Patrick Mahomes is lighting the NFL on fire

Kansas City Chiefs

After searching for a franchise quarterback endlessly, the Kansas City Chiefs have apparently hit the jackpot and then some with Patrick Mahomes.

Seemingly every season, there is a quarterback or two that starts off “hot” and we are left to guess as to what is real and what is not. I remember Geno Smith’s first win for the Jets and all of the discussion that came afterward about how he was the savior for the Jets’ franchise and the new star of the NFL.

But of course, that didn’t happen. These things tend to happen in small sample sizes and that’s why it’s important not to overreact to one or two games, especially at the beginning of the season.

But that’s not the case with Patrick Mahomes. He’s the real deal, and you can throw out sample sizes, competition, etc. Because of Mahomes’ play, the expectations are changing rapidly in Kansas City. They’ve gone from a team who is rebuilding around a young quarterback to a team that may just have the scariest offense in the entire NFL, a group that could contend for an AFC championship.

How did this happen so quickly?

You have to tip your hat to Andy Reid, who has created an offense that perfectly suits Mahomes’ skill set. Using an offense that was similar to what Mahomes used at Texas Tech has softened the transition period for him. The Chiefs are using a ton of shotgun and spread concepts to make reads simple and easy, but that’s not what makes Mahomes such a difficult player to stop.

Teams are quickly realizing that stopping Mahomes is like solving a puzzle, knowing that you don’t have all the pieces to solve it. If you try to use zone coverage to stop him, he will find the open receiver in the middle of the field or he will throw to one of his speedsters on the outside who can out-run zone coverage. He’s also just too good at reading coverage for a player of his age.

If you decide to play man coverage, his ball placement is good enough to make defenses pay. It also helps that he has three players on his roster who all excel at beating man-to-man coverage in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce. It’s very rare that they will be facing a team that has the defenders to man-up these three weapons in the passing game.

And even if you do cover everything well-enough to potentially get off the field, his athleticism allows him to get outside the pocket to buy time or take off and run. He’s quick enough that he can get outside of the pocket and scamper off for 10 yards like it’s a walk in the park. We haven’t had a quarterback with this skill set since…. Aaron Rodgers.

Now, let’s slow our roll. Not every week is going to look like this for Mahomes. He’s going to struggle. Teams will catch up to him some and will figure out his tendencies.

However, I this game wasn’t a fluke. Defenses that don’t get pressure with their front-four defenders are going to struggle to stop Mahomes. He has too many weapons at his disposal and if you give him time to throw, he’s going to shred defenses. Let’s take a look at how Mahomes carved up the Steelers’ defense on Sunday.

First of all, here is Mahomes’ passing chart from Week 2 via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. As you can see, Mahomes beat the Steelers all over the field on Sunday. There wasn’t an area on the field that he didn’t feel comfortable targeting.

Mahomes did, however, miss his only two targets that traveled beyond 35 yards in the air. For Mahomes, this type of performance would be considered a dink-and-dunk type of game. My goodness, he is fun. Let’s get to the tape!

Let’s start with his first touchdown of the game. This one goes to wide receiver Chris Conley, who is just going to run a simple post from the slot. Like the best quarterbacks in the league, Mahomes doesn’t wait until Conley makes his break. Instead, he anticipates the route, throwing for a score in the red zone from 15 yards out. Football isn’t supposed to look this easy for a player in their third career start.

We all know about the Chiefs’ deep passing attack. I could show you play after play of Mahomes hitting Hill or Watkins on deep throws. However, that’s not what makes the Chiefs offense so scary. It’s their ability make plays in the middle parts of the field, specifically to Kelce.

Kelce had a monster game in Week 2, catching seven passes for 109 yards and two scores. And while both touchdowns were impressive plays by him and Mahomes, that’s not the play I want to focus on.

This play happens late in the third quarter with the game tied at 28. Mahomes drops back on first down and delivers a bullet from 35 yards out to Kelce over-top of the trailing linebacker, hitting him in stride. There are maybe three or four quarterbacks in the entire league that can make this throw.

When you have a quarterback that not only has the willingness to throw this pass, but also the accuracy and arm talent to do so, there is very little a defense can do to slow you down. This is a Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski-type of play from Mahomes. Again, this is what elite quarterbacking looks like.

Earlier in the game, Mahomes hit Kelce down the seam for a touchdown. The throw “looked” to be behind Kelce, but Mahomes actually made the right throw here. He threw a pass in which his receiver could make a play on the ball and avoid a collision with a defender. When you have a quarterback who can put the ball on a spot like this to help his receiver avoid a hit, you are talking about an elite player. This was a special throw by Mahomes.

The final throw I want to show is something that I didn’t know Mahomes had in his toolbox. We know that he can rifle that ball into nearly any place he wants. We saw him the preseason throw a 70-yard pass in the air to Hill. The one thing I didn’t know about Mahomes is that he can throw with touch.

On this first-quarter throw to Watkins, Mahomes puts a ton of loft into this throw and drops the ball on the sideline to his receiver. While the coverage here isn’t great, it wouldn’t have mattered if the defender was on the heels of Watkins. There is no way the safety could have made a play on the ball or the cornerback could have defended this. It’s a perfectly thrown ball for a massive gain.

As I mentioned before, teams will catch up to Mahomes some. He’s not going to throw for 300 yards or six touchdowns every week. There are going to be growing pains. We even saw a few glimpses of them in Week 2, such as when Mahomes bobbled the snap at the end of the game. He’s going to make mistakes and they may even cost the Chiefs a few wins here or there.

But make no mistake about it, this is a special talent. Mahomes is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential and the more time Andy Reid has to figure out his young quarterback, the more creative and innovative he is going to get.

With Mahomes at quarterback, the Chiefs have a chance to be one of the best offenses in the NFL. Or, maybe they already are.

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