Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn’t necessarily have a down season last year, but he went through a stretch where he didn’t look like his normal dominant self.

From week 5 to week 12, Mahomes had only one game where his QB rating was over 100. For the season, Mahomes’ QB rating was 98.5, the lowest rating of his career and the only time he’s had a season rating under 100.

Mahomes was still great — probably even elite — but he left some yards/touchdowns on the table.

One major reason that was the case is because Mahomes was “jittery” at times last season, something he admitted this offseason to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.

Mahomes knew that defenses were going to start playing him differently — taking away the deep shots — forcing him to alter his approach.

Chiefs
Sep 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs the ball as Los Angeles Chargers safety Alohi Gilman (32) defends during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

From SI.com:

“A lot of single-safety-middle his first couple years, zone and predominantly man [coverage]—different kinds of man, but man,” Reid said. “And then the last couple years, it’s this shell coverage. So variations of it, and he’s just taken to it and tried to dissect it all. There’s probably not a whole lot that he’s gonna see that he hasn’t already seen some combination of. And when you show him something, he’s gonna study it and look at it and look at it and look at it.

“And that’s how he’s wired. So I think the last couple of years have been tremendous for him.”

Mahomes conceded to me earlier in the offseason that he got jittery within the pocket as teams forced him to become a more patient, judicious player and challenged him to lead his offense on 10-, 12- and 14-play drives to reach the end zone, rather than relying on big shots down the field to shortcut the process of getting the ball over the goal line. Thing is, even while it was going on, Mahomes was aware there’d be benefit to experience.

Those nerves led to Mahomes overthinking some situations and making some mistakes.

During one game, Mahomes recognized that the defense was attempting to take away his down-the-field options. So when the ball was snapped, Mahomes didn’t even consider looking down the field. As a result, he missed a wide open Tyreek Hill.

“They were playing kind of a two-high type coverage,” said Mahomes to Breer. “I thought there was no way Tyreek would be open, because why would he be open?” Mahomes said. “He was running a little, we call it a circle post, where he kinda fakes like he’s going out and back up. And the safety drove the backside guy, which he wasn’t supposed to do. But I had already gotten off of it because I just predetermined that that was gonna be covered.”

Mahomes was smart enough to know that defenses playing him differently was going to make him a better player — he just had to navigate his way through the new approach.

The new look from defenses combined with the departure of Hill is forcing Mahomes to become a more versatile quarterback — instead of relying mostly on deep throws

“My decision-making is quicker, being able to get the ball out of my hand,” explained Mahomes. “Obviously, when we had guys like Tyreek, you always look for that matchup. And if you had it, you would take it. But when you get the defenses rolling coverage, like what they’re doing in training camp, especially when they’re getting deep, it’s just getting through to the second and third read and getting the ball out of my hand and letting guys make plays.”

“I’m so much better at recognizing coverages and knowing where to get the ball out and when to get the ball out in certain situations,” added Mahomes.

A lot of folks are down on the Chiefs this season because of Hill no longer being in the picture. But I think Kansas City is going to make those folks look foolish in 2022.

The struggles that Mahomes went through last year while seeing new defensive looks prepared him for life after Hill. He’s going to be a step ahead of defenses this season because he’s already been forced to adapt his game.

There are still going to be deep shots down the field, but this Chiefs’ offense is going to show opposing defenses some things they haven’t seen yet.

I wouldn’t be surprised if 2022 turns out to be one of Mahomes’ best seasons yet.

Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports