KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes barely finished his five-step drop when the play went south, and if the first four games of his career have proved anything, that's when Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley knows something special is about to happen.
“We had a played called, it kind of broke down a little bit, but I guess that's the magic of Pat,” Conley said.
The third-down touchdown pass from Mahomes to Conley shows up in the box score as a 4-yard touchdown pass. Years from now no one will remember that. The legend of the throw will make the yardage irrelevant when retelling the tale down the road.
What fans will remember is Mahomes dropping back to pass, scanning the end zone for tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, his primary reads on the play.
“But by the time we got through them we just had to make something happen,” Conley said.
The San Francisco 49ers front seven brought the pressure. Defensive tackle DeForest Bucker and linebacker Cassius Marsh broke through the line and flushed Mahomes from the pocket.
“I scrambled to my left and then I kind of realized everyone else was on the other side of the field,” Mahomes said. “And so I just turned it back around.”
Mahomes reached the 18-yard line when he realized scrambling left wouldn't work, so he reversed field to scramble right. He raced all the way back to the 25-yard line to elude Marsh before heading back the right direction. The Chiefs offensive line hurried to catch up, trying to throw blocks that would free Mahomes and allow him time to find a target.
“I was just trying to catch my breath, running,” center Mitch Morse said. “The guys hustled their tails off.”
Mahomes found the corner and scrambled right looking for a receiver in the end zone. As he approached the 20-yard line, his eyes caught Conley running to the right with him along the back of the end zone.
“That's not the first time that we've made that play,” Conley said. “We've had scramble drills and we've run that in practice.”
That preparation allowed the quarterback, his receivers and the offensive line to keep their wits when the whole play went sideways.
“We worked scramble drill this entire training camp, so those guys kept working for me,” Mahomes said.
What made the play work, Conley explained, lies with Mahomes and hisimproving feel for what each of his receivers can do when a play breaks down.
“I think he's starting to understand how I think,” Conley said. “Each guy thinks a little bit different on scrambles, and we were just able to connect today. I think that connection is just going to continue to grow.”
Of course Mahomes still needed to make the throw on the run. He left his feet as he fired the ball nearly 30 yards to Conley in between two defenders.
“He's just got great vision, he's got a really good arm and he just keeps giving us opportunities and we make them,” Conley said.
That's how it went down, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Conley. Even head coach Andy Reid stood impressed by that one.
“I taught him how to do that,” Reid laughed after the game.
The play exemplifies exactly why the Chiefs stand 3-0 and feel invincible with Mahomes as their leader.
“He's just made a lot of those plays and I think people are taking notice,” Conley said. “The arm strength, the vision, the ability to extend plays and get touchdown off plays that would be otherwise blown up.”
Mahomes showed all of his tricks on that play: his ability to make quick reads, a progressing feel for the pass rush, footwork that allows for nimble escapes, a seemingly unending number of platforms from which he can deliver the ball and an arm equipped to make laser throws few others in the game can match.
“Just goes to show what kind of playmaker he is,” Morse said. “It's going to be an exciting future with Pat in the NFL and glad to be a part of it right now.”