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.
On balance, and surprisingly so, the Kansas City Chiefs did not have a good game in Week 2. The offense started out as slowly as it ever has in the Patrick Mahomes era, the offensive line was horrendous and the defense had some momentary lapses against a rookie quarterback in his first start ever.
Still, the Chiefs came away with a win to improve to 2-0. Still, Mahomes made the biggest plays when they counted and it propelled his team to victory.
He didn’t play well in the first half overall, not that it was entirely his fault, but when he had to make plays he did that in spades, both with his arm and his legs. After throwing for a career-low 60 yards in the first half, the Super Bowl MVP rebounded with 242 after halftime.
The Chargers did everything they could to stifle the Chiefs in an upset bid. It still wasn’t enough.
Maybe the most obvious starting point in the history of the Mahomes Report (save for Jet Chip Wasp in the Super Bowl edition) was Mahomes’s second touchdown pass of the game on Sunday, a 54 yard missile to Tyreek Hill that completely turned the game around.
This touchdown pass is the total Mahomes package. RPO run action goes to the left and Mahomes rolls out to the right. On the move, flying through the air while releasing the ball, he launches a pass with perfect placement and velocity. He guides Hill right to the ball, the Cheetah runs right under it and flips into the end zone for six. This is an unbelievable throw, and after feeling it we fell more satiated that we had by any other Mahomes pass so far this season. After a whole game of keeping throws underneath in Week 1 and a frustrating start to Week 2, Mahomes uncorked this beauty. Eventually Hill was going to get separation on a nine route, and Mahomes wasn’t going to miss him. This is absolutely gorgeous.
That touchdown only got the Chiefs within two, though, so QB1 had to make another big play on the two-point conversion attempt.
First of all, credit Mecole Hardman for the sticky hands, reaching out and snatching this low-and-away fastball for the conversion. Mahomes kills the Chargers with pump fake manipulation here. Hill obviously requires constant attention no matter what, but when he’s sliding through the end zone parallel to Mahomes and the quarterback pump fakes in that direction, you need to commit to him. When linebacker Kyzir White (44) finally abandons Hardman to assist in coverage on Hill, Mahomes ends up with a window to complete the pass back against the grain. Watch the body control by Mahomes: he’s looking for Hill all the way, then throws back across his body while fading back and away from the target. Great succession of plays by Mahomes.
His first touchdown pass of the day was a simply toss to a wide-open Travis Kelce.
Pressure comes late and low, but Mahomes has plenty of time to identify the open man and loft this one to him. He doesn’t need the space to step in, because this throw is all about the touch. Kelce runs a corner route and is abandoned out of his break, making this an easy score for Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Tony Romo of CBS broke down why this was such an easy touchdown during the broadcast on Sunday.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire attracts Rayshawn Jenkins (23) in the flat, while Michael Davis (43) plays the post route and shades inside. That leaves Kelce wide open spaces that would make The (Dixie) Chicks jealous. It’s an easy score made possible by beautiful design.
The fourth quarter is when Mahomes was at his best in Week 2, even when he didn’t get an overwhelming amount of help. That includes our next play, when he was forced to throw from an uncomfortable position and still fired a strike to Hardman.
The pocket is muddy here due to pressure from both edges. This throw truly looks like Mahomes is playing darts. He can’t step into the throw, instead he just hops when he delivers the pass. Despite no base to speak of and no time to generate power via torque, he’s able to generate velocity with just his natural arm strength. Not only that, but it’s a pinpoint throw. This is also another example of why it’s foolish to play zone against the Chiefs’ offense, because Mahomes can make things happen with his arm no matter what the pressure is like, so those soft spots will always be exploited.
Just in case you needed another clear example of Mahomes picking apart a zone:
You may as well just skip the play and concede the yardage on this play if you’re Los Angeles. This is essentially a long handoff for Mahomes. The throw itself is nothing particularly special, but it shows why you need everything to click perfectly as a defense to stop him. The coverage is soft and the pressure takes too many beats to get home, so Mahomes picks the defense apart for 20 yards. It’s too easy.
Sometimes decent pressure isn’t enough to make a difference either, though.
Along with the monster deep-ball touchdown to Hill, this is the kind of pass we’ve been waiting to see from Mahomes, one in which he manipulates the defense with his legs outside the pocket before delivering a strike. Joey Bosa had a huge game for the Chargers and was able to cave in the right side of the pocket, while the rest of the rush progressively surrounded Mahomes. He steps up and bounces out to the right, keeping his eyes downfield the entire time. Thanks to that, he finds Kelce for a 12-yard gain. The throw is rifled in as one of the fiercest lasers of the game even though he unleashes it against the grain. This is another one of those “total package” plays for Mahomes.
Mahomes had to make a handful of body-contorting plays in Sunday’s win, including this short completing to Edwards-Helaire in overtime.
The Chiefs gain just a few yards here, but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a throw with a high level of difficulty. Mahomes has to buy time with a backpedal, but he needs to make sure he gets the throw off. He can’t take a sack, and he needs to place the throw well because otherwise intentional grounding is in play. No. 15 shows off the arm strength by completing this pass even though it’s for just a few yards.
Mahomes did it with his arm late, but he had to make plays with his legs all game long to keep drives alive and evade the ferocious pass rush from Los Angeles. Most notably, that included a game-saving 21-yard run at the end of regulation.
