Reasons abound for Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes’ struggles

US and World Sports

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) leaves the field after a 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans in an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Turn on the TV or listen to talk radio and just about everyone has an opinion on why Patrick Mahomes is playing so poorly.

He’s a sleep-deprived new dad who spent too much time doing commercials and endorsements in the offseason. He was galivanting around the world, popping up in exotic locales or at celebrity golf tournaments, rather than spending long days poring over game film or studying the playbook in the wake of an embarrassing Super Bowl loss.

The biggest reasons? They might be a whole lot simpler.

The offensive line protecting Mahomes has been entirely rebuilt after the fiasco in Tampa, and three of the starters in Week 1 had never played a regular-season game. The playmakers surrounding Mahomes aren’t as potent, the schedule the first seven weeks has been brutal and the only luck he’s had so far has been bad.

Not that Mahomes is wiling to lay the blame on anyone else.

“You can just watch the tape and know I need to play better to have success,” he said. “There were times (last week against Tennessee) that we had guy open downfield and I couldn’t hit them. I told them, ‘I need to be better.’ But at the same time, they have that mindset that they’re going to build me up. You’re not going to have your best game every single week, so you have to count on other guys to step up and make plays for you.”

So far, they haven’t exactly done it.

The offensive line has yielded 14 sacks, putting Mahomes on pace for more than any other season — even last year, when the bunch up front was decimated by injuries. That’s not only caused Mahomes to rush throws or scramble from the pocket, it’s also put him in harm’s way; he took a wicked blow to the head late in the Titans game.

As for the help elsewhere, the Chiefs allowed oft-injured Sammy Watkins to leave in free agency and have yet to find a No. 2 wide receiver to play opposite Tyreek Hill. Fifth-round pick Cornell Powell was cut before the season, Josh Gordon is trying to pick up enough of the playbook to help and everyone else has been mediocre at best.

In fact, former undrafted free agent Byron Pringle has been the most useful of the other pass catchers this season.

Not only are they struggling to get open, they aren’t making catches when they do. The normally sure-handed Hill is tied for second in the league in drops this season, the Chiefs are just outside the top 10 as a team, and Demarcus Robinson — the No. 2 wide receiver in terms of snap count — has caught a mere 55% of balls thrown his way.

Oh, and three times a pass has bounced off a target and been picked off.

No wonder Mahomes, who had the league’s lowest interception rate last season, has already thrown nine interceptions, just two behind his total from the past two seasons combined. And his yards-per-attempt rate is easily the worst of his career.

“Listen, things happen in this business. It’s a fluid business,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You’re going to have ups and downs, so you keep pounding through it. If you’re willing to attack the issues, it gets changed around.”

Mahomes pointed to flaws in his own fundamentals Thursday, when the Chiefs headed to the practice field for the first time for Monday night’s game against the Giants. His footwork gets messed up when he’s pressing, he can hang in the pocket too long when he tries to make a play, and ultimately he has a habit of attempting to do too much.

That was evident on two first-half turnovers last week against Tennessee.

On the first, Mahomes was flushed from the pocket and had open field to his left, but he chose to throw into tight coverage deep downfield and was intercepted when he probably could have picked up a first down on the ground.

On the second, Mahomes was again forced to flee the pocket and headed to the open field to his right. But rather than slide after getting the first down, he tried to pick up another yard or two, failed to tuck the ball and ultimately fumbled it away.

“He’s not going to hide or shy away from anything. He’s going to attack it and go fix it,” Reid said. “We coaches are here to teach; that’s what we do. Any guidance we can give him — any of the players — we’ll do that. We all have to raise our game up, the coaches and the players.”

NOTES: DL Chris Jones was excused from Thursday’s practice for personal reasons. … LB Anthony Hitchens remained out with a triceps injury. DT Khalen Saunders missed the workout with swelling in his knee.

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