Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs Offense had another banner day against what was supposed to be a tough defensive opponent in the Ravens. By the time it was all said and done, Kansas City had racked up 503 yards (7.9 yards per play) and 33 points on their way to another 3-0 start.
Several forces combined to enable the Chiefs to move the ball at will on Sunday. The Ravens made too many mistakes, including some bad penalties and blown assignments/miscommunication in coverage. The Ravens were also unable to consistently get pressure on Mahomes early enough in the play to disrupt KC’s passing game. Mahomes had time to pick the Ravens apart downfield as a result. The Chiefs finished with 4 pass plays of 20 or more yards, including completions of 36 and 83 yards. Ravens safety Earl Thomas said prior to the game that he planned on “eliminating all the big plays.” Tough to do that against this offense.
Patrick Mahomes was, of course, the most significant reason for Kansas City’s success. His ability to throw the ball downfield accurately (The key word here) from so many different arm angles and throwing platforms is special. And it is a major contributing factor in why defenses have trouble getting pressure on him in the first place.
This summer, we wrote about the areas of Mahomes’ game that have room for improvement. His footwork does get unnecessarily sloppy at times when there is minimal or no pressure. This is an area he should continue to focus on.
With that being said, the pocket is not always a clean and friendly place from which to throw the ball. Sometimes perfect mechanics aren’t possible. Mahomes’ unique ability to throw accurately under imperfect circumstances is one of the many traits that sets him apart.
Take the below touchdown pass for instance. The Ravens were bringing a slot blitz here.
That blitzing defender went unblocked with a clear path to the quarterback, just as the Ravens drew it up on the white board during the week. Mahomes saw this, continued dropping, and ended up throwing a near-perfect pass 35 yards downfield for the touchdown.
This touchdown was only possible because of Mahomes’ ability to throw downfield accurately without his feet under him. Again, this is not something that should be done on a regular basis. In the face of pressure, though, it is sometimes necessary. Few can do it like Mahomes can.
Some other things to note on this play – First, the unbelievable anticipation. Look where the receiver was when Mahomes started his throwing motion. He was still working his stem inside well before breaking to the corner.
Also, watch the reaction of deep middle safety, Tony Jefferson. This didn’t end up impacting the play, but it is worth pointing out. It looked like Jefferson noticed the blitz getting home free and saw tight end Travis Kelce about to leak out into the flat.
Figuring that the free rusher getting to Mahomes would force a quick throw to the flat (as it would against most normal quarterbacks), he decided to attack Kelce’s route. You can see that safety Earl Thomas did the same thing. This left a wide-open Sammy Watkins for what would have been an easy touchdown.
Again, this is what Mahomes can do to a defense. The instincts and reactions that safeties and other defenders have when anticipating plays is based on what they’ve seen other quarterbacks do on a regular basis. But Mahomes can physically make throws that other quarterbacks can’t, leaving that ability to anticipate less effective.
Another key to Kansas City’s success on the day was their ability to stay in manageable 3rd-down situations. This helped them convert more than 50% of their opportunities (A few Ravens penalties also helped).
Much of this was due to the Chiefs’ success on the early downs. In fact, they gained 318 yards (including penalties) on 34 first-down plays. That’s an average of 9.35 yards per play. Even if you take away their 3 biggest gains of 83, 41, and 36 yards, they still averaged nearly 5 yards per play on first down.
As mentioned earlier, the Ravens hurt their cause with some undisciplined play on Sunday. This game looks a lot different if they don’t make some of the mistakes that they did. Below are KC’s 4 touchdown drives and how they were influenced by key Baltimore miscues. Look away Ravens fans:
- 1st TD Drive: Ravens commit drive-extending horse-collar penalty on a 3rd-and-4 incompletion.
- 2nd TD Drive: Chiefs given a short field after the Ravens failed to convert on 4th-and-2 from their own 47 (Thank you analytics).
- 3rd TD Drive: Blown coverage/missed assignment(s) lead to a wide-open 83-yard touchdown pass.
- 4th TD Drive: 3rd-down interception nullified by a pass interference penalty.
It’s tough enough to slow Kansas City’s offense down on its own. It’s nearly impossible when you’re giving away free yards and extra opportunities.
The Ravens were not at their best in this game on either side of the ball. Their offense was as mistake-prone as their defense, with quarterback Lamar Jackson turning in a sloppy performance. No one on the Ravens would say they played their best. Yet, this game still was decided by less than a touchdown. We’re likely to see a more disciplined Ravens team if these two meet again in January. For now, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have the upper hand.