.

In the first quarter Mahomes was able to find Sammy Watkins for another long gain.

It was good to see Watkins make an appearance after being AWOL for several weeks. He takes his vertical route off to the right, where Mahomes is rolling again. QB1 keeps his eyes downfield throughout the play and shifts the pocket, all the while the offensive line is holding up well. Notice the pike in Mahomes’ body, as he needed to get as much momentum behind the throw as possible to get the necessary velocity and distance on it. That’s a challenging pass to make accurately, let alone with a bum hand.

Kelce was also on the receiving end of a deep(er) play this week in the third quarter.

This is a modification of the flood concept, with the Chiefs “flooding” the right side of the field. Along with Watkins running a vertical route up the right sideline, Hardman is running a shallow cross and Kelce is running an over route to the right half of the field. The defense is caught in between the two horizontal routes, which creates room for the throw to Kelce. Mahomes recognizes the opening and knows he can make the bigger play instead of playing it safe underneath. He calmly makes one of his early reads and it goes for a big gain.

The Patriots adjusted after the touchdown pass and cut off the deep-ball options for the majority of the rest of the game. That was bad for Mahomes’ numbers, as there weren’t any more deep completions, but he did get a chance to show off some of his sneaky tricks instead.

Last week we lauded Mahomes’ pump fake, and it made an even more drastic impact when he pulled it out this week. He sees linebacker Jamie Collins (58) spying him in the middle of the field and needs to take him out of the play in order to get the ball anywhere (it ends up being a short gain to Kelce). He pulls out the pump fake, gets Collins in the air and effectively neutralized, and takes the positive yardage from there.

Another move Mahomes has flashed in recent weeks in the jump pass, which led to a big touchdown against Tennessee in Week 10 and a decent gain against New England.

This is hardly the most spectacular throw Mahomes can make, but it shows you he’s capable of creating his own passing lanes when needed. You can’t stop him by simply creating traffic in front of his face. He’s only going to attempt this if he knows he can complete it, which he clearly did here.

Finally, to cap off the “good” plays from No. 15, a little RPO 101.

First, of course, you can tell this is an RPO because of the run blocking from the offensive line. Mahomes makes a pre-snap read on this play, instead of waiting to read a player post snap to determine whether to run or pass. The key read here is that there are six defensive players in the box compared to just five blockers. With the defensive numbers advantage in the box, passing becomes a more viable option. Additionally, with three receivers lined up the the left, there are only two defenders lined up inside Byron Pringle, the inside slot man and target receiver. For an outward-breaking route, if there isn’t a third defender who’s able to shade the inside slot man then he’ll get a clean release with separation. Mahomes reads all of this before the play and knows once he snaps the ball that he’s going to use the pass option (made more obvious by the fact he doesn’t carry the mesh with LeSean McCoy at all).

For more on reading defenses RPOs, this video and this write-up from the great Ted Nguyen explains the concept thoroughly and understandably.

Mahomes Bad

First and foremost, the first time we noticed Mahomes was dealing with an injury.

The close-up from CBS clearly shows on the second play of the Chiefs’ second drive that Mahomes is feeling a hand issue. That’s certainly something worth worrying about going forward. It clearly affected his play on Sunday, but hopefully won’t be a major concern in the coming weeks.

As for the bad plays, one stands out far above the rest, his third interception of the season.

This is a bad decision and a worse throw. The only explanation could be that Mahomes didn’t see J.C. Jackson (27) underneath Demarcus Robinson, but it was still an under thrown ball. Bum hand or not, you can’t make this decision. Thankfully, the Patriots weren’t able to turn it into points.

Other than that, there wasn’t much that was particularly bad from Mahomes this weekend. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but there weren’t any other egregious errors. The offense is still adjusting to how defenses are playing them now (eliminating the deep ball), and once the play calling catches up QB1’s efficiency will tick back up.

Non-Mahomes Good

The Chiefs have a genuinely good defense.

