In the aftermath of the worst outing of his career, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes built his week around self-reflection. A study of the film underscored what he already knew that dreadful afternoon Sunday in Tennessee — he needed to play better moving forward, or at least play differently moving forward.
But first, in a meeting with teammates at the Chiefs practice facility this week, he began with a look backward.
The Chiefs are 3-4, a team with much more than one impediment to returning to a Super Bowl contender. But this week, Mahomes stood in front of his teammates and turned the blame in just one direction for the latest mess in Tennessee.
“To see our main leader take responsibility and not point the finger, it sets a precedent for us,” defensive end Alex Okafor said. “And we know we need to put our head down and work.”
In the rare arc of his career, Mahomes hasn’t played many stinkers. A trip to Nashville is an exception. He turned the ball over twice and fumbled another football in the 27-3 blowout loss.
His 62.3 quarterback rating is lower than any other regular season game he’s played.
“You can just watch the tape and know that I need to play better in order to have success,” Mahomes said. “There were plays (in which) guys were open. There were plays we had matches downfield that I didn’t hit that I usually would give those guys opportunities to make plays.
“I said stuff to (teammates), saying that I gotta be better. But at the same time, they have that mindset that they’re going to try to build me up. It’s a thing where you’re not going to play your best game every single game —you’re going to have to rely on those other guys to step up and make plays for you.”
Mahomes is harsh on himself, a quality that coach Andy Reid credits when speaking of his brilliance. He’s able to acknowledge his faults, infrequent as they might appear.
When identifying how the Chiefs can get out of this funk, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t place Mahomes atop the list of solutions, not problems. Even this season, he’s still third in the NFL with 18 touchdowns and sixth in QBR.
But there are fundamental items he’s bypassed in games — things that seem to pop up every seasons. Except in the past, the Chiefs have so often found a way to win anyway.
They aren’t now. Therefore, the fundamental missteps are illuminated.
Mahomes often talks about his footwork, and it’s a broader description of the way he navigates in the pocket. He’d like to find ways to stay within it more often — whether that means a shorter dropback or stepping up to avoid pressure rather than leaving the pocket altogether and looking for the hero play.
“Throughout my career, it seems like every single year there’s a game or two where I start doing too much,” Mahomes said. “That has nothing to do with either side of the ball — I just start doing too much, trying to make a play happen, trying to make a big play happen and spark the offense. Whereas I can just lean on other guys to make stuff happen. We have a lot of playmakers in this offense. We got guys up front that can really be solid up front and solidify that offense and defensive line.
“So, for me, it’s about staying within that, getting the ball out of my hand, getting stuff rolling, getting the momentum in our favor, and then if that big play happens, I’ll let it happen. Don’t just try to go out there and make it happen.”