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.
That did not go the way anyone expected.
Derek Carr outdueling Patrick Mahomes? The Raiders succeeding with the deep ball more than the Chiefs? The most efficient pass defense in the NFL giving up almost 400 yards to Captain Checkdown?
Mahomes put up decent numbers overall in the Week 5 loss to Las Vegas, but there’s no denying that neither he nor the Kansas City offense looked in sync for the full duration of the game. There were moments of excellence and moments that left you with your mouth on the floor with a different kind of disbelief, one in which you couldn’t believe he made a questionable throw or they otherwise botched a play.
The sky is not falling for the Chiefs, but this Sunday was the third time this year in which the offense, despite putting up plenty of points, didn’t look as strong as what we normally expect.
The best throw of the day for Mahomes, and one of the best throws in the NFL this season, came late in the second quarter.
What’s most amazing about this throw is that we’ve seen several just like it before. That should tell you how special No. 15 is. He doesn’t have anything open initially, so he has to escape the pocket to buy time. As he fades left, he throws sidearm back against the grain with perfect accuracy to Travis Kelce. This is a remarkably difficult throw to defend, because no defensive back is prepared to defend a pass that comes in at such an odd angle from a position like this, and is throw on a line right between defenders. Plus, the velocity behind this throw is what helps propel it through the bodies to Kelce. Just spectacular.
Mahomes was making it work with the deep ball early in the game, when it looked like the Chiefs were in a zone. It started with this long pass to Tyreek Hill in the first quarter.
Hill gets separation at the top of his route and the pressure isn’t too intense, so this is a throw with a lower degree of difficulty than some at the same distance. However, look at how effortless Mahomes makes this seem. He steps into the throw but doesn’t need to drive the ball forward or pike his body to generate power. Instead, it’s just upper-body torque and arm strength that allows him to push this throw approximately 38 yards through the air for the long completion.
Hill was the recipient of another bomb one quarter later.
This time Mahomes adds a little leg kick on his delivery, throwing a high ball into the perfect spot for Hill. It’s a major mistake by the Raiders’ defense to give him that much space down the field, even with the safety helping over the top. Again, it appears effortless. Mahomes doesn’t show any intense or demonstrative movements to launch this throw, it seems as if he’s just playing catch.
By contrast, he also showed on Sunday that he can drive the ball more when necessary.
It’s a simple put route by Kelce, and when he wins his route on the short side of the field Mahomes knows he can fit the ball in before he hits the sideline. This isn’t an easy throw to make, because it’s a long pass and you can’t underthrow it or miss the target because you risk letting the defensive back jump it for either an interception or a PBU. But the velocity behind the throw guarantees it will get to Kelce’s outstretched arms for the big play.
Let’s get to the scoring plays. Mahomes’s first touchdown of the game was an excellent throw on the run to Sammy Watkins inside the red zone.
First, the nimbleness to avoid a sack is impressive, then you see him keep his eyes downfield the entire time as he sprints to the right sideline. The pursuit by the defense is solid, but you can only cover the Chiefs’ receivers for so long. Mahomes waits until the last possible second, fires and completes to Watkins for six. Oh, and he threw it back across his body to the left while running right. His versatility as an athlete and in terms of his arm slots makes these passes exceptionally challenging to defend.
The second touchdown pass for Mahomes came when the game was already close to over, and it was about as easy as it gets.
There have been many easy touchdown throws for Mahomes this year, and this time you can thank a bad guess by the defender for that. Linebacker Corey Littleton makes like a soccer goalkeeper on a penalty kick and chooses the wrong direction, stepping in as Kelce breaks out. Easy money here for the Chiefs to keep this game close.
Following this touchdown pass, Mahomes made another great play to avoid the pass rush and keep it a one-score game late with a two-point conversion.
Nick Kwiatkowski (44) does his best to track down Mahomes, but QB1 does an impeccable job of dodging him backwards and to the right to keep the play alive. And, once again, he throws against his body into the end zone for points, this time connecting with Darrel Williams. He made this entire play while focusing down the field and nevr giving up on any of his options. This was phenomenal work on a broken play.
Mahomes made hay with his legs again, too.
“Dual-threat quarterback Patrick Mahomes” is an absolutely terrifying phrase if you’re a defensive coordinator, but his running instincts have become a massive and devastating part of his game. The offensive line sliding right and jet motion by Hill in that direction gets the defense flowing away from the play on this RPO. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, moving left, gets in the way of Clelin Ferrell (96), so Mahomes has plenty of room to sprint to the corner and beat the defense.
Back to the fourth quarter, we see what was undeniably the most mentally tough play of the game by Mahomes.
Losing by two touchdowns, fourth down late in the game and a blitzer bearing down on you, this is as challenging as it gets given the situation. Mahomes has the mental fortitude to make it all work, though, Having Littleton and Maxx Crosby (98) helps to get a man open, but it takes a strong throw while knowing you’re going to get plastered to convert on this fourth down. That’s a tough quarterback the Chiefs have leading the offense.
We’ll start the negative plays with the most obvious one, Mahomes’s first interception of the year.
On one hand, it’s fourth down and seven, the Chiefs had no option but to go for it and Mahomes essentially had to force a throw here. That said, everything about this play was a mess. The throw itself isn’t exactly lackadaisical, but you don’t see the anticipation you usually see from Mahomes on a downfield throw. Safety Jeff Heath (38) is waiting over the top and is able to break on a fairly softly thrown pass to pick it off. However, a large reason why there isn’t much on behind the throw and it feels like more of a prayer than a calculated decision is out of Mahomes’s control. The offensive line was awful again on Sunday, and the late pressure and contact from the blindside complicates matters on this pass. Seth Keysor of The Athletic wrote about this play for his Chief In The North newsletter, which is very good and worth your time.
