Examining QB Patrick Mahomes’ turnovers, why Chiefs aren’t panicking heading into Washington

Chiefs Washington Preview Football
Posted at 3:27 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-17 12:02:42-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs are tied with Jacksonville for the most turnovers committed through the first five weeks of the 2021 season with 11.

It’s an unfamiliar spot for the Chiefs’ offense — which tied for the fourth-fewest turnovers committed in 2020 (16), the third-fewest in 2019 (15) and seventh-fewest (18) in 2018.

It’s a problem compounded by the fact that Kansas City’s defense hasn’t forced a turnover in more than 15 quarters.

However, quarterback Patrick Mahomes took responsibility for the offense’s turnover struggles.

He’s already thrown six interceptions, which is tied for the third-most in NFL — only better than rookies Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence. It also matches his season total in 15 games from last year and is one more than he threw in 14 games in 2019, years when he led the Chiefs to consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy stressed the need for patience as opposing defenses continue to lay back, daring the Chiefs to run the football and forcing Mahomes to continually chuck the ball down to receivers underneath the pass coverage.

“Everybody does not have to be the hero each and every week and each and every play,” Bieniemy said.

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Instead, he wants Kansas City’s high-powered offense — which leads the NFL in points per drive at a ridiculous 3.22, the highest rate since Pro Football Reference started tracking the stat in 1998 — to focus on the details of each play, nothing more and nothing less.

“We’re being humbled, and we’re being humbled in a lot of different ways,” Bieniemy said. “But if we utilize it the right way, we can grow because of it.”

When Mahomes doesn’t commit any turnovers, the Chiefs are 22-4 during the regular season and 5-1 in the playoffs — the lone exception in the postseason coming in overtime against New England in the 2018 AFC Championship Game.

Kansas City is 16-2 when Mahomes commits only one turnover, including a one-point loss Sept. 19 at Baltimore and a lopsided win Oct. 3 at Philadelphia this season.

Overall, when Mahomes commits one turnover or fewer, the Chiefs are 43-7, including the postseason, for a robust .860 win percentage.

When Mahomes commits more than one turnover in a game, the Chiefs are 3-6 — including a 2-5 record during the regular season and a split in two Super Bowl appearances.

In other words, he doesn’t have a track record for recklessly turning over the football, so wholesale changes aren’t required.

“I think you just tinker with things here and there,” said Mahomes, who leads the NFL with 16 touchdown passes and in QBR despite the rash of interceptions. “You don’t want to lose yourself. You don’t want to lose the things that you’ve done so well for so long.”

He stressed footwork in the pocket, trust in the pass protection, and continuing to work with receivers to ensure they're on the same page against the varied defensive coverage among the keys to fixing the turnover problem.

“It’s a delicate course that you take,” Bieniemy said. “Pat is very aware of the things he’s doing and not doing. He has a great self-awareness of who he is. ... More than anything, when we talk about trying to be the hero — you’ve got to understand, Pat’s a competitive football player. He wants to rip your soul out, and that’s what makes him special.”

Mahomes went 20 consecutive regular-season games — beginning with the game in which he injured his knee Oct. 17, 2019, in Denver until the streak ended Dec. 13, 2020, at Miami — without committing more than one turnover in a game.

Kansas City went 18-2 during that span.

Typically, even when he’s struggled with turnovers, Kansas City’s offense has thrived.

Aside from an easy win against Jacksonville in 2018 and last season’s Super Bowl, Mahomes has thrown for multiple touchdowns in each of his multi-turnover games and he’s averaged nearly 322 passing yards.

The Chiefs have averaged 29.1 points in games in which Mahomes has committed at least two turnovers — down slightly from a scoring average of 31.5 points in games with fewer than two turnovers — but recently the turnovers have been more numerous and more costly than usual.

Kansas City scored nine points in a Super Bowl LV loss to Tampa Bay in which Mahomes threw two interceptions and has averaged 22 points in losses to the Chargers and Bills. The Chiefs finished minus-4 in turnover margin both games with Mahomes committing a total of five turnovers.

