Patrick Mahomes was awesome in his first playoff start

Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Playoffs

The Kansas City Chiefs won their first home playoff game since the 1993 season, and it was largely because Patrick Mahomes is fantastic.

Each season, we are reminded that the playoffs are a different beast than the regular season, especially for quarterbacks. The defensive intensity rises as does the pressure of the moment. This is even more true for young quarterbacks who are just starting to experience the playoff atmosphere. That is why, in general, we see that quarterbacks have a lower passer rating in the playoffs and that makes sense.

Last Saturday, Patrick Mahomes played in his first career playoff game and led the Chiefs to a win. For Chiefs’ fans, that win alone elevates him up a few tiers in the hierarchy of Kansas City quarterbacks.

However, by just looking at the stat line, it would appear that Mahomes had one of the worst games of his career in his first playoff start. It was only the second time in his career he failed to throw a touchdown in a game in which he started, and his passer rating of 85.2 was the second-worst of his career. But, I am here to tell you that Mahomes didn’t struggle against the Colts. In fact, I thought he was fantastic.  Today, I want to examine the film to see just how well Mahomes fared in his first playoff start. But before we begin, let’s take a look at Mahomes’ passing chart via the NFL Next Gen’s Stats:

As you can see above, Mahomes was money within 20-yards, completing 27 of 35 passes. However, it his lack of deep-ball success that was surprising. We will get to that in a moment. Mahomes destroyed the Colts’ Cover-2 defense, taking what the defense gave him and moving the ball up and down the field. The Colts were scared to death of being beaten by the big plays and they tried to force Mahomes to become a dink-and-dunk quarterback. That isn’t something he is used to, but in typical Mahomes’ fashion, he played loose and made enough playoffs to keep the offense afloat.

One thing that stood out to me about Mahomes on Saturday afternoon was his poise. His feet were quiet in the pocket and time, and time again, he threw dimes to his receivers in the middle of the field for big gains when he needed to. Take a look at this throw from Mahomes to Watkins on the team’s first drive of the game.

In a big game like this, Mahomes wasn’t afraid of the moment. Some quarterbacks, even veteran ones, struggle to get into a rhythm to start a game because they are too “amped” up. For Mahomes, it looked like just another game. His style of play didn’t change at all as we saw him make some ridiculous backyard throws in this game like he has done all season.

My favorite throw from Mahomes this weekend was on 3rd and 6 as he threw the ball across his body to a wide open Tyreek Hill. I’m not sure that any other quarterback in the league would try this throw, let alone make it. These type of plays are what make Mahomes so special. In a playoff game, Mahomes didn’t change his style of play at all. He played the same brand of football that made him successful during the regular season.

The following throw may be a candidate for the “Best Throw of the Year” and Mahomes made it look so easy. On another third down, Mahomes improvises as a defender is in the throwing lane of Travis Kelce. As we have grown accustomed to, Mahomes made a beautiful side-arm throw that couldn’t have been placed any better. I can’t even begin to express how difficult this throw was, but Mahomes made it look routine.

Even some of Mahomes’ incompletions weren’t his fault. As I charted Mahomes from Saturday, there were four clear drops and two more that could have been caught. For example, take a look at this throw from the second-year quarterback and you will see that it should have been a big gain to wide receiver Tyreek Hill:

If you start to add up all the passes and yards that were missed due to drops, Mahomes could have thrown for well over 350 yards. However, such is the life of an NFL quarterback. If I had to critique Mahomes at all for his performance on Saturday, it was that he lacked touch on his deep passes. He was having so much success throwing the ball underneath that he should have just continued to beat the Colts by the death of a thousand cuts. Instead, Mahomes got a little impatient and tried to force the issue a few times.

His worst miss of the game came on a throw to Tyreek Hill near the end zone. The pass simply got away from him and nearly ended up as an interception. Luckily for the Chiefs, this was one of Mahomes’ few misses of the day.

For Mahomes’ first playoff start of his career, he did an excellent job. He didn’t look like a player making his first start. There are certainly things to correct for Mahomes, but overall, there isn’t much to criticize. The biggest and most important takeaway for me was that Mahomes didn’t look afraid of the moment. He looked like a quarterback that has been on this stage for years.

Playoff football isn’t going to pretty. It’s going to be sloppy and gritty, but getting the win is the most important thing. Mahomes’ passed his first playoff test with flying colors. Now, he will need to be even better this week if he wants to knock off the Patriots. With the way Mahomes has played this season and now in the playoffs, I fully expect him to do so. As long as he can continue to show this amount of poise, the Chiefs should be the favorite to win the Super Bowl.

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