Scrambling becoming a bigger part of Patrick Mahomes’ game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes acknowledged that when he watches quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts carry the football, he envies their running ability.

“I think everybody does,” Mahomes said.

Those players have something to appreciate about Mahomes’ running skills as well. It may not be his speed, but his success rate, particularly on third-down scrambles.

Mahomes has converted a higher percentage (58.8) of third-and-long runs through his career than Jackson, Allen or Hurts. Long in this instance is considered to be five yards or more from the first down.

“I think it’s just being a competitor,” Mahomes said. “I’m just trying to move the chains and obviously I want to throw for it and want to make the throws, but when the opportunity arises, just if I’m going to take it, make sure I go get the first down.”

Mahomes twice converted with long third-down scrambles on the final possession of Sunday night’s win over the New York Jets. Mahomes ran for 25 yards on third-and-23 and for nine yards on third-and-8. The plays helped allow the Chiefs to eat up the game’s final 7½ minutes and win the game 23-20.

Mahomes could have had a touchdown on the 9-yard run but intentionally went down at the 2-yard line to keep the ball away from the Jets.

“He has a good feel of the coverage and who’s dropping out there and the time element that’s involved with that,” coach Andy Reid said. “And he’s smart when he does it. Certain situations, he knows he can do that. Other times it’s not going to be available, but he’s got a good feel for it.”

Mahomes has 17 career rushing touchdowns, including five in the playoffs. Most are on scrambles since Reid won’t allow him to use the quarterback sneak after he injured his knee on the play in a 2019 game against the Denver Broncos.

Most famously, Mahomes’ 27-yard touchdown run down the left sideline right before halftime of the AFC Championship Game after the 2019 season put the Chiefs ahead of the Tennessee Titans for the first time, and for good.

Mahomes scored a touchdown on an option run in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers. He did not have a touchdown run in last season’s Super Bowl, but his 26-yard scramble on a damaged ankle was the biggest play on the game-winning field goal drive.

Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said Mahomes separates himself as a running quarterback in two areas. One is in his decision-making, when to scramble and when to continue to try to find a receiver down the field.

The other is keeping long runs alive toward the end. He gave a move to a linebacker in the open field to get himself free on his AFC Championship Game touchdown run against the Titans.

“When he gets to that last burst of five, six, seven yards, when it’s third-and-long to convert it, he has a good feel of whether they think he’s going to slide and then he kind of gives a step and then keeps going,” Nagy said.

“In the Super Bowl, he had that big run towards the end where he does actually put the boosters on and runs or others that you see where he’s running down the sideline and he just toe taps and keeps his balance and gets an extra six yards or four yards for the extra first down. So he just has a really good knack at understanding the zones where guys are coming from and angles.”

Mahomes will never be confused with top running quarterbacks in terms of style. While players like Jackson and Allen seem to run effortlessly, Mahomes can sometimes labor. He stumbled at the end of his 25-yard run against the Jets, costing him more yardage.

But he’s not the slowest of quarterbacks, either.

“I’m faster than people think,” he said. “I don’t run pretty so people think I’m slow, but I move a little bit better than people think.”

Mahomes will never make his living running the ball. His real skill is passing, but his backup plan is working for him.

“I’ve just got to be able to throw the football,” Mahomes said. “Then whenever the opportunity comes, just get enough yards [running] to keep the chains moving.”

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