The flip side is that Kansas City’s defense allowed an average of 32 points in the nine games Mahomes has committed multiple turnovers, which has amplified how little margin for error the offense has given the defense’s struggles.

“Everybody’s got to play better and we’ve got to coach better,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

That includes Mahomes, but Kansas City trusts his resume over.

“The kid — he is who he is, and we want Pat to be Pat,” Bieniemy said.

Patrick Mahomes’ career multi-turnover games
Oct. 7, 2018
Result: W, 30-14 vs. Jacksonville
Mahomes’ stats: 22/38 for 313 yards with 0 TD and 2 INT

Oct. 14, 2018
Result: L, 43-40 at New England
Mahomes’ stats: 23/36 for 352 yards with 4 TD and 2 INT

Nov. 19, 2018
Result: L, 54-51 at Los Angeles Rams
Mahomes’ stats: 33/46 for 478 yards with 6 TD and 3 INT (plus 2 lost fumbles)

Oct. 13, 2019
Result: L, 31-24 vs. Houston
Mahomes’ stats: 19/35 for 273 yards with 3 TD and 1 INT (plus 1 lost fumble)

Feb. 2, 2020
Result: W, 31-20 vs. San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV
Mahomes’ stats: 26/42 for 286 yards with 2 TD and 2 INT

Dec. 13, 2020
Result: W, 33-27 at Miami
Mahomes’ stats: 24/34 for 393 yards with 2 TD and 3 INT

Feb. 7, 2021
Result: L, 31-9 vs. Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV
Mahomes’ stats: 26/49 for 270 yards with 0 TD and 2 INT

Sept. 26, 2021
Result: L, 30-24 vs. LA Chargers
Mahomes’ stats: 27/44 for 260 yards with 3 TD and 2 INT

Oct. 10, 2021
Result: L, 38-20 vs. Buffalo
Mahomes’ stats: 33/54 for 272 yards with 2 TD and 2 INT (plus 1 lost fumble)

Here’s your tale of the tape for Sunday’s game:

Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at Washington Football Team (2-3)
Series record (last meeting): Chiefs lead 9-1 (Oct. 2. 2017 — Chiefs, 29-20)
When (TV/radio): 12 p.m. (CBS/WDAF-106.5 FM)
TV commentators: Ian Eagles, Charles Davis and Evan Washburn
Spanish-language radio: KPRS-103.3 HD2

Scoring avg.30.8 (5)24.6 (12)
Scoring %52.2 (1)43.4 (10)
Points/drive3.22 (1)2.28 (10)
Total offense420.4 (4)348.2 (20)
Yards per play6.4 (5)5.7 (15)
Passing yards/game292.2 (5)239.4 (21)
Completion %69.2 (7)63.6 (25)
QB rating106.1 (7)89.5 (25)
Passing yards/attempt7.6 (14)7.4 (22)
TD-Interception ratio16-6 (13t)8-5 (23)
Rushing yards/game128.2 (7)108.8 (16)
Rushing yards/carry5.1 (5)4.0 (19)
Rushing TD3 (21t)5 (11t)
Third-down %58.8 (1)30.5 (31)
Red-zone TD %70 (6)62.5 (16)
Turnover ratio-7 (31)-3 (25t)
Scoring avg.32.6 (32)31.0 (31)
Scoring %54.2 (32)52.7 (31)
Points/drive3.29 (32)2.89 (31)
Total defense437.4 (31)407.8 (27)
Yards allowed per play7.1 (32)5.9 (20)
Passing yards/game296.4 (28)293.4 (27)
Completion %67.5 (19)64.6 (10)
QB rating109.6 (29)107.8 (25)
Passing yards/attempt9.3 (30)7.7 (19)
TD-Interception ratio10-3 (25t)14-2 (31)
Rushing yards/game141.0 (29)114.4 (18)
Rushing yards/carry5.2 (30)4.1 (12)
Rushing TD9 (30t)4 (10t)
Third-down %44.2 (24)56.2 (31)
Red-zone TD %77.3 (28)57.1 (13)