Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a toe injury and concussion, but was delivering a gem before exiting the game. We have his report card and analysis.
The Kansas City Chiefs narrowly avoided a second-round disaster against the Cleveland Browns as the unexpected happened. Missed field goals and injuries nearly buried their attempt at a repeat Super Bowl appearance. Patrick Mahomes suffered two injuries and backup Chad Henne had to come in to save what had been a terrific showing by the team until that moment.
Mahomes was knocked out early in the third quarter before the second drive was completed. His stat line was 21-of-30 for 255 yards and one touchdown, right in line with the fact that he played well. We’re going to break it down.
We’re looking beyond the stat sheet to analyze Mahomes this season. I’ve been charting catchable passes for the last six years for collegiate quarterback prospects, and the results have brought solid baselines in key areas of accuracy to project NFL success.
Mahomes benefitted from this, and the project is partially why I was so high on him as a prospect. We’ll be grading him on playmaking, decision-making, accuracy, efficiency, and awareness in addition to tracking his directional and situational passing effectiveness.
The Chiefs offensive line have been troublesome throughout the second-half of the season. Defensive lines are able to create pressure quickly on Mahomes as the running game has lost all effectiveness, and Mahomes has been tasked with carrying the unit. His playmaking has been off the charts good for much of the year, and it’s almost easy to be desensitized to it.
Mahomes was comfortable in the pocket in the first-half, and then began dancing and scrambling more as Myles Garrett wreaked havoc on him. It was like a switch went off for the Browns, and all of a sudden Mahomes had to work towards the outside of the pocket with regularity. His patented rollout tosses became offensive-saving efforts despite receivers finding space with ease.
Four of Mahomes’ five attempts outside of the pocket were accurate, and led to big chunk plays that set the offense up for scoring opportunities. The way he buys time is unique to him, and almost impossible to stop if Mahomes can move. As we saw and will touch on later, a limitation to his mobility led to some missed throws.
There were a few instances of lost poise and mechanics, but Mahomes never made the wrong decision. The ball was never at risk, an impressive feat when he was under pressure and had to dump the ball off quicker than the offense wanted to until forced to adjust. This was his 11th game with zero interceptable passes.
Mahomes read the defense pre-snap extremely well and knew where the cornerback’s leverage would lead him to throw. Denzel Ward is a ballhawk and weapon but it was easy to forget he was even out there. He was playing so well that the Browns would’ve been blown out had Mahomes stayed healthy.
Even on his uncatchable passes, only one was because of a poor read. His forced wheel route throw to the running back near the goal line was well-covered and not catchable with his placement, but also a safe throw even if it had little chance of completion. His other five non-throwaway misses were mechanics-based and not decision-based.
There were great moments as always with Mahomes, and also a few bad ones after the toe injury set in. The good came on almost all of his intermediate passes. Mahomes was inaccurate on his lone deep pass, but hit on six-of-seven 11-19 yard throws, and 10-of-14 0-10 yard throws.
The feathery touch to Hill over linebackers to gain more than 25 years, the rollouts to Kelce as he emerged open as he drifted towards grass, and quick-hitting throws underneath were performance-defining. These may not have been the biggest gains of the night but it was consistently winning the offense first downs.
Mahomes missed two pressured throws due to a rushed process, throwing behind his receivers. He also missed low twice immediately after suffering the toe injury, clearly not adjusting for losing the ability to step into throws. This is concerning entering next week.
Even with a cannon on his shoulder, mechanics matter and are the difference between a completion, incompletion, and interception. Leaving passes short like this put the offense into predictable situations, and Mahomes can’t simply convert every long third down try.
There was a limited sample size of situational play this week due to the timing of the concussion but Mahomes was quite efficient. He was accurate on five-of-seven pressured throws, and two-of-three third down attempts. He lost one completion to a drop and another to a tipped ball at the line.
Even as the Browns rattled Mahomes we continued to see enough resolve to take on the playmaking role and not force into double coverage and turnover-worthy plays. Cleveland had to be incredulous over his ability to avoid Garrett’s grasp over and over again.
An inefficient Mahomes will likely spell a Chiefs loss at this point. There’s simply not enough help in the run game or time behind this offensive line for Henne to do much despite the weapons around him, and that’s a nod to how special Mahomes is for finding ways to produce despite two big limitations.
Like efficiency, this tallies up all of the little wins that Mahomes performed throughout the game. He felt the pressure, waited as long as he could, and then got rid of the ball without putting it at risk for a negative play. He took what he could often, and then a few shots sprinkled in to put the Chiefs in a position to be up three scores.
Truly rattling Mahomes has proven nearly impossible at this point in 2020-21, so the Bills have their work cut out for them. Can they mask their weaknesses at edge-rusher and the second and nickel cornerback spots (neither cover overly well)? If they can’t, we’re looking at a big day for the Chiefs offense once again.
Chiefs-Bills will be fantastic, and hopefully both Mahomes and Josh Allen are fully healthy for us to enjoy.