Here’s something that’s true: Patrick Mahomes’ worst start of 2018 was the time he won AFC offensive player of the week.
The Chiefs have a quarterback so talented that anything seems possible, and at some point maybe the novelty of that will wear off, but for now a franchise that’s basically gone the last half-century intent on proving it can win without a great quarterback now appears to have a dang comet.
One of the most striking parts of this is how different the reality is so far compared to what was expected. We knew the spectacular would happen, so in that way, as fun as the bomb in Atlanta was ... we also sort of knew he could do that.
What wasn’t as certain was how accurate he’d be, or how calm he could be in a place like this, against a franchise like the Steelers, when the toughest defenses he’s faced are from the Big 12.
Like most things with these Insta-reactions, I want to cross reference initial impressions with the film and conversations, but he seemed to call the right protections, make the right reads, keep the right amount of composure.
There was not necessarily a spectacular moment here. He did not throw a sidearm fastball, or a 70-yard go route, or between three defenders and the sideline.
But, then, there was a lot of spectacular — it was in the consistency, the reliability and, to steal Mahomes’ favorite word, the efficiency.
There are still certain things we don’t know about Mahomes. He hasn’t faced a stiff rush, hasn’t been knocked down a lot, and hasn’t played from behind. The only time he’s been asked to win at the end he threw a terrible pass to Demetrius Harris that should’ve been picked off.
So, we can have enough perspective to agree he is not the greatest football player in the history of the sport.
Not yet, anyway.
I know some of you are angry at the officials, or at least were during parts of the game, and you know my stance that Blaming Officials Is The Ballad Of The Loser, but more than that, I’m just not sure there were any bad calls.
I wasn’t watching Scandrick’s part of the field on the fumble return, but he was beaten bad enough often enough that denying he could’ve been guilty seems like the wrong hill to die on.
Andy Reid was livid on the Steven Nelson pass interference call in the end zone, and I get it. That was a huge moment, and similar plays have not drawn penalties. But similar plays have drawn penalties, too, Nelson clearly grabbing Antonio Brown’s shoulder pad and impeding the route. Sometimes officials let that go, but Nelson did enough that blaming the official is a weak play there.
The Steelers’ best offense was always going to be Ben Roethlisberger scrambling around, buying time against an inconsistent rush and shaky secondary. The Chiefs got lucky twice, early, when Roethlisberger simply missed two throws — one that would’ve been a touchdown to Antonio Brown down the left side, another that would’ve been a third down conversion to tight end Jesse James.
As the game went on, the Chiefs were less fortunate with those situations.
The Steelers’ best defense was always going to be hitting and pressuring Patrick Mahomes. These things are rarely as simple as they look at first, but generally, when the Steelers got to Mahomes they did OK. When it was up to their coverage, or relying on Mahomes making a bad decision, they did un-well.
This has to be the plan for future opponents. Hit him as hard and as often as possible. Because the Steelers didn’t get there nearly enough.
... And about this offense
Because, you guys. This offense is silly. I get that the Steelers may just stink, that’s entirely possible, but there was nothing fluky or unsustainable about anything we just saw.
This was just open receivers being hit in the hands by a quarterback capable of both velocity and touch, with enough athleticism to help the whole thing along when the protection isn’t great.
Spreading the love
I get that Andy Reid can’t make decisions about where the ball goes, but you cannot convince me that he doesn’t try to use play calls to keep guys happy and feeling ownership.
The first two targets went to Travis Kelce, and there was a lot of stuff called for Sammy Watkins — in the pass game and with the end around. A week after thoroughly dominating, Tyreek Hill did not have a target in the first half.
Quiet week for Hill
One more time, I get that the coach can’t make decisions about where the ball goes. This is the kind of thing I want to double check with the tape before feeling any certainty, but it looked like Mahomes was a split second away from getting it to Hill for big gains a few times.
Once, for sure, Hill had broken open deep and Mahomes was cocked and looking that way but the pass rush got there too soon.
- Once, the Chiefs deployed 6-foot-8 and 290-pound edge rusher Tanoh Kpassagnon to line up basically like a nickel back.
You know, be unpredictable, and all that.
This is two games in a row I haven’t noticed much from Justin Houston. There are times this happens live, but then a look at the film shows him being disruptive. That didn’t happen last week. I’ll look again soon, there’s a chance his decline is more rapid than I thought.
Scandrick could use a hug. He was targeted repeatedly, and took at least two brutal penalties. One came when he was called for hold while giving up a catch, but that only hurts the pride. The worst was when he was called for a hold on a play that otherwise would’ve been a fumble returned for a touchdown by Chris Jones.
That would’ve put the Chiefs up 28-0 (assuming the extra point), but instead the Steelers scored a touchdown on the drive and tied it at 21 just before halftime.
Just a brutal, awful, terrible penalty.