Many thought that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would regress in 2019. Instead, the Chiefs signal caller has done well in his second year as a starter.
*EDITOR’S NOTE – Cameron Black, the staff member who wrote this, is blind, but has a great feel for the game, even without his vision. This article was written with the help of a screen reader.*
In April 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs traded up in the NFL draft to select a kid who played his college ball at Texas Tech. During the 2017 season, Patrick Mahomes rode the pine, taking notes from then Chiefs starter Alex Smith, then in 2018 after Smith had been traded, he exploded onto the scene.
From that point on, Mahomes set the league a flame, shattering quarterback records older than he was, throwing for 50 touchdowns, over 5,000 yards to only 12 interceptions. He ran away with the award for league MVP, and it really wasn’t even close, at least not in the final few weeks of the season.
Heading into the 2019 season, many experts predicted a regression, citing several other quarterbacks who had achieved greatness in their rookie season, then gone through what might be called a sophomore slump. This wasn’t crazy to think, however, as replicating the numbers Mahomes had in 2018 was highly unlikely.
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The 2019 season seemed to begin right where the 2018 season left off. In his first five games, Mahomes threw for over 300 yards in each game, with a collective touchdown total of 11 and was the victor in four out of five of those games.
Mahomes looked even better than last year and showed no signs of regressing, but then a slight decline began to occur. Some can point to Mahomes’ bum ankle and dislocated knee cap, causing him to miss two games as a cause for regression, and those people would be right, but even without those injuries (which certainly played a part) a regression was inevitable.
This is in no way a reflection on Mahomes. Simply put, how do you not somewhat regress from a record crushing season of mythical proportions?
Now that the dust has settled on the 2019 NFL regular season, and we stand idle on the Chiefs bye week, Patrick Mahomes’ stat line sits at 26 touchdown passes on the season and he has thrown for 3,653 yards with only five interceptions. Is this a regression? The numbers don’t lie, but is it still pretty dang good? Um… yah. Should Chiefs fans be worried though? Absolutely not.
The fact is, Mahomes’ stat line is considerably less than last year. His passing yards have come down roughly 1,500 yards and his touchdown total has been cut almost in half. The obvious reason to point to is one we have already touched on, and that was the injuries that Mahomes battled in the first half of the season.
Another factor that could point toward Mahomes’ regression must be awarded to the other defenses in the league. In 2018, Mahomes took the defense of any given team by storm, and absolutely embarrassed most of them, throwing things at them that they had never seen before, quite literally.
Now however, those teams have tape on Mahomes and are beginning to figure out ways to not necessarily stop him, but at least slow him down. We must give credit where credit is due, but the other reason for regression that I see, is actually a positive rather than a negative reason.
At the beginning of the season, Patrick Mahomes seemed like he was going to eclipse his own absolutely brilliant rookie season. Meanwhile, Chiefs fans were gritting their teeth and shaking their heads, for the overhauled Chiefs defense, which had been a main focus on improving during the off season, looked almost no different from its 2018 counterpart in the first few games.
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Luckily, we had our unicorn quarterback to count on, and the knowledge that he would pull footballs out of a hat and throw for over 300 yards every single game, and hand out touchdown passes to Chiefs receivers like Halloween candy. When Mahomes returned from injury, he seemed physically the same, but his stat line begin to dip and he posted some of the lowest games in his career as far as passing yards and touchdown passes are concerned.
While Mahomes was experiencing somewhat of a regression, the Chiefs defense that had been the target of well-deserved criticism during the offseason and into the regular season, was surging and playing with an aggression that had not been seen in several years of Chiefs defense. I personally do not think these two events are coincidental, but rather one is a product of the other.
Now, am I saying that Mahomes simply slacked off because the Chiefs finally had a defense? Definitely not. All I am saying is that a case could be made that while Mahomes was certainly not slacking, perhaps he was able to relax a little bit.
Mahomes could experiment more with the running game and didn’t feel the need to make every throw a 50 or 60 yard bomb down field. Instead, he was able to take the safer option on his reads, knowing that his defense – revived with new life and vigor – would do its part and it would not be up to him to carry the outcome of the game on his back and the backs of his offensive team mates.
Since the resurgence of the defense, the Chiefs have gone 6-0 in their last six games of the season. Mahomes himself, however, has only had one game where he threw for over 300 yards, a butt kicking of the Broncos that took place in a snow globe.
In those six games, the team to score the most points against a stout Chiefs defense was the Chargers in week 17, and they only scored 21 points. The Chiefs’ largest point deficit in those last six games, was a 40-9 thumping of the Raiders in Arrowhead Stadium, but even so, Mahomes only threw for 175 yards and one touchdown.
So, if you’re asking “Did Mahomes regress?”, then I will answer your question with another question: How could he not?
When you are coming off of a season that the likes of only Peyton Manning has seen, it’s only natural that a bit of regression would take place, but is this regression a point for concern? In absolutely no way whatsoever.
Not only am I not concerned with Mahomes’ quarterbacking play, I believe that in some ways it actually points to a more balanced Chiefs team. No longer do we have to count on Mahomes to put up video game like numbers. No longer to we have to count on Mahomes to pull off a left-handed pass or a no look pass to win a game.
I’m willing to bet that Mahomes feels a certain amount of relief, knowing that these heroic feet’s are no longer expected of him or even necessary. It is all well and good to have a nation wide phenomenon to be the quarterback of your team, but football is a team sport.
I would rather have a well-balanced team with a powerful offense, an aggressive defense, and a great quarterback than have a team where you always must assume that the quarterback will have to do something magical to win the game.
Furthermore, I would rather have a Patrick Mahomes who has regressed, over any other quarterback in the NFL.