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.
The goal of the Mahomes Report is not to simply fanboy over the Chiefs’ star quarterback, rather to point out the biggest plays he made in the game, good or bad. But when a game with three touchdowns, no turnovers and completing nearly three of every four passes seems normal, you have to step back and take things into perspective.
Mahomes now owns two of three seasons in NFL history for a quarterback with three touchdowns and no interceptions in each of a season’s first three games. It’s a small sample size and an highly specific stat, fine. That doesn’t stop it from being downright unbelievable that he’s accomplished that hyper-rare feat twice.
Week 3 posed a fun threat to the Chiefs, as the Baltimore Ravens are not only one of the better teams in the AFC so far this year but they’re also one of the few teams that went toe to toe with Kansas City last season. Despite facing a good defense and all the hype surrounding the opposing quarterback, Mahomes balled out once again.
We’ll start with the touchdown passes again this week, but not chronologically. That’s because Mahomes’ second touchdown of the game is also our Laser of the Week.
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this play. Starting with the visual, though, this is one powerful throw from the MVP. The protection is solid and he has time to set up and step into the throw. It’s a bit high but there’s no one around Mecole Hardman, so he easily reaches up and hauls it in, using his 4.33 speed to sprint the rest of the way home. Mahomes throws an absolute dart here. He has a lightning-fast release with a ton of velocity on the throw. For a pass this deep, you won’t see this combination of power and accuracy often.
What makes this play extra special, though, is that it’s huge play in a week when Ravens safety Earl Thomas said he’d shut down such things.
Earl Thomas: “I plan on eliminating all of the big plays.”
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) September 18, 2019
Earl Thomas: “I plan on eliminating all of the big plays.”
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) September 18, 2019
There are ways to slow down the Chiefs’ big plays. Brazenly saying you’re going to stop all of them is bold to the point of idiotic, though. Nobody has done it yet in the brief Mahomes era. Check out this video from Next Gen Stats to see why this touchdown in particular was a humbling one for Thomas.
The white “29” bubble is Thomas. He’s lined up right at the line to gain, and when he bites on the curl from Sammy Watkins it leaves Hardman running free up the field. If you say you’re going to shut down all the big plays, the impetus is on you more than ever to stop the biggest play. Mahomes took advantage of a mistake here.
As for his first touchdown pass of the day, it featured another nice grab by Demarcus Robinson.
This is becoming a habit for Robinson, one we’ll revisit later on. It’s a great throw by Mahomes, too, putting the ball where only Robinson can make a play on it in the corner. It’s hard to place a ball that well while fading away from the play and not getting a chance to set your base. Ravens safety Chuck Clark (36) is a free rusher on the blitz, completely unaffected by the play fake. Mahomes knows he’s coming, buys just enough time and then releases. He exhibits a lot of upper body strength, turning into the throw with power while simultaneously getting enough air under it to give Robinson a chance. This is trust in your arm and trust in your receiver on display.
The third touchdown skirts the line of falling in the non-Mahomes category, but he’ll get the credit due to the points.
Week after week, we’re reminded that the Chiefs have the best screen game in the league. LeSean McCoy is the beneficiary this time, getting the ball with a seal from Andrew Wylie and a lead blocker out in front in Austin Reiter. McCoy still has plenty of speed and, thanks to an extra block from Watkins, is able to run to paydirt. Mahomes just needs to avoid the rush long enough to let his playmaker do his thing, and that’s exactly what unfolded. Kansas City’s consistency with which they pick up huge gains on these screens is almost unfair.
Moving on form the scores, here’s a play which shows coach Andy Reid may have checked out our film room from last week.
It took less than two minutes of game time to beat Baltimore’s man coverage with an RPO slant concept. In fact, it’s surprising the Chiefs didn’t try to exploit this more. This is a great matchup for Watkins, getting inside leverage on Marlon Humphrey with too much speed to be cut off inside. Mahomes reads the inside linebacker, who follows McCoy to the left. That vacates the middle of the field and opens the passing lane to Watkins. Easy first down and an obvious call early in the game to build some rhythm (Watkins fumbled but Hardman recovered and kept the drive alive).
Sticking with a theme now, the next couple of plays also feature using the running backs to dictate passing opportunities. First, an early throw against the grain to Travis Kelce.
The play action to McCoy takes the blockers and pass rush to Mahomes’ left, allowing him to roll right without facing much pressure. A little heat does eventually get there, but he has plenty of time to find someone open downfield. Kelce is the guy, but based on his positioning it’s a good thing Mahomes had the extra time. He needs to throw back across the field and across his body, but he torques and throws with enough power to match up the ball’s arrival with Kelce cutting in front of Chuck Clark.
