Chiefs vs. Broncos: Patrick Mahomes gets his chance to shine

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes /

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will take real snaps in a real game against a tough divisional opponent, the Denver Broncos.

In case you’ve been staying away from all forms of social media this week, Chiefs Kingdom is absolutely ecstatic to finally see rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes in a real game. Andy Reid announced Mahomes as the Kansas City Chiefs starter in Week 17 against the Denver Broncos, providing us a preview to our quarterback of the future and potential starter at the beginning of next season. Throughout this article I’ll be talking about the details of Mahomes’s first start and what we can expect.

The most important thing this week is watching how Mahomes performs, and don’t worry, since I think he’s going to do just fine. After that it’s playoff time, and our current quarterback Alex Smith is playing better than he ever has before. Could this finally be the year we make some real noise in the playoffs? I can’t wait to find out. But first, it’s time to talk Mahomes.

Lets get to it with a breakdown of this week’s game.

The current state of the ‘No Fly Zone’

While this Broncos team may be a shell of its former self that won the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, they still boast one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. rank 6th and 4th respectively in coverage by coverage snaps per reception allowed.

If you take a step back and look at the defense as a whole though, it really doesn’t look too bad until you look at their points per game. In all other aspects they rank 3rd in rush defense, 4th against the pass, and 2nd overall in total yards, but are giving up nearly 24 points per game, 22nd in the league.

Their biggest struggles have come in the red zone where they have allowed over 60% of opponent redzone trips turn into touchdowns—18 of their 36 total allowed offensive touchdowns have been on passes inside the red zone. They’ve also had trouble forcing turnovers in the passing game. They’ve intercepted teams just 9 times all season which ranks 26th in the NFL.

While Talib and Harris have done their best to keep the Broncos in each game by slowing down opponents, it hasn’t been enough. However, you can’t entirely blame it on the defense. The offense is 25th in 3-and-outs per drive, and are just 16th in time of possession per drive. The offense’s inefficiency has made things more difficult on the defensive side of the ball.

SEATTLE, WA – AUGUST 25: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
SEATTLE, WA – AUGUST 25: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes /

Mahomes vs. the No Fly Zone

There isn’t a lot to go off of to predict how well Mahomes will play against this defense, but lets see what we can do. The best defense Mahomes faced last season in college was West Virginia who ranked 16th in DFEI and 37th in def S&P+ by Football Outsiders.

Against the West Virginia defense Mahomes had a mostly average and fairly unspectacular day completing 63.6% of his passes for 305 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. It was just the 2nd time all season that Mahomes passed for just 1 touchdown. Mahomes lone touchdown came on 3rd and 29, and it probably should have been intercepted but still impressive.

The arguably best defense Mahomes ever faced was LSU back in 2015. The defense included guys like Deion Jones, Jamal Adams, and Tre’Davious White who are all fairly good starters now in the league. Against that defense, Mahomes managed just 50% completion percentage but managed 370 yards and 4 touchdowns with just 1 interception. They may have lost the game, and Mahomes didn’t have his best day. However, Mahomes looked far from over matched.

In the preseason week 3, Mahomes got 3 plays against the starting Seattle Seahawks defense. In those 3 plays he completed 2 passes for 15 yards and took a sack. Not much to go off of, but a couple of things I saw that I really liked. Mahomes kept his eyes constantly downfield and looked through his progressions on both of his completions. On the sack there was nothing immediately open and he decided to protect the ball and take the sack rather than try to make a desperate throw away. He played confidently against one of the better defenses in the league (albeit in only 3 snaps).

Against the Broncos I think Mahomes has every chance to have a great game based upon his previous experience. Assuming he’s learned a thing or two sitting behind Alex Smith and learning from Andy Reid over the last year. I think we can be confident he’ll pass his first test in the NFL. My expectations for Mahomes is 64% completion rate with 250+ passing yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.

KANSAS CITY, MO – AUGUST 31: Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon
KANSAS CITY, MO – AUGUST 31: Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon /

Others are finally getting their chance

Tanoh Kpassagnon

Mahomes may be the big star of the show, but he wont be only rookie with a chance to shine. My personal favorite to watch is Tanoh Kpassagnon from Villanova. The dude is an absolute beast of a physical specimen at 6′ 7” with nearly 36” arms and weighs around 290lbs.

Kpassagnon has played just 93 snaps this season, 76 of which have come in the last 5 weeks. He’ll have a chance to nearly double his season total this week if he gets the start. So far he has just 3 tackles, 2 tackle assists, and 2 QB hurries. Hopefully he should match that, and perhaps get the first sack of his career.

Something interesting to note too is that of all the Chiefs OLBs he’s played the most evenly on both sides. By looking at his pass rushing statistics he’s rushed 21 times from the left side (Justin Houston’s side) and 26 times from the right side (Dee Ford/Tamba Hali/Frank Zombo’s side). It’ll be interesting to see where they end up slotting him this week. My best guess is he’ll line up on the left side with Houston likely sitting most of the game.

Cameron Erving

When right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif went down with a sprained knee, Erving took over his right guard spot for 3 games in weeks 5-7. During that time he played 100% of the snaps and was the 34th ranked guard over that time span. Erving allowed more hits on the QB than any other guard (4), and tied for 3rd in total pressures allowed (8). He wasn’t much better in run blocking, earning the lowest grade on the entire team during those 3 weeks.

Since then he’s only played 16 snaps on the offensive line in 6 games filling in at various positions. The Chiefs like him best at tackle, and that is his own preferred position. He originally was drafted to be a center, but played mostly tackle in college.

Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher have yet to miss a snap this season, and will likely play at least the first couple series against the Broncos. But with all the injuries that have happened along the offensive line it shouldn’t be a surprise for Erving to get in and get a chance to play. The biggest question will be where he plays.

Jehu Chesson

So far this season, Chesson has gone a similar route to what Demarcus Robinson did last year with the Chiefs. He’s played mostly special teams with just 17 total snaps on offense including 1 catch for 10 yards. Chesson is actually ahead of Robinson considering Robinson had just 5 snaps on offense all year and caught no passes. He’s also had 1 kick return for 20 yards.

Chesson came out of Michigan as a big bodied athletic wonder who dropped partly due to a knee injury that he suffered in 2015. After his injury he didn’t quite look the same and his draft stock plummeted. If he’s able to recapture his 2015 form he has the potential to eventually become the Chiefs #2 wide receiver.

With all of Chesson’s potential, it’ll be vital to see how he and Mahomes connect this week. It’ll be telling if Mahomes looks his way for contested catches and on crucial downs. But he’ll likely start out as the Chiefs #3 receiver behind Albert Wilson and the previously mentioned Robinson. My expectations for him this week are 3 catches for 35 yards.

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