Andy Reid has never had trouble breaking down defenses with intricate route combinations, versatile personnel distributions and seemingly limitless formations. In Patrick Mahomes, he now has a physical talent that can attack downfield and is not afraid to pull the trigger. This makes Reid’s offense that much more difficult to defend.
Because Mahomes can attack downfield with a powerful and accurate arm, it makes the defense have to cover a larger area of the field in the passing game. The Chiefs have dangerous downfield receivers in Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, but Mahomes’ willingness to attack with deep balls regularly makes those threats that much more credible. This opens up the intermediate levels for weapons like tight end Travis Kelce.
Take the below play. This is a common 3-level stretch concept used across the NFL.
What makes this play work is Sammy Watkins knocking the top off the coverage. This opens up a huge void for Travis Kelce in the middle of the field. With Mahomes’ ability and willingness to attack downfield, it’s difficult for defensive backs to try and cheat on any intermediate routes. They have to honor the deep ball.
Below, you can see where 49ers defenders were in relation to Kelce the moment he caught the pass.
This play went for an easy 25 yards.
But Reid doesn’t just want to stretch the field vertically. He also wants to stretch it sideline to sideline. Look at the misdirection on the play below.
Did you notice the entire 49ers defense running with Tyreek Hill to the left then quickly trying to recover to the right? Half of the recovering defenders went with Kareem Hunt to the right sideline and actually overran Travis Kelce, who was the target of the play on a middle screen. Blocks were set up due to the misdirection, and the result was a 17-yard gain.
Sometimes, though, Reid’s play design doesn’t work. It must be nice to have a quarterback who can find a way to make something happen in those situations.
That’s just ridiculous.
The Chiefs have an embarrassment of riches at their skill positions. Between Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Kareem Hunt, they can attack you in any way imaginable. Defenses so far have been too terrified to get their hands on KC receivers at the line of scrimmage and jam or re-direct them. This has led to a lot of free releases. With the firepower the Chiefs have in their downfield passing game, defenses haven’t had a chance.
While Mahomes and the Chiefs have been great to start the season, they aren’t perfect. The offensive line has been great through the first 3 games. But will they be able to hold up against more relentless pass rushes this season? Will opponents begin bringing more blitzes? How will Mahomes react in those situations? We’ve already seen him struggle a bit with blitz recognition. Perhaps this will be one way teams attack Mahomes moving forward. Easier said than done, though.
The other way, as mentioned earlier, will be to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. The only way to even begin thinking about slowing down this passing game is to get hands on Chiefs receivers at the line of scrimmage. Mahomes sometimes gets into trouble while moving through his progressions. He locks onto receivers and is a bit too slow to move from read to read. Jamming his receivers at the line will delay both the timing of the play and Mahomes’ ability to move through his progressions. It will also give the pass rush more time to get to him. Again, easier said than done, though.
The Chiefs are off to a great start. With the way that defense has been playing, though, their offense will need to maintain this pace to keep winning. It remains to be seen if they will be able to do so. Regardless, it will be fun watching Reid, Mahomes, and the rest of the Chiefs’ high powered offensive attack try.