That’s an example of moving the pocket to buy time and set up a chunk play. Later in the first quarter on Sunday Mahomes was able to manipulate the defense with a fake again, but this time he didn’t have to slide horizontally at all.
Watching Baltimore defensive end Chris Wormley (93) will tell you all you need to know about the quality of this fake. He’s rushing Mahomes, but actually disengages with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif after the fake because he thinks the Hardman has the ball along the right numbers. He was wrong.
Take another look:
He slows down, tucks the ball behind his right leg and it completely fools the defensive line. The players crossing, mesh style, in the backfield has already scattered the linebackers enough to open up a gaping window in the middle of the field, giving Mahomes an open target in Kelce to set up a third and short. Best play fake in the league so far this year.
Of course, No. 15 doesn’t need the play action and running back manipulation to pick apart a defense. In these next couple passes he shredded the Ravens from the pocket.
Another target for Kelce, another big completion. We have an over-the-top arm slot this time with a throw off the back foot. The route is nothing complex, it’s just a deep slant while matched up with a linebacker, which you know favors the Chiefs and Kelce. You can see Mahomes go through his progressions on the left before coming back to his tight end over the middle. Mitchell Schwartz and Cam Erving are holding off the edge rushers enough while there’s no traffic in front of Mahomes in the pocket. Enough protection, rocket throw, dime, first down.
Let’s get back to Robinson.
Last week there was a second-quarter long throw to the right sideline for Mahomes that he completed to Robinson. History repeats itself. This is a challenging pass that’s completed thanks to a great effort from the receiver. Again, this is purely a pocket pass with no lateral movement, which adds to the difficulty. This throw features arguably the best accuracy of the whole game from Mahomes. There’s little margin for error given the angle and how tight the target is to the sideline. He still is able to put it on a line and far enough away from cornerback Brandon Carr (24) so only his man can make a play.
Difficult throws come in all shapes and sizes. That last pass was a long throw to the sideline, while this next one is thrown while fading to the non-dominant side.
Mahomes doesn’t get a chance to set his feet and is clearly leaning to his left upon release. What helps is that Kelce has a huge bubble of space so the throw doesn’t have to be a frozen rope to be successful. He takes just enough off this pass and it works. It can’t be stated enough how hard it is to put this much power behind a throw, a little taken off or not, while not getting to set your feet.
Speaking of not setting your feet, this next one is just wild.
Not joking, the original name of this .gif file was “lmao what is this platform.” This is another RPO, and after pulling the ball back Mahomes rolls left. Timing is crucial for this comeback route along the sideline, as he needs to get the ball to Robinson before Humphrey can recover. The way to accomplish that was apparently to throw while on the run without setting either foot, letting go of the ball while airborne. This is unique even for his standard of platform. Far from the hardest throw of the day because it’s hard to sidearm a fastball without your feet on the ground, but it works anyway.
We even saw the return of elite scrambler Patrick Mahomes in Week 3.
The offensive line had a largely positive day and held up well this time, but eventually the pass rush breaks through. Good coverage downfield means Mahomes has nowhere to go with the ball. He doesn’t let the pass option die, weaving around the pocket a little longer before scampering off for a first down. He’s always keeping his eyes up, which allows him to know exactly when he needs to head to the sideline and if any options eventually come open in the pass pattern. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a run like this from Mahomes.
Finally, our last play today is only in the “good” section because it panned out, not necessarily because it was a good decision.
This should have been the first pick of Mahomes’ season. There’s a lot to like here, first of all. He buys time, keeps his eyes on his receivers, doesn’t give up on the play, etc. It’s a bad throw though, barely getting it over the outstretched arms of Patrick Onwuasor (48) to Watkins. Hard to complain when a play works, but a short run, throwing it away or trying a different option would have been far less risky than this near interception.
Only a couple of plays truly stand out as bad ones from Sunday’s win over the Ravens, starting with a deep ball miss that could have been a touchdown.
Generally speaking, being overly critical of a deep-ball miss is too much because they’re challenging, hard for anyone to be accurate on, etc. Mahomes may have had more time than he thought here, and while stepping up he didn’t get enough air under this pass, simultaneously not giving Hardman a chance. If this throw is lofted any more and is slightly right, it’s six. Again, not the type of play we normally include in this section, but it was hardly the most challenging deep throw Mahomes will attempt.
The only other true negative that stood out was an early intentional grounding call.
He didn’t like that this was called grounding, arguing that Hardman (you would assume, since he’s the only one in view) was in the area. The easy solution to this is not throwing a bomb down the sideline as your throwaway. A shorter toss out of bounds avoids that problem since Watkins was leaking out of the backfield that way.
Are these plays hypercritical? You may think so, depending on perspective. To a point it’s just a matter of opinion. However, if your quarterback is being exalted as arguably the best in the NFL already and receives glowing praise for everything he does well, you have to be even with critiques on mistakes.
