DENVER — Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs have seen Patrick Mahomes go with a left-handed pass … in practice.
But in a game? With Von Miller about to sack him, trailing by three points late, 76,656 fans screaming and millions watching on ESPN?
“We’ve seen it in practice,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Not under those conditions before.”
Mahomes wasn’t as dominant as he was in his first three games. It really doesn’t matter because all we’re going to remember from Monday night is Mahomes sprinting to his left and throwing a short first-down pass with his left hand to Tyreek Hill. That unbelievable play kept a game-winning drive going, and the Chiefs moved to 4-0 with a 27-23 victory.
“When it came out of his hand, I went, ‘Oh wow,'” fullback Anthony Sherman said. “At this point I think we should just trust him.”
Mahomes has started just five games in his NFL career, but it seems like he has many years worth of highlights. We can add a fantastic fourth-quarter comeback on Monday night in Denver to the list, and of course, the left-handed pass.
“Nobody in history has ever seen that,” Chiefs safety Eric Murray said. “C’mon now. Nobody.”
Patrick Mahomes on lefty pass: ‘I knew we needed the first down’
The Broncos blitzed Mahomes a lot on Monday night. After seeing him throw for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions through three games, Denver emptied its playbook with all the exotic blitzes it could come up with. On third-and-5, leading 23-20 with 3:14 left, Denver dialed up an overload blitz to Mahomes’ right.
It worked because Mahomes had to sprint left. He had no options. And just before Miller tripped him up, Mahomes switched hands and pushed the ball out to Hill for a 6-yard gain. It’s not like Mahomes was planning to switch hands at any point as he was running for his life. It just happened.
“I didn’t think [about] it at all,” Mahomes said. “I was just scrambling left, I felt Von on my back and I knew I couldn’t throw it with my right hand. I knew we needed the first down and so I kind of just like shot-putted it to Tyreek.”
Mahomes has proven already that he’s precocious as a pocket passer. He was supposed to be raw coming out of Texas Tech, but after sitting and learning most of last season he plays like a longtime veteran. So don’t look at the highlight-reel plays or the improvisation and miscast him. He’s the best quarterback in the NFL through four games this season because he’s already a pocket technician with the supreme physical talent to execute Reid’s offense.
But he also has that rare, fun ability to make something out of nothing, even if it’s instinctually going to his left hand when a play needed to be made.
“It was a cool deal,” Mahomes said.
Mahomes had other amazing plays
Mahomes had just 65 passing yards at halftime. The Broncos threw everything at him and it worked, for a while at least.
Mahomes isn’t going to break a long run very often — “I’m not fast, and I know my strength is not running the ball,” Mahomes said afterward — but he’s athletic enough to avoid the rush and keep plays alive. The Broncos have a good pass rush, sent extra rushers at Mahomes often, and they still sacked him just once.
“He made us cover for a long time. I had to go inside and get an IV,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “We couldn’t sack this man. He’s a hell of a player, he’s a hell of a quarterback.”
Many times Mahomes had to get creative because the rush was coming. Once he broke outside for an 8-yard touchdown run. On a third-quarter play he was running left, twisted his body and remarkably threw a fastball back to the middle of the field to Travis Kelce for 23 yards.
“No, [the coaches] never encourage that,” Mahomes said with a grin. “At the same time, as long as you complete it and get the first down, they’re fine with that.”
There might not be five other people alive who could have made that throw. Maybe there aren’t any others.
“Most guys are told not to do that,” Sherman said. “Then he goes out there and executes it and it’s like, ‘Uhhh, OK, I guess you can do that.'”
Mahomes said: “You never want to throw across your body as a quarterback, especially in this league because guys can make plays on the defensive side of the ball. It kind of just naturally [happened].”
Mahomes’ fourth-quarter comeback was a big test
Mahomes’ first time on a prime-time stage wasn’t isolated highlights. The Chiefs were trailing 23-13 with less than seven minutes to go. Mahomes was in a similar spot last season in a meaningless Week 17 game at Denver and led a game-winning drive. With the Broncos about to win on Monday night and tie the Chiefs for first place, this game was far from meaningless. It didn’t bother Mahomes.
“He didn’t have any ups and downs,” Sherman said. “He just stayed the same guy.”
There will be plenty of tests as we watch Mahomes’ career develop, and he passed this one. He led two scoring drives, the final one culminating with a Kareem Hunt 4-yard touchdown with 1:39 left to put the Chiefs ahead for good.
There isn’t much Mahomes hasn’t shown already this season, even just four games in. Even his teammates, who see him every day in practice, are watching the show like everyone else.
“Oh, everything he does is amazing,” Sherman said.
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