On Patrick Mahomes’ running, more words and context

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On Friday morning, I thought I’d said all I needed to say about last week’s comments arising from the failure of the Titans to tackle Patrick Mahomes on his 27-yard, gamebreaking touchdown run and projecting how the 49ers may handle a similar situation with a Super Bowl championship on the line. On Friday afternoon, three former NFL players — in a TV segment that seemed to be designed to get them to say that my comments were inappropriate — actually agreed with what I said. And then some.

On FS1’s Speak for Yourself, co-host Marcellus Wiley and analysts LaVar Arrington and Rich Ohrnberger reacted to a limited snippet of my original remarks, which omitted the clear and obvious “I’m not suggesting that they try to knock him out of the game” caveat. Even without the caveat being included in the clip, the former players had no problem with the remarks.

“I wholeheartedly agree with him and love what he’s saying,” said Wiley, a defensive end who spent 10 years in the league. “He’s highlighting the errors of those defenders. And in real time, I was saying the same thing. Because they have player safety and protecting the quarterback in their head, they’re not actually going out there and defending up to their capabilities. So, what does that suggest to the next defense? Maybe you’re going to have to go out there and overcorrect. Maybe you’re gonna go out there, maybe you have to toe that line. And that could be perceived as reckless, so that’s my only issue with it. He’s stating the obvious, so why do you really need to state it if you understand what the defense’s intentions are in the first place?”

Arrington, a three-time Pro Bowler and the second overall pick in the 2000 draft, had an even stronger viewpoint.

“I take issue with the backlash,” Arrington said. “I take issue with the interpretation of it. In terms of why should it be stated or the safety of our game and different things. He didn’t say to go out there and hurt Patrick Mahomes. There’s a difference between saying going out there and taking a chance where there could be a risk of you getting a penalty infraction versus going out there and hurting him. If Mike Florio said, ‘This is what San Francisco needs to do. When Mahomes takes off, you need to jump on him, you need to slam his head down, you need to try to hit his legs, you need to do something to debilitate him so that it can impact the game.’ That isn’t what he said.

“There is a thing called a ‘woo lick,’ a tone setter. We all know about that. Linemen know about it. I got the worst ‘woo lick’ ever from Larry Allen. . . . That is why football is so special. That’s why it’s America’s sport. Because you test your mettle, you test your preparation and your abilities, and I think the softer this game gets, when we have to talk about what Florio says and try to decipher what that is, I think we’re going down a bad road.”

Added Ohrnberger, who played for the Patriots, Cardinals, and Chargers: “We were all coached that way. To play up to the echo of the whistle. . . . A questionable call is only questionable because it’s close. So I mean if Patrick Mahomes — if the motto in the defensive meeting room for the 49ers is, ‘Look, we’re not gonna have many chances because he’s a magician. But when you have a clean shot at him, take it and let him remember.’ . . . Even if this is like near the sideline, nothing [Florio] said was necessarily illegal, but could be conceived as illegal or perceived as illegal by an official on the field.”

As the segment continued to unfold, something subtle but undeniable occurred. The more they discussed the issue, the more candid the former players became. Eventually, Wiley dropped the facade entirely.

“He’s taking advantage of the rules that are trying to protect him,” Wiley said regarding Mahomes’ decisions to run the football. “Last three games, he’s run 22 times, leaning into his inner Lamar Jackson. Because he knows that, out there, it’s not hell to pay like it was yesterday. But these coaches are now saying, ‘Look, there still is a risk-reward relationship.’ And let’s be real, as much as I was a part of the fraternity and brotherhood, if I could knock Tom Brady out and see him next time, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Arrington tried to dial it back to the original point, saying, “It’s not even about knocking him out.”

“But I want to,” Wiley insisted. “Oh, I want to. . . . You don’t want to knock Patrick Mahomes out?”

“It’s about getting the hit and sending the message,” Arrington said.

“No, no, no,” Wiley said. “I want to knock him out.”

Added Ohrnberger, “If you’re playing against him you do.”

Exclaimed Wiley, “If you’re playing against him, yes. In the Super Bowl, yes you do!”

My point was and is that it’s not, and shouldn’t be, about knocking Mahomes out. It was, and is, about treating a quarterback like a running back when he becomes a running back, without freaking out in fringes of the gray areas and pulling up and pulling back and watching the quarterback who is now a running back run right by the defender who is afraid to hit the quarterback near the sideline or is afraid to commence a move toward a running target who possibly begins to slide just before an impact that quickly becomes unavoidable. And that if/when a quarterback who becomes a running back gets hit like a running back, maybe the quarterback won’t run it the next time he’s tempted to do so.

