How Patrick Mahomes’ pre-snap read sparked that Damien Williams touchdown catch

Patrick Mahomes says Chiefs’ offense is ready for Week 1

Patrick Mahomes finished 8 of 10 for 126 yards and a touchdown in the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason.
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Patrick Mahomes finished 8 of 10 for 126 yards and a touchdown in the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason.

The pre-snap motion would ideally confuse the quarterback, purposed to prompt a bad decision more so than a bad throw. But as the San Francisco 49ers defense ultimately settled into place, albeit momentarily, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes made up his mind.

Before he called for the snap.

The setting: third down and 3 yards to go, the football resting at the Chiefs’ own 38-yard line during their initial drive of Saturday’s preseason game against the 49ers, a game in which the Chiefs prioritized getting the offense back in sync. Mahomes had two receivers lined up to his right and two to his left, including tight end Travis Kelce split out wide. In the backfield, Damien Williams sat perched to his left.

The 49ers positioned 10 players within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage.

“With the front that they were showing, I knew (Williams) was going to get matched up on a (defensive) end,” Mahomes said. “With Damien, he’s just as good of a runner as he is a pass catcher. I knew that was a good matchup. I went straight to it.”

True to his word, as soon as the snap reached his hands, Mahomes turned his head straight to his running back. Didn’t even need to look off his man. Four receivers flooded the right side of the field, leaving Williams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas all alone on the left flank.

Just as the play was designed. And just as Mahomes suspected.

Along with a flick of the wrist, the pre-snap recognition sparked the Chiefs’ longest play in three preseason games, even if it came in a 27-17 loss Saturday to San Francisco at Arrowhead Stadium.

Before Williams even reached the line of scrimmage on the reception, his wheel route not yet propelling him back to full speed, Mahomes released the football. The speed difference was obvious. It landed in Williams’ hands 13 yards later, Thomas well in his rearview. Williams handled the rest, splitting a pair of defenders in the secondary.

Touchdown, 62 yards.

“He made a great catch, and he made a great move making that safety miss and outrunning guys to the end zone,” Mahomes said.

A week ago in a loss to Pittsburgh in which the first-team offense sputtered, the Chiefs sent Williams on a similar route, though on the opposite side of the field. The pass fell incomplete. And so in his first preseason action of the season, Williams finished without a touch.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid acknowledged an emphasis on getting his presumed starting running back involved Saturday, and he did it primarily in the passing game.

The wheel route represented a start. Williams finished with three catches for 74 yards, including the touchdown. He ran just once, a 2-yard carry.

Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson mixed occasionally with the first-team offense, but Damien Williams was the clear predominant option for Reid.

Same as he was for Mahomes on one touchdown play.

“I wanted to see if we couldn’t get him some touches — I didn’t really care (if it was) pass game, run game,” Reid said. “But get him some touches and kind of get him back in the swing of things.”

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