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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


Film room: 49ers Opponent Quarterbacks - Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes

Sep 22, 2018 at 6:15 AM


This is the latest installment of the 49ers opponent quarterbacks series. Today we take a look at Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in advance of Sunday's game in Kansas City.

Patrick Mahomes was selected 10th overall in the 2017 NFL draft out of Texas Tech where he played in the Air Raid offense under head coach Kliff Kinsgbury. The six-foot three-inch, 230 lb quarterback sat for a season under the tutelage of head coach Andy Reid and under the mentorship of former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Mahomes would presumably become the starter this year if the Chiefs were to part with Smith and shortly after the season ended. That's exactly what they did when they traded Smith to the Redskins for Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round pick.

Through two games so far, Mahomes is completing 69.1% of his passes, has thrown for 582 yards, and has 10 passing touchdowns. So far it's safe to say that the Chiefs were right in trading Smith.

Mahomes has produced nothing but highlight reel throws through two road games against the Chargers and Steelers. He's largely avoided anything negative thanks in large part to Andy Reid's scheme. Reid is scheming Air Raid concepts that Mahomes is intimately familiar with but that shouldn't take away from the fact that Mahomes has elite arm talent and is skilled at manipulating coverages with his eyes.


Mahomes' first career touchdown pass came midway through the first quarter against the Chargers on a classic Air Raid passing concept, the slant-arrow with mesh run fake.



Mahomes has Tyreek Hill split out wide running the quick slant over the middle. He takes the snap and executes a perfect mesh run fake that draws up the middle and weak-side linebackers that opens a hole just big enough in the zone.

He delivers a quick strike to Hill running across the middle of the field but the more remarkable aspect of this play is the way Mahomes delivered a pass off of his throwing platform and with a defender in his lap. He still gets enough velocity on it to zip it right through the window to Hill in stride for a 58 yard touchdown.


On this play again, Mahomes shows off his arm talent and awareness of defender leverage. Reid has a "run-pass option" called off of an outside zone running play with a backside receiver running a slant. Receiver Sammy Watkins lines up tight to the formation to the left, indicating to the safety that he's running some kind of deeper in-breaking route so he stays back.



The outside zone fake goes to the right and the Chargers middle linebacker takes his initial steps toward that run fake. Mahomes sees this and pulls the ball out of the mesh fake and snaps a quick pass with some heat on it to Watkins on the slant.

The pass might go down as an inaccurate pass but the backside edge defender was threatening to tip the pass and the window to fit a pass into Watkins was closing rapidly. Watkins lunges and makes the grab and the Chiefs have a first and goal.

Arm talent isn't the only trait in Mahomes' skill set. He is also very adept at manipulating coverages.


Against the Steelers in Week Two, Mahomes threw six touchdown passes. On this second touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce, Mahomes showed off an ability to look off the safety and open the middle just enough to fit a deep pass in to Kelce. The play call is another Air Raid staple, the double posts concept.



The pre-snap formation is a 3x2 with trips to the left. Kelce is the inside receiver, Chris Conley is the trips middle receiver, and Hill is the outermost receiver. Kelce and Conley are running the post routes. The Steelers are in a cover two shell but the safety to the trips side cheats over due to possibly being worried about a deep route to Hill on the boundary.

At the snap, Mahomes snaps his head over to Hill and gets the safety to move, putting him in conflict. As soon as the safety moves, Mahomes snaps back quickly to the middle as Kelce is splitting the safeties on the post route. The pass is a little low but Kelce is athletic enough to make the play anyways and goes in for his second touchdown of the game.


Combining arm talent with his ability to manipulate the coverage, Mahomes finds Hill down the left boundary for the 29 yard touchdown. The Chiefs are running a four verticals variant out of a spread 3x2 with Hill on the two receiver side.



The Steelers are in a man-free cover one defense. While Mahomes drops back, his eyes hold the deep safety in place. As soon as he hits the top of his drop, he has a defender in his face but stands in to deliver a pass over the cornerback into Hill as the safety is late getting over the top because of the manipulation.

Mahomes isn't without his flaws though and one big one coming out of college was his tendency to not set his feet when he throws.



Here he drops back to hit Kelce on the quick out route but as he hits the top of his drop, he doesn't trust himself enough to throw with anticipation. He gets set to pull the trigger but pulls it down as the route isn't yet fully developed. The defender is on the upfield hip of Kelce so Mahomes needed to throw Kelce open on his front shoulder but instead his throwing base gets all fouled up and he rushes to get a pass off. The pass sails over Kelce's head. If he had opened more to the target on his initial drop back, it's a pass he could've easily completed.



There will be times when Mahomes will also have to deal with pressure in his face and learn to step through and throw as he's being hit. Here, he doesn't do that and rushes a pass with Kelce wide open in the end zone. The Steelers blitz with six defenders while two defenders go with the running back out to the flat. Kelce is wide open over the middle because of the blown coverage. Mahomes misses him because he doesn't step up into the pocket and deliver the throw.

So far the early signs for Mahomes are positive and he's had more positive plays than negative ones. Eventually he will come back down to earth, but it's possible that doesn't happen against the 49ers. To truly affect his game, they'll have to get pressure consistently and force him off his spot and therefore force him into bad throws because of his broken footwork under pressure. And sometimes that's not even a guarantee as you can see in some clips above. The 49ers secondary and pass rush certainly have their work cut out for them against Mahomes, Hill, Kelce, Watkins, and Kareem Hunt.

All gifs and images courtesy of the NFL.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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