Mecole Hardman has been featured a lot so far this week, and deservedly so. After a quiet Week 1 he’s gotten more involved each of the last two games. The next play shows why the Chiefs were so high on him in the draft and why he’s a valuable asset to the offense.
This kind of speed and elusiveness is rare. And it’s why he was never going to be just a replacement someday for Watkins or just insurance in case Tyreek Hill was suspended. General manager Brett Veach has built the fastest offense in the NFL and adding to that group with even more elite speed was a natural progression. Any defensive coordinator in the league would be infuriated by this play.
Week 3 didn’t feature a banner performance for the still-developing Kansas City defense, although a few plays and performers did stand out. That includes a couple of the new additions, namely one who has emerged from the shadows to be an early-season stud.
Emmanuel Ogbah already has 2.5 sacks in just three games. For comparison, he had three sacks in 14 games (all as a starter) last season. He’s showing off speed and strong tackling early this season, both of which the Chiefs desperately needed to add. He’s been the team’s best pass rusher through three weeks, which is unexpected but undoubtedly welcome.
He even paired up on another sack Sunday with another newcomer.
Damien Wilson didn’t have to clear a high bar to show an improvement for the linebacker corps from last year, but he’s impressed to this point. He’s given Kansas City versatility from the second level as a tackler, in coverage and as a pass rusher. The most important thing to see is the pursuit here; Lamar Jackson is the best athlete at the quarterback position in the league right now, which includes his speed, yet Wilson stays with him, gets off his block and still makes a play.
Fans have been waiting for Frank Clark to step up in the pass rush, which he finally did against Baltimore.
Orlando Brown Jr. is a talented, young left tackle who was completely pantsed by this rush from Clark. The spin move while running left into a seamless pressure back to the right is the kind of athleticism that shows you why Clark was a coveted talent this offseason. It’s always exciting to see your high-priced players break through in a crucial situation like this was, too.
Earlier, we mentioned that the offensive line played well for the most part on Sunday. Cam Erving getting killed on a speed rush on the edge was one of the down moments.
Matthew Judon (99) is one of the most underrated defensive players in the game and he gave the Chiefs fits all game long. This particular rush, the Ravens’ only sack of the game, exposed what the Chiefs are dealing with while Eric Fisher is out injured. Erving is a fine replacement and among the better backup tackles you can get, but there’s still an obvious dropoff from a starter to him. Mahomes had no chance here.
Mahomes was charged with a fumble on this next play, but it wasn’t his fault the ball was snapped into his left shin on fourth and one.
The decision to line up in a shotgun set on that short of a conversion attempt is curious enough, but in that situation against a good front seven you need better execution. Just run a sneak from under center.
Now, the defense. You have to consider that they were facing an electrifying quarterback, but he made Steve Spagnuolo’s group look foolish too many times.
There were multiple opportunities for the Chiefs to stop Jackson short of the end zone on this run. They failed each time. Jackson is a tough guy to tackle in space, but in a close game late your defenders need to make better plays.
That wasn’t even the only time Jackson used fancy footwork to evade tacklers in stupefying fashion.
Alex Okafor needs to retire after having his ankles broken like this. A professional football player should not get deked like this, regardless of the quarterback’s potency on the ground.
This is another example of being a bit harsh, which is fair, but against the best teams in the AFC (and the Ravens qualify as that for now) your margin for error is tiny.
What isn’t excusable, though, is failing to break up a terrible pass like the following one.
Jackson made a horrific decision here. Abominable, even. Yet Charvarius Ward, who has not played well to start 2019 in general, retreated like he was fielding a deep kickoff instead of attacking the ball, allowing Willie Snead (83) to actually catch this arm punt. Good defenses, even mediocre defenses, don’t allow these types of decisions to go unpunished. This is infuriating.
The same can be said when it came to some tackling attempts by Kansas City in Week 3.
Mark Ingram, surprisingly, is among the top 100 rushers in terms of yards in NFL history. He looked like Jim Brown at times on Sunday. He racked up 103 yards and three scores on over six yards per carry. He’s been a quality back for years, so the fact that he found success against the Chiefs isn’t earth shattering. Plays like the one above, however, show how far the Chiefs still have to go with their defense. There were plenty of chances to bring him down, yet he slipped through everyone for a huge gain.
On the bright side, this defensive group is still growing and learning under Spagnuolo, which we expected. If these kind of things are still happening in Week 12, there’s legitimate concern. However, right now you can survive with a team that’s not all there defensively. The key is showing weekly improvement and growth. If the tackling (among other things) is improved against the Detroit Lions next week, then the Chiefs are still on the right path even though it wasn’t a great showing on defense in Week 3.