Bashaud Breeland had a tough start to Sunday’s game, but bounced back with two major plays. The first was intercepting Tom Brady, who is finally starting to lose the battle with Father Time, and then he made the game-sealing pass break-up in the fourth quarter.

Brady made a decent throw for falling down backwards, but Breeland made a fantastic play to break the play up. He did it cleanly, with no pulling and restricting, timed it well and played the ball instead of the receiver. For a player who has had issues with committing penalties in coverage this year, this was a big moment.

The run defense played phenomenally against New England, which, in fairness, is a terrible running team. Holding anyone under 100 yards on the ground is a great sign of improvement for this unit, though, and the front seven made several plays to blow up runs in key situations. There was an early Derrick Nnadi stuff, a Damien Wilson tackle for loss and this two-point conversion denial.

Stuffing runners in short-yardage situations has actually been a strength for the Chiefs this year, and it was good to see that trait pop up again in a huge moment.

In a game filled with solid defensive performances, Frank Clark stood out above the rest. He was playing through the flu and with a shoulder issue the prohibited him from practicing in full earlier in the week. In spite of all that, he made several impact plays and got constant pressure on Brady.

Isaiah Wynn (76) was supposed to be a de facto savior for New England’s offensive line, injecting talent into a depleted and generally weaker group. He didn’t look the part on this play. Clark burned him badly with a speed rush around the edge and showed great get-off, timing the snap with his jump perfectly. Then, late in the fourth quarter, he tacked on a TFL that helped force the Patriots to kick a field goal (after a touchdown was erroneously taken away).

Alex Okafor has been something of a forgotten man for the Chiefs’ defense, with Clark and Chris Jones playing at an elite level (especially of late), plus the emergence of Tanoh Kpassagnon and Emmanuel Ogbah, he’s been just another guy on the roster. He made his presence known on Sunday, though.

In contrast to Clark’s sack, when he overpowered Wynn with speed, Okafor overpowered Marcus Cannon (61) with power. He had momentum from the get go, lined up extended from the rest of the defensive line. He doesn’t need any moves to get home this time, he just does so with a great upper-body pushing, knocking Cannon off his bearings. Brady’s been bad against pressure all season and Kansas City got home constantly in Week 14.

Speaking of Chris Jones, he used power, speed and a move to get in for a sack.

As mentioned on 580 Sports Talk last Thursday, Brady is the fifth-worst quarterback in the league against the blitz this year. While the Chiefs only brought extra pressure on 26.1% of dropbacks entering Week 14, Steve Spagnuolo dialed up a few more to combat the Patriots. On this play Kansas City brought five rushers and the overwhelmed the offensive line. Jones is the one who breaks free and gets credit for the sack, although everyone in the group made this play happen.

Finally, moving over to special teams, Kpassagnon just keeps making plays.

He isn’t just the most-improved Chief, Kpassagnon is one of the most improved players in the entire NFL. This is now two straight weeks with a blocked kick, and both came about in similar fashion. His combination of speed and size allows him to match up well with most players on any field goal protection team. His emergence has been a massive boon for Kansas City in two different phases.

Non-Mahomes Bad

The biggest negative on Sunday was the offense in the second half. After scoring 20 points in the first half, a respectable total against the best defense in the league (per DVOA), the Chiefs scored just three and had a meager 80 yards of offense (not including three yards lost on kneel downs at the end of the game). As previously mentioned, the offense still needs to adjust to teams doing all they can to eliminate the Chiefs’ big-play ability. That adjustment will come, and an above-average offense and stellar defense is enough for now, but at some point a full four quarters from the offense will be necessary.

As for specific plays against the Patriots, the Chiefs’ special teams had a major lapse on a third-quarter punt.

Getting a punt blocked is one thing, but just kicking it straight into the free runner’s gut is especially bad. Adding insult to injury is the fact the Patriots started their next possession inside the red zone, and even their impotent offense could score from there. Kpassganon’s block early in the game took three points off the board, but this was directly led to six points go back up on it.

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