KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It only took three seasons for Kansas City Chiefs fans to become accustomed to seeing Patrick Mahomes don a figurative cape and play a superhuman level on Sundays.
During his first three seasons as a starter, the Chiefs went 37-8 when he played, hosted the AFC Championship Game each season and snapped a 50-year championship drought.
But the 2021 season has been a struggle. Advanced metrics from Pro Football Reference show Mahomes has been around a league-average quarterback this year with career lows for intended air yards per pass attempt, completed air yards per pass attempt and yards after the catch per completion.
Some of it has to do with how teams are playing against Kansas City, relying on zone coverages and keeping two safeties to limit big-play opportunities.
But Mahomes also hasn’t connected on those deep chances when they have been available, though it won’t deter Chiefs coach Andy Reid from calling them.
“He knows there are a handful of plays in the game plan,” Reid said. “If I call them, then he’s got the freedom to shoot it if he gets guys in a one-on-one type situation there.”
During Kansas City’s five wins, Mahomes has completed 18 of 37 passes that were thrown 15 yards or more downfield with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
He’s 9 of 28 with one touchdown and three interceptions on passes of 15 yards or more in the Chiefs’ four losses.
Alarmingly, during the last two games — wins over the New York Giants and Green Bay — Mahomes is only 5 of 17 on passes of 15-plus yards, which may help explain why the offense has sputtered and averaged fewer than 17 points in those wins.
“Obviously, it’s been bad these last few weeks, hasn’t been the way that you’re accustomed to us being, but it’s no different than what we were doing at the beginning of the year when we were having success,” Mahomes said. “If I had to bet on it, I’d bet we’d kind of figure it out here soon, and hopefully this is the first week of taking that step.”
This would be a good week for the offense to get back on track.
Kansas City (5-4) is off to a relatively slow start to the season, but a win at the Las Vegas Raiders (5-3) provides a chance to climb from the AFC West cellar and put themselves squarely back in the playoff conversation.
“It just comes down to execution,” Mahomes said. “I keep saying it over and over again, but when you don’t execute in this league, you don’t score points. You’ve seen that these last few weeks, and you saw in the weeks when we were executing, we were scoring points. I think that’s just on us to go out there and execute at a higher level, and that starts with me.”
Regardless, Reid plans to continue giving Mahomes chances, like the deep shot to Mecole Hardman Jr.in a 13-7 win against the Packers last week. Many complained that tight end Travis Kelce was wide open 15 yards downfield, but the pass had a chance if Hardman didn’t prematurely give up on the route and slow down.
People have picked this play apart because Kelce is open for the first underneath. The flats isn’t really open because once Mahomes turns the backer will crash. Hardman slows down at the 25. Mahomes throws it based on full speed calculation and he struggles on the tracking. pic.twitter.com/UeR6Maaacu— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) November 11, 2021
“Mecole had a pretty good opportunity to go grab it, so he felt like that was a viable throw,” Reid said. “So, I’m OK with that. Listen, if you complete it, that’s great, but you’ve got to try or you’re never going to complete them. ... You’re never going to get a shot unless you take a shot, so that’s how we do.”
Here’s the tale of the tape as Mahomes and company aim for a third straight win in their penultimate game before the bye week:
Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
Series record (last meeting): Chiefs lead 66-53-2 (Chiefs, W 35-31)
When (TV/radio): 7:20 p.m. (KSHB 41/WDAF-106.5 FM)
TV commentators: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Spanish-language radio: KPRS-103.3 HD2