It was a Patrick Mahomes masterclass as the Kansas City Chiefs asserted their dominance on the NFL with a comfortable 34-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.
In a battle between the 2019 NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP, Mahomes terrorized a Ravens defense that had allowed the fewest yards, points, and total touchdowns heading into the game whilst Lamar Jackson struggled to move the Ravens offense through the air or on the ground.
Mahomes accounted for 385 passing yards and five total touchdowns as he became the fastest player in the NFL to reach 10,000 passing yards, shaving two games off the previous record held by Kurt Warner.
The record is a testament to the arm strength he has shown since his college days at Texas Tech but there is so much more to Mahomes’ game. His athletic upside is as much a part of his game, and it’s contribution to the Chiefs offense as a whole can not be understated.
Mahomes makes most of his athletic ability on Monday Night Football
When you think about athleticism at the quarterback position, it is Mahomes’ Monday Night Football adversary that immediately springs to mind. Jackson is the modern-day NFL poster boy for a quarterback who uses his speed and elusiveness to provide a true dual threat.
We can measure athleticism using Relative Athletic Scores (RAS), a metric that grades players on a simple 1-10 scale to help compare athletic attributes at a specific position.
Although Jackson didn’t test at the NFL Combine and as such doesn’t have a RAS, he is the latest in a line of athletic quarterbacks in the NFL to use these athletic attributes to obvious effect.
Cam Newton is an absolute freak of an athlete, with a RAS of 10.0. Like Jackson, Marcus Mariota (9.94 RAS), Robert Griffin III (9.88 RAS), and Colin Kaepernick (9.85 RAS), all used their speed and elusiveness to provide a threat on the ground.
Mahomes is different
His overall athletic profile isn’t as elite as those aforementioned quarterbacks, with a RAS of 8.22. His 4.8 seconds 40-yard dash speed is good enough at the position, but he isn’t winning any foot races against those guys.
Where Mahomes excelled from a testing perspective was in the drills that ascertain how agile a player is. A 4.08 seconds short shuttle earned a score of 9.65 and a 6.88 seconds three-cone drill received an 8.98 score. Combined, they gave Mahomes an elite agility grade.
This agility is evident every time Mahomes steps on the field, and Monday night was no different. For all we marvel at his strong arm, for as much as we are entertained by his ability to produce the seemingly impossible, it is his ability to consistently use his agility to majestically manipulate the pocket or to extend plays, that helps separate Mahomes from almost every other quarterback in the NFL.
Mahomes agility helps create game-defining moments
Mahomes gave us multiple examples of this on Monday Night Football. They came early, and they came often, against a defense that is one of the best in the NFL, but had zero answers for containing the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
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After picking up 33 yards midway through the first quarter on a pass to Tyreek Hill, Mahomes had the Chiefs at the Baltimore three-yard line. Facing second and goal after an incomplete pass to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes used his agility and short-area speed – Mahomes 1.65 10 yards split received a RAS of 7.5, his best speed element – to run right and follow a block from Edwards-Helaire into the end zone.
It was a lead that the Chiefs would never surrender in the game
Time after time Mahomes used his agility to evade pressure whether it was in the pocket to buy time to complete a pass or to escape the pocket and pick up a gain on the ground. For all Jackson’s rushing ability on designed quarterback runs and zone reads, Mahomes has a higher yards per carry career average, 6.2 YPC versus 5.3 YPC for Jackson.
His agility within the pocket was perfectly demonstrated by a second-quarter play that extended a Chiefs drive when it appeared Baltimore would halt the rampant Kansas City offense.
On third and five at the Baltimore 39 yard line, the Ravens managed to pressure Mahomes from his right. The Chiefs quarterback managed to avoid the pressure, pump fake, then used his agility to change direction in a split second. Heading left, Mahomes climbed up in the pocket then picked out Mecole Hardman for an 18 yard gain as he approached the line of scrimmage.
Three plays later, the Chiefs had a 20-10 lead with Mahomes finding Tyreek Hill with a sublime pass in the end zone.
Agility. Arm talent. Anticipation.
Mahomes showed it all on Monday Night Football. Not many quarterbacks can drop back 12 yards and unleash a bomb downfield like the pass that found Hardman for the touchdown that made the score 27-10.
By halftime, he had a stat line that most quarterbacks would be happy with through 60 minutes of football.
260 passing yards from a 70.4% completion percentage with a three-touchdown to zero interception ratio, with an additional 14 yards on three rushes (4.7 yards per carry) and a rushing touchdown.
Although the onslaught abated in the second half, Mahomes continued to use his toolbox of ability to confound the Ravens defense. Multiple mistakes in the Baltimore secondary allowed some of the chunk plays, but there are very few answers for the question of how to contain this Chiefs offense when Mahomes is at his very best.
And he was at his very best on Monday night.