Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Mecole Hardman address shaky first quarter performance

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The Kansas City Chiefs’ second win of the preseason didn’t come without some unnerving developments for the first-string offense. Most concerning was the apparent miscommunication between MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and starting receiver Mecole Hardman.

The third-year receiver saw eight targets in the game, with the majority of those looks coming from Mahomes in the first quarter, when there was an obvious effort to get the ball in Hardman’s hands. Whether the bigger problem was Mahomes sailing his passes, or Hardman being off on his routes is unclear, but something was definitely off between the duo that has found plenty of success over the last two years.

It’s probably a stretch to think anyone should be worried about an off night in a preseason game, but with Hardman taking on a significantly more substantial role with the departure of Sammy Watkins in the offseason, the hiccups felt especially foreboding.

His spectacular touchdown catch in the second quarter on an underthrown ball by Chad Henne made up for the first quarter difficulties, but Hardman acknowledged in his press conference that there were miscues between him and Mahomes early.

With Tyreek Hill out of the lineup, Hardman was the team’s number one receiver during first-team reps. Speaking to the media after the game about his heavy use in the first two quarters, Hardman seemed grateful for the opportunity to get some playing time in a starring role.

“We didn’t know Tyreek wasn’t playing until the start of the game,” Hardman said. “It was cool to get a lot of reps out there and get some targets and some catches.”

Asked to evaluate his performance, he seemed happy with what he was able to accomplish but admitted there was something awry between him and Mahomes early.

“It went good,” he said of his showing. “I think I could’ve caught the one in the corner of the end zone, we just had some miscommunication (between) me and (Patrick) Mahomes, but that’s why we’re out there, to get better. I came out of the break wrong, I could’ve been more square to (be able to) jump and get the ball, wherever it was at, so I kind of just got to be in a better position.”

Mahomes was a team player in his comments too, shouldering the blame for the mistakes and saying he could’ve thrown a better ball.

“The first end zone play, I probably just have to throw the ball with a little bit more touch,” he said of the near touchdown connection. “I threw a little hard. I tried to really rip it in there, and it was a little too high for him to get both his hands on it. The second one where he kind of ran across the field, it’s a play you always see us run with Tyreek (Hill), and we used to work on that timing of finding that right spot because he has to speed to beat that guy across the field. I don’t know what the other one was, but I
thought he had a good game. Obviously, there are a few mistakes here and there, but you saw he made the big play on that cover zero play where Chad (Henne) put it up for him, and you want to see those things.”

Moving on from a couple of missed passes, Mahomes emphasized that games and situations like these are normal for the preseason. Everyone is still gearing up, even if training camp has ended.

“We always talk about during training camp, and during these preseason games kind of training guys to kind of be on the same page as we are,” Mahomes said of the process. “That throw on that over route where I kind of threw it out of the back of the end zone at the end of that first drive. It’s kind of showing that that’s the spot that I kind of need him to be at that corner of the end zone. And even though he didn’t catch it, he’ll know that the next time, and I think the best thing with Mecole is that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He really has learned a lot being behind Tyreek and learning how to play that position.”

Both players’ comments would point towards the shaky first quarter being a routine part of the preparation process that the preseason is meant for. Even the best players look average at times, and it is always best to get the wrinkles ironed out while the games don’t count.

The duo of Mahomes and Hardman seems to be committed to getting where they need to be by September. A big season from both will quell any consternation this performance caused among fans.

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The morning after a Chiefs preseason Week 2 victory