KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes turned 24 this week, but he’s been blowing out the NFL for more than a year now.
The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has a strong and accurate arm and isn’t shy about going down the field to his cadre of big-play receivers. The result? A Chiefs offense that through two games is piling up chunk plays through the air — 12 of 25 yards or more. The next-closest team has eight.
“Anything we want to do,” tight end Travis Kelce said during training camp when asked what having all these fast players and a quarterback like Mahomes would allow the Chiefs to do. “You name it. … We’ve got guys that can absolutely fly all over the field. Speed kills in this game. If you’ve got it, you’re in the advantage.
“We’re taking it up a level [from] years past. You can just tell from the coaches’ excitement to their attention to detail to how guys are reacting to their coaching. This team is going to be awesome. We’re going to have a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball.”
The first two games are proving Kelce to be right. Mahomes last season became only the second player to throw 50 touchdown passes and for more than 5,000 yards. And this season — granted, it’s just two games — he is on pace for 56 touchdowns and more than 6,500 yards.
This is without Tyreek Hill, arguably their best receiver. Hill left the season opener in the first quarter with an injury to his sternum and collarbone, but the Chiefs are expecting him back later in the year.
Is it reasonable to think Mahomes can get to 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns? The NFL records of 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns were set by Denver’s Peyton Manning in 2013. That was the only other time a player reached 5,000 and 50. Mahomes would need to average 370 yards and 3.79 TDs over the final 14 games to reach 6,000 and 60.
But he could get there with games like the one he had Sunday in Oakland, throwing for 278 yards and four touchdowns — in the second quarter. He finished with 443 yards overall.
His touch on the deep ball is one reason he’s a threat to break records. Against the Raiders, he had his second career game with four touchdown passes of 15 yards or more. Only three other quarterbacks have managed that feat in the past five seasons.
Mahomes finished the second quarter with a magnificent flurry. His last five attempts (attempts, not completions) were for 42 yards and a touchdown to Mecole Hardman, 32 yards to Damien Williams, 43 yards to Demarcus Robinson, 27 yards and a touchdown to Kelce and 39 yards and a touchdown to Robinson. Four of the five throws went at least 25 yards in the air.
“You look at the numbers and he pushes it downfield more than anybody else in the NFL,” said Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who brings his team to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). “You don’t see very many guys who are able to do it as successfully as he does. It sure looks like he likes it. They’re very good at it.
“You just can’t get beat deep. You’ve got to have your coverage organized in a way to handle all the different routes. It’s not just heaving it deep. They have a lot of concepts that go with it and they attack your coverages certain ways. You’ve got to work really hard to handle those things.”
The Raiders took the opposite approach last week. They crowded receivers at the line of scrimmage and dared Mahomes to beat them deep.
“I figured [the Raiders] would challenge the receivers without Tyreek there and see what they could do,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “As it went on, they got a little more into their shell [coverage]. … They got more into their two-deep look as the game went on.”
Mahomes usually doesn’t need an invitation to throw the deep ball. The Chiefs may never have had a quarterback so willing to look for the big pass play.
“He is very, very comfortable doing that, not that he’s not with the short and intermediate game,” Reid said. “He likes doing that, too. He trusts his guys. He trusts his receivers. He trusts the [offensive] line, which is always good. Then he’s got a good feel for the touch throws and the ones that he needs to put a little more mustard on.”
The ability of the Chiefs’ receivers to run after the catch is another factor. The Chiefs have 380 yards after the catch this season, which leads the NFL by a wide margin.
On the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the season, Sammy Watkins took a short pass, made a defender miss and then outran several others to the end zone. Sixty-one of the 68 yards were after the catch.
“We’ve got guys that can roll, guys that really stretch the field,” Mahomes said. “It really makes my job a lot easier. We’re able to stretch the field vertically and horizontally. You can either take the deep pass and throw it like that or throw it out in the flat, and these guys can all take it 70 yards to the house.
“Defenses have to really pick and choose which matchups they want to take. … We look at the matchups and trust that the receivers are going to win.”