Fifty touchdowns, 5,000 yards and a variety of ways to throw the football effectively. That’s just part of the package Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed off in his first full season as a starting quarterback on his way to earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections as well as a possible NFL MVP award.
He’s displayed his elite arm strength, including a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill during a preseason game in Atlanta. As he got more chances to play, he seemingly found different ways to spread the ball around to receivers, utilizing multiple arm slots, angles and even hands.
“I don’t know if it is as much confidence in my arm as in the receivers and tight ends that we have and the running backs,” Mahomes said earlier this season of his willingness to squeeze the ball into tiny openings. “These guys can make plays on the field, so I know if I can give them a chance to make a play, they usually make it.”
Here are some of the ways Mahomes can deliver the ball in the air.
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Set and throw
A former standout baseball player and the son of a former major-league pitcher, Mahomes was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 37th round out of high school in 2014. Perfect Game chose him as an All-American in baseball.
“There is stuff with mechanics, of course,” Mahomes said of the difference between throwing a baseball and throwing a football. “You are a little shorter with the motion of the throw with the football. All of it is about having touch and being able to have the fastball, but at the same time have the change-up and be able to throw with touch and be accurate. It is something that I had to work on when I was playing both sports, but luckily I play one, so I can just focus in on that.”
Two of the first six touchdown passes Mahomes threw in his first start of the season came on tosses that traveled fewer than two yards and took place behind the line of scrimmage. The forward pitches thereby qualified as “passes” even though the Chiefs consider them part of their running game packages.
“It is really fun for me because it is a passing touchdown,” Mahomes said. “It is cool just to be able to get the ball out quick.”
Mahomes unveiled his no-look passing ability in the second quarter of a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. He stepped up in the pocket after avoiding the pass rush and thew across his body while staring at a defender on the other half of the formation. He completed the pass to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for 17 yards
“Me and my buddy Nic Shimonek, he was the backup quarterback for me (at Texas Tech), we started doing it in practice and messing around with it,” Mahomes said of the genesis of the no-look pass he threw against the Baltimore Ravens. “It was almost like who could one-up each other. It just kind of carried on from then. I realized it was a tool I could actually use in games.”
Mahomes garnered plenty of national attention for his left-handed heave to Hill while being chased down by Denver Broncos edge rusher Vonn Miller on Monday Night Football. Mahomes led a second-half rally on the road.
“That play is a man-beater, and they just brought an extra guy and so he scrambled out and made a play there to an open Tyreek,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Tyreek was actually the primary on that. Tyreek was coming wide open, but it was just a matter of moving and trying to get him the ball. Now obviously, he’s not left-handed but that’s what he did with it. There’s certain plays where you just have to be able to do that.”
Mahomes threw for 192 of his 304 passing yards at Denver while outside of he pocket, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“It was magical, you know, watching them matriculate down the field,” Chiefs safety Eric Murray said of watching from the sideline as Mahomes operated. “Even the left-handed pass, like (shrugs shoulders), come on now (laughs). I don’t know what else to tell you.”
He has also thrown shovel passes left-handed.
Twist and throw
Mahomes has shown off a contortionist’s knack for getting his body into position to throw the ball while moving in the opposite direction of his target.
“They played good coverage and had everybody covered,” Mahomes said of a touchdown pass thrown back across his body against the Seattle Seahawks. “The offensive line blocked well, but they had a good coverage versus the play that we called and I scrambled to the left and Charcandrick (West) came back with me. I found a way to throw him the ball and he made a great play and scored.”
On the run
Some of the biggest plays that have originated in Mahomes’ hand were the result of him buying time and or uncorking deep throws while scrambling out of the pocket.
“There are certain skill sets that take over that, hey, they’ve just been blessed with a natural gift,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “When that natural gift takes over, you just say, OK, next play. The beauty of it is you approach it the same. You coach that player that same (whether) he’s the first on the depth chart or last on the depth chart, understanding that due to his unique skill set, his unique talent, you’re going to take the good as well as the bad because sometimes he’s going to make a tremendous play. Sometimes he may make a mistake — but that’s OK because we know what he’s trying to do.”