Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes had one of his worst career games against the Atlanta Falcons. We have his report card and analysis.
After setting the NFL ablaze over the vast majority of the season, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes maybe had his worst career performance this past week against the Atlanta Falcons.
Statistically he was fine, but digging into the tape showed confusion, panic and disjointed offense. Mahomes ultimately overcame the poor output but he may have dropped in the prestigious MVP rankings.
The Chiefs’ offensive line again faltered this week. It’s the third straight week where they’ve been outright a weakness, and even the Denver game earlier this month featured much of the same one-on-one limitations of the positional group. The Chiefs must solidify the unit in the offseason.
Mahomes has been pushed to the brink, and Atlanta should’ve won with how he reacted. His 24-of-44 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and one interception stat line was more favorable than his film. 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 offensive line had Mahomes scrambling early and often this week, and there’s not a ton that can be accomplished with a handful of injuries causing a makeshift group of blockers to play. Mahomes did his best work with his feet, eclipsing his previous career-high of single-season rushing yards as he broke 300 on the year. He had 21 yards on just three scrambles this week.
Atlanta was able to replicate the most effective strategy any defense can, which is rushing four and dropping seven defenders into coverage. Clogging the passing lanes caused a handful of quick decisions and inaccurate throws. This was one of the few moments of Mahomes’ career where everything felt out of his control.
Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy dialed up more rollouts and quick passes after an early rough few drives from the line but the damage continued as Grady Jarrett and company limited the lanes Mahomes could find to maneuver through. This third down creation below was the lone notable example of playmaking throughout the game.
It’s rare that Mahomes didn’t have several flashbulb moments in a game for once. Though the stakes were low for the now 14-1 Chiefs, we’ve now seen him not be superman against pressure.
Differentiating between what’s a bad decision and bad execution can be difficult, but this week was more about physical mistakes for Mahomes than mental ones. But that doesn’t mean he was consistently seeing the field well or making confident throws. His lone interception stood out but he had three bad gaffes that should’ve been turnovers.
The underneath coverage by linebackers and safeties devastated the quick-hitting Chiefs passing game. Mahomes never saw the defender on this play above, and he logged his second red zone interception of the season. This throw was more typical of a rookie or bad passer than an elite quarterback.
This of course happens to every quarterback, but the wrong decisions piled on. Only three of his nine third down passes went down beyond the markers in the air and he was inefficient in his situational play all game. That comes down to making the incorrect or not good overall decisions.
Sometimes a low completion percentage is filled with drops or throwaways or other context that needs to be given. But Mahomes’ low completion rate this week had much more to do with how his accuracy went down the toilet. Only 17 of his 29 attempts beyond the line of scrimmage were catchable.
His uncharacteristic physical struggles stagnated the offense. He had the reasonable excuse of the line being an issue, but his process became rushed both physically and mentally too often. Several times he put the ball in the wrong place.
Three of his four intermediate passes were uncatchable despite only one being pressured. Only 14 of his 22 throws from 0-10 yards were catchable as well. These are shockingly low numbers for Mahomes.
His bar is extremely high, of course, and both Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers, fellow MVP-candidates, have had these outings more often. It’s simply odd to see so many attempts go flying into the sideline or by a defender from Mahomes.
Just one of Mahomes’ four red zone attempts were accurate, though the one was a touchdown. He struggled on conversion downs as mentioned earlier as well. And his pressure numbers completely fell flat compared to where we’ve seen him perform over his career.
This is usually where Mahomes saves the Chiefs from broken plays and penalties but he wasn’t able to elevate his play to that level this week. Six of his throws were put into the ground intentionally, and only three of his 10 throws under pressure were accurate. While the offensive line caused a lot of the stress to be present, the execution by Mahomes was a bad response.
This stat line should’ve featured three interceptions and be regarded as Mahomes’ worst game of the season, but he wasn’t incompetent and totally lost. So many quarterbacks would’ve had this game snowball into a complete disaster. At least we’re still talking about Mahomes as an MVP top challenger, if not the favorite.
It’s almost impossible to expect pressure to come from a base defensive look with no extra blitzers. We can’t be unrealistic about Mahomes’ ability to foresee his teammates’ failures every play. Considering the level of pressure crashing into him, Mahomes did a fine job of avoiding a sack, and buying as much time as he could’ve.
Everything after the act of avoiding pressure fell into another category and in general he failed to perform well in these situations. But his awareness wasn’t the issue.
Mahomes is still my MVP this season but Rogers, Allen and yes, even Deshaun Watson, should be at his heels. A strong closeout game to reach 5,000 yards passing might be necessary to earn the prestigious award for fickle voters.