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Why did Patrick Mahomes throw so many interceptions?

A weird and bewildering phenomenon has infiltrated the Kansas City Chiefs’ games this season: Their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, threw football at players who weren’t on his squad.

He threw it at mythical creatures (Giants, Titans) and birds (Eagles, Ravens), pioneers (Bills, Cowboys) and Footballers (Washington). In total, Mahomes has made up 11 interceptions – as many as during the regular 2019 and 2020 seasons combined, and one less than the total he threw in 2018, his first season as a starter.

It’s also as much as, sigh, Sam Darnold has pitched this season, and more so than Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones, neither of whom are considered particularly vigilant protectors of the ball. Ryan Tannehill, who has been intercepted 13 times, leads the NFL in this category.

During his rocket-propelled career, Mahomes tended to defy time, space, and common sense by attempting – and completing – passes that other quarterbacks would not attempt, and without incurring consequences. Punitive: In each of the past two seasons, only Aaron Rodgers had a lower interception rate.

All of those interceptions, which are part of Mahomes’ first prolonged slump since becoming the Kansas City starter in 2018, have caused varying degrees of angst among the team and their fans. But a closer look reveals that he was only partly responsible for the wave of freebies.

Mahomes’ interceptions look worse – or at least more noticeable – due to how difficult Kansas City’s offense is during the first half of the season.

Pro Football Focus has a stat he calls Turnover-Worthy Plays that takes into account passes that have a high chance of being intercepted or times when a quarterback demonstrates poor ball safety. Mahomes’ rate this season is 3% (roughly the NFL average), which hardly differs from that of other seasons: 3.2 in 2020 and 2018, 2.5 in 2019.

Mahomes, however, threw a much smaller percentage of what Pro Football Focus considers high-profile shots – passes with great location and great timing, and, often, tossed deeper into the field and into larger spaces. restricted. Only 3.1% of his throws this season have been considered Big Time, up from 7.4 in 2020, 5.7 in 2019 and 7.8 in 2018.

The main reason for the decline of explosive passing games is that opponents have deployed high-security, two-tiered cover variants, removing the deep crossing roads Kansas City adores and daring the Chiefs to run. This tactic discourages Mahomes from pitching and forces the team, which lacks a credible running threat, to play a more methodical style.

“The theory behind this is that sooner or later you are going to make a mistake or become impatient,” former NFL security Matt Bowen, now an analyst for ESPN, said in a telephone interview. “You’ve seen it from Kansas City, because it’s tough to go to 12 games. It’s hard to do that as a game caller. It’s hard to be patient as a quarterback.

As a result, Mahomes averages just 4.9 aerial yards per completion, tied for second in the league, according to Pro Football Reference.

After Kansas City’s 27-3 loss to Tennessee in Week 7, Mahomes recognized the challenge of playing more deliberately, saying he had to adapt to “not get bored of making a profit.” Bowen said he noticed Mahomes’ unnecessary movement in games earlier in the season when the quarterback left a clean pocket to extend games when he didn’t need them, for example.

It’s possible that the team’s horrific defense, which tied Washington in most touchdowns allowed (27) through Week 7, put pressure on Mahomes to feel compelled to score. points to compensate. After that Tennessee game, Mahomes mentioned the importance of suppressing the urge to go for a “14-point game.”

Two weeks later, when the Chiefs beat Green Bay at home, Bowen began to spot a difference. Mahomes, he said, thrived within their offensive structure, punctuating and remaining patient as he progressed. He also showed more willingness to check, throwing nine assists – although one is a 38-yard touchdown in the end zone – to running back Darrel Williams in their Week 10 win in Las Vegas. In his last three games, Mahomes has thrown just one interception, in Week 11 against Dallas, and that deflected the hands of tight end Travis Kelce.

And this is where this terrible luck comes in.

According to statistics from the next generation of the NFL, six of Mahomes’ 11 interceptions came on passes that had at least a 75 percent chance of being completed. Five of those interceptions – including Micah Hyde’s 6th pick for Buffalo in Week 5 – first hit the hands of a receiver.

So it’s possible that for a guy who’s played three back-to-back AFC championships and the last two Super Bowls, and is the youngest quarterback ever to be selected as a Super Bowl MVP and the league, fortunes have just changed. otherwise.

But only for a spell. The Chiefs have won four in a row and took the lead from AFC West, putting Mahomes on a pace for more usual results.

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