Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes overcame constant pressure against the Los Angeles Chargers. We have his full, weekly report card and analysis.
Week 2 of the NFL season brought exciting matchups and last-minute finishes. One of the most entertaining games had multiple unexpected turns, as the Kansas City Chiefs barely pulled out a 23-20 win against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Throughout the 2020 season we’ll be tracking and grading quarterback Patrick Mahomes as we start chronicling one of the most talented passers of all time. The mesmerizing star is extremely unique with his intelligence, playmaking, flair and incredible arm talents. Even at 24 years old it’s clear we have the opportunity to see a full career of greatness.
His statistical performance against the Chargers was actually worse than 2020 first-round pick and surprise foe Justin Herbert. With 27 completions on 47 attempts, Mahomes’ completion rate of 57 percent was the fourth-lowest mark of his career. But he came through when it mattered, and overcame significant obstacles to even hit 302 yards.
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 first-half performance of the entire Chiefs’ offense was underwhelming and shocking. As talented as the Chargers’ defense is, the Chiefs’ offensive line was continually beaten off the snap by Jerry Tillery and Joey Bosa. The two wrecked the passing game for Mahomes as he had no time to scan the defense for openings.
There were few opportunities for Mahomes to even escape the pressure and create outside of the pocket. He missed a deep ball to a well-covered Tyreek Hill early in the first quarter, and the offense regressed into a number of throwaways and failed attempts to penetrate the defense.
We didn’t see much improvisation until the second half because of the ridiculous amount of hands Mahomes saw in his line of sight early on. Though he had some time to let routes develop on this play above, there was no time to wait as soon as the left tackle is beaten.
The pass fell well-short of a first-down completion. So we had to wait until the game fell into a dire situation as the Chargers increased their lead.
The first such play of note came midway through the third quarter on a rollout effort to tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce was effective again when facing the Chargers’ Cover 3 scheme as he found underneath holes to settle into. The example above is a scramble drill for Mahomes and he delivers a dart into Kelce’s chest after he evaded the oncoming rush.
It’s hard to give Mahomes a higher grade because of the limited opportunities the defense gave him, and the drops that cut drives short. This is still respectable because he converted on the chances he took and delivered a game-winning drive.
The only big chances Mahomes took came on plays where he knew he had a defensive offsides penalty to negate a mistake, or in the fourth quarter when he had to make something happen. He showed great maturity when figuring out when to take his shots and when to give his defense the chance to reset the field position.
Of his 47 attempts, he had five throwaways that were intentionally tossed into the dirt to avoid any risk of turnover or loss of yards. This is an area that may have cost Herbert and the Chargers the win since he was more willing to throw passes into trafficked areas with little hope of connecting.
The strategy paid off this week thanks to the Chargers’ offensive woes converting into scoring opportunities. There will be some games like this where Mahomes has to push the ball at any cost, but his judgment proved solid again this week as he reeled in his hero-ball.
Notably, he had zero sacks attributable to him and zero interceptable throws. Those are the type of numbers that come from elite-minded signal-callers.
Of Mahomes’ 42 chartable passes, a number that takes out his throwaways, 30 were catchable. Unfortunately three of his first-down passes were dropped, and these drops crippled an offense that could’ve quickly snowballed points had they continued to push into Los Angeles’ side of the field.
There were a few brilliant moments like the one above. His first touchdown came via corner route to Kelce, where the tight end split the zone coverage. Mahomes floated a perfect pass to him at the back of the end zone, and the offense looked ready to explode.
It didn’t, but Mahomes largely had a positive day when he was clean. Of his 12 uncatchable passes and 42 attempts, seven came in clean pockets. He was much more aggressive attacking past the line of scrimmage due to the speed of the Chargers’ front seven as opposed to last week.
Only five of his catchable attempts were behind the line of scrimmage. He was accurate on 21 of 25 throws between 0-10 yards, six-of-nine on intermediate attempts, and one-of-three beyond 20 yards.
Unfortunately the misses stagnated the offense significantly. Mahomes delivered a catchable ball on 7-of-12 pressured throws, but another five that weren’t factored in were tossed into dirt or the stands.
Some of his misses were simply poor ball placement. He doesn’t often miss behind and high but he was too often throwing to where the receiver was as opposed to leading them upfield. That’s due to pressure more often than not, and the ghosts were being felt all afternoon long.
In total, it was a fine game once we removed the throwaways and added context about pressure, but his accuracy was nowhere near the elite level he can achieve for long stretches.
Mahomes couldn’t earn an elite grade under efficiency due to the aforementioned hiccups with placement but he was good-enough to keep receivers involved and overcome a limited running game. The rush was so fast to reach him, he found money-making throws underneath like this.
Getting the ball out that fast on stick routes is dangerous because defenders can quickly read this and play the ball. Mahomes avoided disaster several times with well-timed deliveries. This was one of six accurate third down passes he delivered.
In all though, Mahomes was only average on third downs. Six of his nine attempts were accurate, but only four of seven attempts beyond five yards were past the sticks. He wasn’t overly aggressive when he’d normally hunt the sticks or at least find a crossing route underneath with potential to refresh the downs.
We mentioned how well Mahomes managed the rush and mitigated risk this game, but also mixed into awareness is knowing when to buy time, escape the pocket, scramble, and take big shots. This is where Mahomes helped win the game.
Mahomes led the team with 54 rushes on six carries thanks thanks to his timely scrambles. He waited until the game progressed until he needed to exert everything, and converted two first downs with his legs. It’s hard to understate how much the offense needed his contributions.
He dodged rushers and found cracks to squeeze into, avoiding negative plays. The devastatingly good plays were rare but he played his part and hit when he took shots.
That’s all that was needed for the Chiefs to advance to a 2-0 record and huge road win against a divisional foe.