Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill Are Taking over the NFL as Next Superstar TandemSeptember 10, 2018
It was fair to question if the Kansas City Chiefs offense would be as strong in Patrick Mahomes' first season as the starting quarterback as it was with veteran Alex Smith under center in 2017.
The team's new franchise quarterback has the size, strength and mobility to become something special, but Mahomes attempted just 35 passes as a rookie. He's a risk-taker who will likely always be prone to mistakes, and he made several notable miscues this summer.
Meanwhile, that Smith-quarterbacked Chiefs offense was one of only two in football to average more than six yards per play, and Smith was the league's highest-rated passer in 2017. But the organization sacrificed two first-round picks for Mahomes and couldn't keep the Texas Tech product on the sideline much longer, paving the way for Smith to be traded to the Washington Redskins in March.
Those concerned couldn't have asked for a better Week 1 performance from the Mahomes-led Chiefs, who scored 38 points in a double-digit road victory over the highly touted division-rival Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
All four of Kansas City's offensive touchdowns in the 38-28 win came on throws from Mahomes, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 256 yards in—and this detail is of utmost importance—a turnover-free performance against a quality defense.
No interceptions, zero yards lost on sacks. I know it's a cliche to say he looked like a veteran, but he looked like a veteran. Smart, patient, composed and cool.
Now, it wasn't all Mahomes, who received plenty of help from his supporting cast, but that only bolsters the argument that the Chiefs offense won't miss a beat despite becoming significantly greener at the game's most integral position. Their still-only-22-year-old signal-caller didn't have to carry the entire load, and that's the point.
His top receiver, Tyreek Hill, reinforced the idea that he's one of the most lethal weapons in football.
The third-year playmaker touched the ball nine times Sunday in Los Angeles. The first touch was a 91-yard punt return touchdown before Mahomes had to take the field. The second was a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown in which Mahomes threw the ball 18 yards and Hill did the rest of the work, giving the Chiefs 14 points before Mahomes had to attempt a throw 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
With less pressure, Hill's next touch came on a 30-yard deep completion from Mahomes. It was still the first quarter. He'd later gain 20 yards on a deflected deep pass, helping to bail out his gunslinger quarterback. He opened the third quarter with 21 yards on a simple flip pass from Mahomes, sparking another scoring drive. He chipped in with a 34-yard grab from a scrambling Mahomes on another touchdown drive late in the third quarter. And the icing on the cake came when he scored his third touchdown of the game to give Kansas City an insurmountable fourth-quarter lead.
So if you're keeping score, Hill scored three of Kansas City's five touchdowns. But he was also responsible for 59 yards on four touches on Kansas City's other two touchdown drives. He and Mahomes provided pretty much all of Kansas City's offense on a day in which top back Kareem Hunt averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and complementary receivers Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley and De'Anthony Thomas combined to catch just five passes for 37 yards.
In addition to the punt return score, Hill caught seven of the eight passes he was targeted on for an almost-career-high 169 yards.
Is that sustainable? Of course not. Hill will eventually have some off days, or at least some not-so-ridiculous days. And Mahomes will eventually commit some turnovers. The Chiefs likely won't go 16-0, and they almost certainly won't average 38 points per game.
But Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is an offensive genius who has a special way with quarterbacks and the players who surround those quarterbacks.
Hill was a fifth-round pick two years ago, but under Reid, he's already scored 23 touchdowns as a receiver, rusher and return man, and he's well on track to make his third Pro Bowl in as many NFL campaigns.
Smith was a borderline-bust No. 1 overall pick in San Francisco, but his rate-based numbers improved dramatically under Reid's tutelage, culminating in a career year in 2017. And Reid also famously got the most out of Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick in Philadelphia.
Reid will always put his quarterback in a position to succeed. It's what he does best.
That's not to say Mahomes can start preparing a Hall of Fame speech. The No. 10 overall pick entered the league raw. His mechanics still aren't perfect, and he will undoubtedly need to work on his decision-making skills. There will eventually be growing pains.
But on Sunday, Reid, Hill and the Chiefs showed there probably isn't a better place in football for a young, promising quarterback to take the reins.
The Chiefs don't yet know exactly what they have in Mahomes, but they do know what they have with Reid, Hill, Hunt, star tight end Travis Kelce (who was hardly needed for Sunday's offensive explosion) and even Spencer Ware, Conley and Watkins, and it's extraordinary.
Those circumstances alone should enable the entire offense—and Mahomes and Hill in particular—to dominate for years to come.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.