Beyond the interception, though, there were several head-scratching moments for Mahomes in Week 5 that just didn’t feel normal for him. Take this off-target throw in the third quarter, for example.
You can’t see it as well from the regular broadcast angle, but Charles Davis of CBS broke the play down well on the broadcast, and the all-22 will make the mistake clear, too. It seems like a mere missed catch over the middle by Kelce, but Mahomes actually missed him off target too far out front. Kelce sat down on the route, and usually these two have perfect timing and a stellar connection, so to see this pass get broken up on the money down is strange. Maybe it was a miscommunication on the route, but this should always be a completion for this offense.
We have dedicated a massive amount of space in The Report over the past several years to lauding Mahomes’s awareness, in terms of recognizing defenses, avoiding the pass rush and extending plays. That’s why this sack he took was, again, strange.
Again, the CBS broadcast was on top of this, with play-by-play man Ian Eagle pointing out that usually Mahomes has a “sixth sense” when it comes to dodging rushers. Now, he probably expected to have a little more time after Crosby was initially ushered out of the play, but Mitchell Schwartz gets beaten after his initial win and Mahomes ends up in immediate danger. Like several of these problematic plays, it’s not all the quarterback’s fault, but you don’t often see him take a sack like this.
His rare bad decision in traffic also made a brief appearance.
There are three Raiders defenders in front of the two receivers in the back of the end zone. And it’s not as if there’s still plenty of space to throw through, there’s plenty of traffic in the back right corner of the end zone. So why would you throw this ball in the field of play? Most of Mahomes’s interceptions come in situations in which he tries to do too much with not enough space, which is the case again here. He can make passes with this level of body contortion, and he did it several times on Sunday, but this was an unnecessary risk late in the first half.
In an unfortunate peak behind the curtain this week, it’s a thin “Non-Mahomes Good” folder of videos this week. However, Bashaud Breeland did make a big impact for the Chiefs in his return to the field.
In his first quarter of the season Breeland took advantage of a Derek Carr overthrown and came away with an interception. That set up a Chiefs score when we still felt like a dominant Chiefs performance was coming. He also made a strong tackle to force a fourth down and short at the end of the fourth quarter. The Raiders converted that play, but Breeland’s effort should be commended. He was far from perfect in his first game back from suspension, but any level of quality play adds important depth to the cornerbacks group.
This folder, in contrast, is much thicker.
The biggest negative overall was the defensive performance, because giving up 40 points is never a plus, but the offensive line was bad once again. That’s a concerning trend that has been evident against both good and bad pass rushing teams. The Chiefs lost Kelechi Osemele for the long term, maybe the whole season, with a horrifying injury this week, but it wasn’t just the interior where they struggled. The tackles have not played well, including Mitchell Schwartz, the best right tackle in football entering this year. The problems up front need to get fixed as soon as possible, because protecting Mahomes and creating holes for the stagnant running game are essential.
Also from the offense, you can’t drop a pass like this.
Nick Kizer has not played especially well to start this season. Mahomes made a sensational play here to keep the play alive, he found a target and uncorked a strong, precise throw. Then Kizer dropped it. Mahomes’s stats weren’t as good as they sometimes are this week, and bad drops like this didn’t help.
How about the defense? Oh, boy, the defense.
Derek Carr should never outduel Patrick Mahomes, and the fact that he did on Sunday says far more about the Kansas City defense than the Las Vegas quarterback. Carr took more deep shots this week than he had all season up until this point (citation needed) and they kept working out because receivers were running screaming wide open.
Nelson Agholor (15) splits two defensive backs, including Tyrann Mathieu, on this 59-yard score, then races by them into the end zone. This second-quarter play was a bad look.
And it only got worse.
Henry Ruggs (11), the Raiders’ first first-round draft pick this year, has 4.28 speed, which is tremendous. That’s Chiefs-like speed. And the defense for Kansas City wasn’t even competitive against him on this 72-yard touchdown. Take a look at this second angle of the start of the route to see just how easy this was for Las Vegas.
Charvarious Ward has no chance. Jon Gruden and the Raiders deserve a ton of credit for their game plan in Week 5. They called tendency breakers throughout the game, turning in checkdowns on third and long, Carr’s specialty, for deep shots and huge gains. By rough estimation, Carr’s average depth of target was 9.16 yards. That was certainly unexpected.
It’s hard to blame any team for pushing the ball down the field when receivers are as open as this:
Defensive backs have a difficult job and there are many reasons why things may have fallen apart here. However, Hunter Renfrow (13) can’t be left all alone like this, it’s just unforgivable. Third down, 18 yards to go and the Raiders can 42 yards. Also, take note of a common thread in all these plays: there’s no pass rush threat. On the Ruggs touchdown there’s a low hit on Carr late, but otherwise he’s got plenty of time to set up, load up and launch. The Chiefs recorded one sack, a one-yard loss forced by Willie Gay on the first drive of the game. If Jones, Clark and company can’t get home more often it will be a disaster for Kansas City.
Week 5 was a disappointing one for the Chiefs, there’s no doubt about it. Mahomes was a little off and didn’t get enough help when he was at his best early in the game. The offensive line continues to struggle. The defense was terrible. There’s no reason to completely abandon ship, this is still likely the best team in the AFC. But with a challenging road game against the Buffalo Bills next Monday, the Chiefs need to get some of these glaring problems figured out quickly.