Patrick Mahomes led his Kansas City Chiefs to another win on Sunday afternoon, but it was not pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. Playing against a Green Bay Packers team still reeling from the Aaron Rodgers COVID fallout and Jordan Love making his first NFL start, the Chiefs managed only 13 points and needed a first-down within the last two minutes to put the game away.
A win is a win in football, no doubt about it. But it's the second week in a row the Chiefs have barely squeaked by a clearly inferior opponent at Arrowhead Stadium. And after nine weeks it has become abundantly clear this KC team is not at all the same one that went to two straight Super Bowls.
As is often the case, the blame primarily falls on the quarterback. Mahomes has very rarely given anybody justification for heavy criticism. Over the last three years, he was either playing at an MVP level or playing well enough to win football games en masse. Now he's doing neither, and it's hard to puzzle out exactly why. The 25-year-old has gotten unlucky with some of his turnovers, but his receiving corps is the same and the offensive line was overhauled supposedly for the better this offseason.
Ryan Clark, speaking on the matter with the Get Up crowd this morning, put it simply: Patrick Mahomes is broken.
Clark posits that, after three years, defenses have finally found a formula to consistently take away Kansas City's big plays. As a result, the Chiefs need to pivot to becoming a run-first offense that makes its money off check-downs and short passes. But Mahomes can't do it after rising to the highest of highs in the NFL world by hurling the ball downfield with regularity.
Even with that breakdown from the former defensive back, it's still hard to comprehend. Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense consistently found room for chunk plays for three consecutive seasons, including a host of playoff games. Nothing has changed other than the members of the offensive line, and even they cannot be faulted. Mahomes has been sacked 17 times this year, which is the 14th-most in the NFL. He isn't struggling because of pressure, or because he lost a key receiver, or has to adjust to a new scheme. He's just... struggling!
That happens to quarterbacks, and sometimes it happens for weeks at a time instead of just one game. It just isn't supposed to happen with Mahomes, an MVP in his first season as starter and Super Bowl champion in his second. It is true that this is perhaps the "worst" team he's been starting for in his young career. He has all his usual top receiving options, but there's a big hole at the No. 2 receiver that Mecole Hardman hasn't been able to fill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been on the IR for a month, and this year's defense is particularly heinous. But Mahomes himself has been playing far below his standard, and nobody really understands why.
Clark says he's broken, and explains how he can be fixed. I'm not so sure. It could be as simple as this is one of those years every NFL team has where every single thing goes wrong on a weekly basis. But if the Chiefs want to make a late-season playoff push (an insane sentence to both write and consider) it'll be on Mahomes to turn it around.