NFL Admits Patrick Mahomes and wife Brittany Are wrong on This

NFL Admits Patrick Mahomes and wife Brittany Are wrong on This


In 2021, the NFL thought that it might have a bead on — and a couple of blueprints for — Patrick Mahomes. The drumbeat went around that if you combined two-deep coverage with zone-flooding stuff in which there were three or fewer pass-rushers, you could at least minimize the damage done by the NFL’s best quarterback.


NFL Admits Patrick Mahomes and wife Brittany Are wrong on This

It worked at first. Against two-deep coverage (Cover-2, 2-Man, Cover-4, Cover-6) in the 2021 season, Mahomes completed 215 of 332 passes for 2,532 yards, 1,401 air yards, nine touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a passer rating of 85.6. Mahomes also took a league-high 20 sacks on a league-high 389 dropbacks against two-high coverage.

This continued for a while in the 2022 season. In the first nine weeks, Mahomes completed 71 of 106 passes against two-deep stuff for 906 yards, 523 air yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions, and a passer rating of 87.2.

And then? Everything flipped in Mahomes’ favor.

From Week 10 through the Super Bowl, he completed 94 of 124 passes against split safeties for 1,249 yards, 752 air yards, six touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 120.0.

The same was true for instances in which defenses rushed three or fewer and dropped eight or more. Mahomes completed 49 of 89 passes in the 2021 season against three or fewer rushers for 526 yards, 293 air yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 69.8. And Mahomes took a league-high eight sacks against three or fewer rushers on a league-high 100 dropbacks.

As was the case with two-deep coverage, this all worked against Mahomes in the first half of the 2022 season. He completed 21 of 38 passes against three or fewer rushers for 330 yards, 146 air yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 60.2.

And then, Mahomes found ways to beat that blueprint, as well.

Week 10 through the Super Bowl? 21 completions in 29 attempts for 271 yards, 135 air yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 135.8.

Mahomes started to beat the two-deep stuff when Andy Reid and his staff threw all kinds of explosive concepts at it. The Chiefs countered by attacking things you’re ostensibly not supposed to attack.

Mahomes was responsible for 75 explosive plays last season, and 16 came as a passer against any kind of two-deep coverage. This included a 22-yard pass to Travis Keice in Super Bowl LVII in which the Chiefs countered the Philadelphia Eagles’ Cover 4 with a backside vertical route from receiver Marques Valdes-Scantling that took safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps off the top, and allowed Kelce to roam unfettered through the middle of that Philly defense. Combine that with crossing pre-snap motion from receiver Kadarius Toney that put the Eagles’ linebackers in conflict, and you have one spicy meatball against any type of coverage.

Here is where Reid uses that vertical threat to clear everything out — a concept he’s used as long as he’s been a head coach.

Regarding Mahomes’ improvement against three or fewer rushers, there were some similar concepts at play. Instead of worrying about defenses flooding the zone against short and intermediate routes, the Chiefs stretched things to (and past) their logical limits. At times, the stretches were horizontal instead of vertical.

Mahomes had eight explosive plays against three or fewer rushers last season, and this 28-yard pass to running back Jerick McKinnon in Week 17 against the Broncos’ Cover-3 was particularly interesting. McKinnon was aligned wide right to the boundary side of the field, and four receivers to his left — Skyy Moore, Travis Kelce, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and JuJu Smith-Schuster — all bent their routes away from McKinnon, giving McKinnon an easier opening to Mahomes’ front side. When Mahomes was ready to throw the ball from one of his preposterous scramble-drill, no-look passes, McKinnon had found a nice patch of green grass in that eight-man zone coverage.

The NFL will undoubtedly come into the 2023 season with a new set of ideas so at least slow Patrick Mahomes down. But if history is an indicator, the NFL had better have backup plans for their backup plans against him.


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