Patrick Mahomes: No Look Wizardry in the Divisional Round

We all know about the Patrick Mahomes no-look pass in Week 14 against Baltimore. In case you need a refresher – or have been living under several rocks – here it is:

Good grief. Let’s slow that down for a second.

That’s ridiculous, but Mahomes has made a habit out of doing ridiculous things in his first year as a starter.

Over the course of his first year, he has completed 66% of his passes, thrown for 5,097 yards and an eye-popping 50 touchdowns. For good measure, he threw in 272 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.

But it’s not just the numbers; it’s the way he gets those numbers. He has great mobility, insane arm strength and a great flair for improvisation. At times, he reminds me of a really good point guard: he seems to see angles that aren’t there and has the tools to make the impossible seem fairly simple.

In looking over the film for the Chiefs Divisional Round win over the Colts, this play really stood out to me.

Here’s the play itself. We’ve got a flat/out combo on the left side, with Demetrius Harris [84] on the flat and Travis Kelce [87] on the out. Kelce gets to the top of his route, turns and sits in the soft spot of the zone.

You can see the linebacker on Kelce’s inside shoulder – Darius Leonard [53] – drifting towards the middle of the field and, therefore, away from Kelce. Why is he drifting? Ah buddy…the why…

Please excuse my sloppy drawings.

This is the pre-snap look. The Chiefs had motioned before the snap, with a man leaving the bunch and going to the offensive right. No one followed him, signaling zone coverage. The Chiefs are left looking at a two-on-two, zone match-up on the left.

I already mentioned this, but here are the routes drawn up. This already looks good for Kelce. He’ll be running his route away from the inside defender, and he has outside position pre-snap.

The flat route is there to make sure the outside defender stays shallow. If the flat defender jumps under the route of Kelce, the flat is open.

In this image, Mahomes is in the act of throwing. I know it can be a little hard to see, but Kelce is about even with the numbers, while the linebacker is closer to the hashmarks. They’re both looking back at Mahomes, but Leonard is frozen to his spot. Why is that?

This image is directly before Mahomes releases the ball. You can see Leonard in this image. Even as Mahomes is starting his throwing motion, he’s staring straight down the middle of the field, holding Leonard and Anthony Walker [50] in place.

Here’s the throw. You can see Mahomes turning his head to look at Kelce at the same time his arm is releasing the ball. It’s not as dramatic as the no-look pass we saw earlier, but it’s still very impressive.

By staring down the field under he is ready to release, Mahomes removed Leonard from the play, effectively creating a one-on-two match-up on his left. This is some high-level quarterbacking.

Yes, quarterbacks are taught to look off the defense. You can’t be an effective quarterback if you are unable to do that. But “looking off the defense” and “not looking at your target until you’re releasing the ball” are two different things. For a 23 year old to be doing this in his first-ever playoff game is extremely impressive. I already can’t wait to watch his career.

Album listened to: Radiohead – The King of Limbs; Josh Ritter – Bringing in the Darlings

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