KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kids have been drawing up plays in the playground dirt as long as football has been played, their audacious designs usually featuring creative reverses, multiple laterals and even tight ends throwing passes back to the quarterback.
Wait a minute — those are the plays Patrick Mahomes has been drawing up.
For the second time this season, the Chiefs used a play dreamed up by their quarterback in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay.
It was called “The Black Pearl” because, well, they were playing the Buccaneers, and it began with Mahomes pitching to Tyreek Hill on a standard end-around. The speedy wide receiver then pitched to Travis Kelce on a reverse, and the tight end — and former quarterback — had the option of running the ball or throwing it back to Mahomes in the end zone.
The play almost worked, too. Kelce had Mahomes open, but had his wobbly pass batted into the turf.
It still left the Chiefs sideline smiling, and perhaps that was the point: In a stressful season made even more trying by the looming specter of COVID-19, the Chiefs have found a way to keep things light-hearted and fun.
Just like kids on a playground.
“It keeps the guys alive,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week. “It keeps everybody involved and so they get into those, and Kelce has taken a beating over it, his maneuvering with the football, but that's part of it. We have a wrinkle here and there that we have fun with. Hopefully it works.”
It did work the last time Mahomes and Kelce conspired on a play. They called that one “Ferrari Right” after the $340,000 car Mahomes bought earlier this summer. It began with Mahomes putting himself in motion. He changed direction and took the snap, looped back to his left and ultimately zipped a pass to Demarcus Robinson in the back of the end zone.
Just like they drew it up while killing time in practice.
“Listen, this is a serious business. We're grinding away,” Reid said. “But there's a lot of hours put in, so you have to give the guys a little something. Now, you want it to be a good play. We're not making a mockery of the thing. We're trying to make it where it's another opportunity to score a touchdown.”
Mahomes wouldn't say how many of his creations have been vetoed, but he did say other designs have made it into the playbook without getting into a game. The process usually involves Mahomes taking the play to Reid, who tweaks it along with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy so that it's usable given the personnel and opposition.
Even then, it takes the right in-game situation for Reid to actually call it.
“I think it comes from the quarterback room in general, when we're watching film. We try to find different ways to take advantage of things defenses do,” Mahomes said. “We hone it in to where we make it a play. Coach Reid will think about it and when he gets in his room with Coach Bieniemy, they'll tweak it to where we can go out there and have success.”
This is the kind of stuff that happens in flag football, though. Or maybe junior high or high school. But good luck finding a college coach willing to let his quarterback design the plays, let alone the coach of the Super Bowl champions.
Even one with Reid's robust imagination.
“I've never seen anything like it,” Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “We got one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so whatever he says, we're going to kind of follow it. He's so creative to where everybody is like, ‘Let’s give it a try.'"
Of course, Reid always has the final say in whether to run one of the plays.
At least twice this season, he's said yes.
“We're trying to be creative, have fun out there, enjoy it day-in and day-out,” Mahomes said. “We try to execute the basics and the base plays as much as possible, but when they get those plays in, we try to execute those as well as possible, too.”
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