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Is Patrick Mahomes Back?

  • The Draft Network
  • November 18, 2021
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Could it be? Is Patrick Mahomes back to his old, talented and confident, game-winning self?

It’s easy to overreact to one game’s performance in a season as short as the NFL’s is, but Mahomes—and most of the Chiefs’ roster—looked really good on Sunday night after weeks of struggling.

Exactly two weeks ago, I wrote about the biggest issue for Mahomes this season being his attachment to playing “hero ball.” At the time, the Chiefs were 4-4, in third place in the AFC West, and their quarterback was the league leader in interceptions with his 10. It looked like Mahomes was trying to do too much on every play, thinking that the responsibility fell on him alone to make the offense click.

The result was a lot of bad picks, mostly from poor decision-making on throws he just didn’t need to try to make. For a good portion of the early part of the season, it looked like some of his magical ability to make the impossible possible was fading.

Then the Chiefs played the Raiders in Las Vegas on Sunday Night Football.

To put it simply, Kansas City’s offense… looked the way it used to look. They exploded for a season-high 516 yards of total offense, put up 41 points against a divisional rival, and Mahomes threw for more than 400 yards for the first time since Week 12 of 2020. As Travis Kelce said after the game, it looked like they had gotten their swagger back.

A lot of that had to do with Mahomes returning to form with successful throws, better decision-making, and the ability to recognize and take advantage of what the defense was giving him. He was progressing through reads and not forcing many deep, contested throws.

He ended Sunday with an impressive stat line: 35-of-50 passing with 406 yards and five touchdowns, good enough to be named Week 10’s AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The most significant factor in Mahomes looking more like himself on Sunday was an improved pocket presence that had looked diminished in the first half of 2021. In weeks past, he had sensed pressure and would immediately scramble out of the pocket, trying to create something out of nothing. Last weekend, he seemed calmer in the pocket, trusting that the blocking around him and mobility within the pocket would give plays time to develop downfield.

His timing on throws was quick and he seemed to be in rhythm all night. He took care of the football and allowed himself to take short/intermediate passes to string together drives. That was huge for building up his confidence throughout the game and it allowed the Chiefs to hold onto the ball and keep racking up points—something that had looked like an issue with his forced throws earlier in the season.

Even when he made a mistake with a “hero ball”-esque, scrambling throw early in the fourth quarter, he got bailed out by an incredible contested reception by running back Darrel Williams in the front of the end zone. Like we have grown so used to seeing from Mahomes over the last few years, even his worst throws—like a scrambling, cross-body, tightly-contested throw to his running back—were productive and put points on the board in Vegas.

Mahomes could not have chosen a better time to play like himself. The Chiefs’ win over the Raiders moved Kansas City to 6-4, giving them sole possession of first place in the AFC West. What’s more, they have a challenging stretch of games to close out the season: the Dallas Cowboys come to town next week, then five of their final six games of the season are against divisional opponents. Kansas City needs Mahomes to look as improved and confident as he did on Sunday night in those games if they want to secure their sixth straight division championship.

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