Considering Patrick Mahomes’ freakish arm, uncanny poise and infinite ingenuity, he’s as exasperating to Chiefs opponents as he is exhilarating for Chiefs fans. In about any given game, you might see a defender pound the ground in frustration or throw both hands to their helmet in disbelief after another of Mahomes’ absurd connections.
That may not have been tangibly evident on a first-half play that was overshadowed by, you know, Mahomes’ late makeshift 48-yard pass to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-9 with the game on the line against Baltimore on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
But Mahomes’ 17-yard pass to Demarcus Robinson late in the first half, coach Andy Reid figures, was one of those that had to challenge the fundamental belief system of anyone on the best defense in the NFL.
That’s because it was a no-look pass, just another reason we can’t look away from the budding NFL MVP with the Chiefs standing 11-2 after their 27-24 overtime win over the Ravens and entering their home showdown Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
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“I would have liked to have interviewed that (defender) right at that point,” Reid said, smiling. “That’s a tough bind. How are you going to explain that to your coach when (Mahomes is) looking over here but he threw it over here? He’s going to think you’re crazy.”
Part of this bewildering magic is making it look easy, or at least routine, and that’s just what Mahomes has been doing as he become the sensation of the league and has made legitimate Super Bowl contenders of a franchise that hasn’t been to one since 1970.
The no-look concept might be a relatively limited part of his repertoire, something he’s only pulled off a few times this year. But it makes for a fine symbol of the myriad ways a right-handed quarterback who completed a pass left-handed earlier this season can beat anyone — often by defying gravity and logic.
“I’ve worked real hard with him on that,” Reid said. “Built that right into the offense.”
Reid was joking, but it actually reflects a certain vision of his in more ways than one: He has emboldened Mahomes to do all these sorts of things because of gifts that include a remarkable sense of what’s immediately around him, where everyone else on the field is or is heading, trust between Reid and Mahomes and between Mahomes and his receivers and, well, vision itself.
To make his point, Reid suggested Mahomes’ eyesight was reminiscent to that of baseball great Ted Williams, whom Reid recalled was said to be able to read the stitches on a pitched baseball coming his way. In the same breath, he made a reference to some of the sorts of things he saw Brett Favre do for Green Bay when Reid coached him there.
Just the same …
Favre “did some amazing things that way,” Reid said, “but not quite like that.”
The roots of all this, and some other unconventional elements of Mahomes’ game, are in baseball, the game his father, Pat, played professionally for 11 seasons with six major-league teams. The quarterback played it well enough that he would have been a top prospect if he stayed with it instead of becoming a transformative force for the Chiefs.
Mahomes didn’t get this specific on Monday, but in a 2016 interview for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine he said the baseline of his no-look passes in spring practice at Texas Tech had been from “how I could sling the ball across the diamond. I played shortstop my whole life. I never had my feet under me. I was always making throws across my body.”
A little touch from another game was a factor, too, he added then: “I always have played a lot of basketball and thrown a lot of no-look passes, and this is me doing all the stuff I’ve grown up doing.”
Back at Tech, though, Mahomes recalled that it was something he only did in practice after “messing around with it” with backup quarterback Nic Shimonek.
“It was almost like who could one-up each other,” Mahomes said Monday. “And it just kind of carried on from then, and I realized it was actually a tool I could use in games.”
Best he can remember, the first time he ever employed it in a game was his NFL debut at Denver last season.
Now, it’s a sliver of who he is on the field, part of the endless complications he poses for opponents.
“It’s something that safeties (and other defenders) aren’t used to,” he said, adding that he’d spoken with injured Chiefs safety Eric Berry about it. “You learn from every experience that you have on this field, and you try to give every different look you can for teams (like Baltimore) with good defenses like that.”
Asked to what degree the passes are explicitly no-look and to what degree they reflect keen peripheral vision, Mahomes didn’t quite answer.
Perhaps that was in the spirit of what he said at New England earlier this season, when he was asked if his touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill actually had been intended for Hill or Kareem Hunt nearby: “A magician never reveals his tricks,” he said with a smile then.
In this instance, he said, simply, “I mean, it’s pretty much a no-look pass.” However he does it, it speaks to both his anticipation of where his receivers will go as he extends plays and his sheer sense of command over the game.
“I was looking and I saw (Robinson) about to kind of come open, and I needed to move the safety over to the right,” said Mahomes, who looked right as he threw left. “I kind of just trusted that (Robinson) was going to be there.”
And so he was, making for yet another stirring moment for the Chiefs and their fans … and yet another demoralizing statement for anyone who has to play them.