You can simultaneously understand that you wouldn’t expect Mahomes to run for it on third down and 20, but at the same time you have to question what the Chargers were doing defensively with no help in the middle of the help. Mahomes tore up the defense on the run all game (he led the Chiefs in rushing on Sunday) and in a three-point game in which the Chiefs have all three timeouts, all options are in play. Mahomes does a great job recognizing that he has nowhere to throw the ball and doing the best he has with the play unfolding in front of him. He’s not scared to run when it’s necessary, and the decisiveness here is what makes the play.
Again, he was doing this all game to the L.A. defense.
Like the laser completion to Kelce above, this another play in which Mahomes keeps his eyes downfield throughout the play and stretches it to his right. This time he doesn’t have an open target, though, again making a smooth decision to tuck and run, getting the first down and setting up the first touchdown of the game. His speed is good, but it’s the ability to quickly decide whether or not to take off that makes Mahomes a dangerous threat on the ground.
Overall, Mahomes’s numbers looked solid in Week 2, even though he wasn’t able to get going until after halftime. Better late than never, though, and both his arm and legs helped carry the Chiefs to their fourth-straight 2-0 start.
For all the late good, the start of the game was a mess for Mahomes and the entire roster. A lot of that came down to pressure from the Chargers’ pass rush and the miscommunications that followed.
Because of the pressure from the right (more on that later), Mahomes has to throw from an awkward setup on this play. It’s obvious that he and his receivers weren’t on the same page, considering this deep ball lands right between two players. It’s not something you often see from the Chiefs’ offense.
Then you have moments like the following play, which Mahomes had to dump into the ground after a blind spin under pressure.
He spins away from pressure all the time, but running backwards from a pass rusher and spinning back into the middle of the field isn’t an advisable decision. Simply put, this isn’t something you usually see from QB1. He was desperately trying to get anything going, but it wasn’t going to happen here.
Mahomes was even missing throws that he usually makes in his sleep.
This miss wasn’t even due to pressure, it’s just a rare off-target pass. The RPO slant concept is a staple of the offense and one that we feature on the Report constantly. Watkins is even the regular recipient of these passes, but Mahomes’s timing just wasn’t there on this play. It was hardly a backbreaker, but still strange to see.
The good outside of Mahomes’s contribution on Sunday has to begin with ButtKicker.com himself, Harrison Butker.
Butker has established himself as one of the best kickers in the NFL, and Week 2 may have been his best performance yet, even with one of his extra points getting blocked. He nailed two 58-yard field goals, tying the franchise record, and one of those was the game winner. Not only that, but it was his third try to win the game. The first was waved off and backed up due to a penalty, then the Chargers tried to ice him on his second try. What’s more, he also hit a 30-yarder to tie the game at the end of regulation.
Defensively, rookie defensive end Mike Danna has quietly made a strong impression in his first two games.
In Week 1 Danna made a sweet tackle along the line of scrimmage to cap off a good hustle play, and in Week 2 he records his first-ever sack. He got an assist from Justin Herbert, who got lost in space before being wrangled to the turf. Danna was a wholly unheralded pick in the fifth round of the draft, but after a quiet camp he’s been a pleasant surprise to start the year.
Speaking of defensive rookies, L’Jarius Sneed continues to make big plays.
Sneed has had his lapses through two games, but his bright spots have sparkled. Being able to take the ball away is a massive asset, and two picks in as many weeks is a beautiful sight for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. Again, Herbert deserves thanks from the Chiefs’ defense for making maybe the most bone-headed decision of any quarterback in the NFL this week.
When was the last time anyone could say that Mitchell Schwartz struggled in a game? Joey Bosa gave him fits all afternoon on Sunday.
This was the first time in Week 2 that Schwartz was beaten off the edge. Mahomes gets the ball away cleanly but still takes a shot in the back after the pass. Bosa is a stud, but this isn’t something you often see from the best right tackle in the league.
It was a tough day for Schwartz, especially on this sack:
He regularly beats the best pass rushers in the NFL like it’s nothing (shout out to Von Miller), and even the best players have a bad day. Still, it’s strange to see. Bosa simply overpowers him here, once again working the right shoulder to get home. Schwartz was not the only offensive lineman who had a tough outing, but given his preposterously high standards his game stood out the most.
We’ve made note of Herbert’s poor decisions so far, but we also should note that he played well overall for someone who was informed mere moments before kickoff that he was starting. He took advantage of a few different defensive lapses on Sunday.
It doesn’t matter if you’re facing Justin Herbert or Aaron Rodgers, you can’t leave a man this open in the corner of the end zone. Rashad Fenton is the closest defender to Jalen Guyton, but he shaded inside because he had no help over the middle. Herbert makes a nice throw, but he didn’t exactly have to thread the needle.
Finally, what are we doing with Ben Niemann?
Steve Spagnuolo likes him. He’s experienced in the system. But at some point you have to make more plays. He had one bright moment in Week 1, and you can’t completely blame him for poor tackling in Week 2 because that plagued the entire defense, but at some point you have to make more contributions on defense either in coverage or as a tackler. By the way, totally unrelated, rookie Willie Gay partially blocked a punt in the win over the Chargers.