Patrick Mahomes report card: Mistakes nearly cost Chiefs primetime game

Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes had his worst game of the year in Week 4. We have his full, weekly report card and analysis.

One of the stranger weeks in modern NFL history occurred Week 4 thanks to a Covid-outbreak amongst teams. The New England Patriots lost star quarterback Cam Newton at the last minute, and the requirement to test the team pushed their contest with the Kansas City Chiefs to Monday Night Football. The Chiefs struggled to win with the alternate plans as the Patriots played their best despite missing their offensive identity.

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 25 years old it’s clear we have the opportunity to see a full career of greatness.

Mahomes was statistically fine against the mighty Patriots’ defense. He completed 19-of-29 attempts for a modest but solid 236 yards and two scores while taking only one sack. But looking at the film exposed an uncharacteristically uneven performance just one week after a superstar showing.

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.

Playmaking: C-

The best physical part of Mahomes’ game against a physically imposing and positionally sound Patriots’ defense was his playmaking. The monstrous performance art that Mahomes usually can unleash in key moments was lacking this week as pressure repeatedly led to a rushed process and poor results. His typical response is to escape the pocket, buy time and find a few big plays downfield, but we were left waiting for those moments all night long.

Instead Mahomes was skittish and uncomfortable even in clean pockets. His machinations of how to attack the defense fell apart often thanks to the excellent secondary that locked down his targets most of the game. He was in his head enough to miss some of the great throws we take for granted.

His accuracy, which we’ll touch on throughout his breakdown, was sloppier than usual and it affected every part of his game. It’s hard to be a playmaker when the ball isn’t landing in the right spot. The above example showed an errant pass that split two targets, whereas he usually nails the cross-body throw and converts the big third down.

There was still good, though. He repented for his second dropped interception early in the fourth quarter. He ran 18 yards for a critical third-down conversion and set up the game-clinching touchdown.

And one of this best throws was dropped. Late in the first quarter, Mahomes scrambled out of a muddying pocket and delivered a catchable but not perfect pass to running back Darrel Williams. Williams was unable to catch the contested ball and the Chiefs settled for a field goal on the drive.

This simply wasn’t a game where there were a lot of positive standout plays from Mahomes, and that’s notably subpar for his standards.

Decision-Making: D

The most difficult part of his performance was the mental mistakes. While it’s not a surprise that Bill Belichick had schematic success even against Mahomes, it was surprising to see three unforced errors occur. These errors nearly cost the Chiefs the game.

His first dropped interception happened on their opening drive. Mahomes tried to float a deep ball to either the underneath target, Travis Kelce, or the deep target, Tyreek Hill. The ball was way off from either, and safety Devin McCourty shockingly dropped what should’ve been an easy pick.

Coverage appeared tight all over but his decision to force this ball into this spot with McCourty roaming over top was foolish, and he should’ve been punished.

We then saw a tide-turning early whistle from the referees on what should’ve been either an interception or a scoop-and-score for the Patriots. Mahomes held on to the ball on third down long enough for Chase Winovich to sack him. The ball appeared to come out without an established throwing motion, and Shilique Calhoun found the ball in his hands en route to the end zone.

The play was called dead way too early and Mahomes was bailed out.

Accuracy: C-

We can double-dip on accuracy and decision-making for his second-dropped interception. He attempted only three deep passes and two were dropped picks. The second was well underthrown and was right into the breadbasket of JC Jackson.

It’s hard to justify this decision and accuracy since the field was so congested. His downfield heave came in the fourth quarter and could’ve led to a big return from Jackson. The Patriots’ offense was struggling to create anything, and turnovers almost gave them much better field position than what they could manufacture themselves.

It wasn’t just turnover-worthy throws that plagued Mahomes, though. He was only 7-of-13 from 0-10 yards, four-of-nine under pressure, and two-of-five on third downs. He didn’t have the consistency nor the flair we’re used to.

The long positive of the night was his intermediate passing was on point. All five of his attempts from 11-19 yards were accurate despite three being under pressure. Those throws saved his performance from dipping into being a liability.

The 22-yard dime to Hill on third-and-six helped lead to their opening field goal. He had time and space, and was able to fit the ball into a reasonable window for Hill to protect himself and secure the catch. It was a big-time throw within the timing of the offense.

Efficiency: D+

His aforementioned inaccuracy and decision-making plays a big part in this low grade. Both of his touchdowns were touch passes near the goal line, and his role within the offense often skewed to game manager over playmaker and vital piece. He made enough plays on his own, but luck out of his control masked one of his worst starts in recent memory.

His misses were nowhere near catchable as his process broke down over and over. Though Mahomes usually has the precision to overcome messy footwork and misaligned hips, it didn’t work this game. His super power of overcoming what would limit others wasn’t fully charged and ready to use this week.

Only two-of-five throws outside of the pocket connected as well, making this one of the least efficient games possible for Mahomes. Bad games happen, and the Chiefs still won thanks to a few of his big throws, but as a whole this game won’t be used in his MVP debate.

Awareness: B-

Situational play absolutely matters. Taking just one sack is a major positive considering how much pressure he was under, and he read the Patriots’ defense effectively even though his accuracy was off. Mahomes certainly earned some positive marks on throws like this one below and the Hill connection highlighted earlier.

His placement is still exquisite often enough to destroy the will of an opponent. He sees man or zone pre-snap almost perfectly at this point and his success simply stacks higher thanks to his physical skill set after his mind has put him in a position of success.

This was far from a good game considering the standards we have for Mahomes, and he earned low marks across the board. The Super Bowl MVP should have much more success this coming week against the Las Vegas Raiders.

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