My original goal was to provide real, authentic, and candid analysis of how the game is played, based on everything I’ve seen and heard in 20 years of studying the game and talking to those who play and coach it. What may have been conceived as an effort by someone at FS1 to take issue with my take ended, thanks to the fundamental honesty and fair-mindedness of the three former players at the table, in a way that was far more real, authentic, and candid about how the game is played.

37 responses to “On Patrick Mahomes’ running, more words and context

  1. The number 1 goal of 49er defenders is to limit the yardage gained, not to hurt anyone. Seattle found out when their TE Hollister was tackled short of the goal line on 4th and goal with time running out. Frisco is very good at tackling throughout the season. They also gang tackle. No one is standing around watching their teammates make the tackle. They all join in to make sure the ball carrier is down. That means in a similar situation, Mahomes would have been tackled well short of the goal line.

  2. I was critical of the original post because it indicated Frisco should probably give up the 15 yards for hitting mahomes illegally a few times. That is different than treating him like a runner. Of course you want to hit him and hit him hard if he is running. The hit Sorensen put on tannehill is a perfect example… awesome, legal hit.

    Do you think the NFL or most fans will appreciate a Super Bowl that is won because someone takes mahomes head off on a slide or knocks him into camera equipment after he is out of bounds? If the 49ers take mahomes out on a late hit there is a good chance the superbowl turns into a brawl.

  3. When Mahomes scrambles he may have the ball stripped from him, as Lamar Jackson found out when Marcell Harris tackled him.

  4. No one is saying hit him illegally, just make him have some doubt before taking off and running. It’s football and it’s physical even while protecting quarterbacks so I would tell my players to throttle him early and try not to get flagged.

  5. I’m glad people are finally talking about it.

    Everyone seems to think that 27 yard TD run was so great, but the Titans players looked completely scared to even touch Mahomes during that run.

    We need to eliminate the 15-yard penalty for hitting a QB who is mid-slide. You only get penalized if the slide is completely finished and the QB is stopped.

  6. I agree quarterbacks are taking advantage of the rules that are designed to protect them. They need a reminder that they should be hit too. Love mahomes personality though. Great guy.

  7. I agree quarterbacks are taking advantage of the rules that are designed to protect them. They need a reminder that they should be hit too. Love mahomes personality though. Great guy.

  8. The D should always hit to hurt and not to injure. The problem with today’s NFL is that the “hitting to hurt” is now also frowned upon.

    As for this particular play, I think part of it was Mahomes being a QB and partly the sideline being this black hole. It reminded me of Lev Bell’s run against the Bengals a few years back. The defenders assumed he was out or going out on the sideline and he tightroped into the end zone. There are many hits that are committed to in the field of play with contact at or slightly out of bounds with the follow through going well out of bounds. The defender then gets called for a PF. However, if you commit to the hit at full speed you can’t say where the defender will be at point of contact. Therefore, defenders now naturally ease up. The offensive players know this and have the choice of tight roping the sideline or even cutting back and trucking the defender who is easing up. No win for the defender either way.

  9. I remember when Trent Green was leading the KC Chiefs down the field and he was hit while sliding. His head bounced off the ground and he suffered a terrifying concussion that ended his career. I dont think the defense is going to allow a quarterback to run all over without trying to stop him. So, to suggest that the defense should risk hitting a player illegally to send a message is irresponsible. I think Florio is trying to cover himself in the event that his clearly wrong comments lead to people no longer reading his analysis which would impact his bottom line. At the same time, the intersection between politics and football that frequently appears here is already enough to turn off a large number of readers.

  10. Advocating for defenders to risk a personal foul penalty is the equivalent of calling for said defenders to intentionally injure Mahomes. A blogger with a national platform should be instead be advocating for the game to be played within the rules.

  11. Two great teams. My take on who’s got the edge:

    Defense: SF
    Ground game:SF
    Passing game:KC

    On paper, close win by SF because they are the most balanced team.

  12. People are STILL whining about you saying it’s OK the actually, you know, tackle the QB when he breaks the pocket?? Quit apologizing about what you said or how you said it.. You are right.

  13. Mahomes already has the sideline maneuver down pat…..act like you are going straight out of bounds to get the scared defenders to let up then cut up field for an extra 5 or 10 yards, why should he feel any different in the middle of the field. Refs would throw a flag on any hard hit on him because it ‘looked bad’.This league is morphing into the NBA.

  14. Interesting comment by Josh Allen, DE for Jacksonville (per ESPN):

    “For me, I don’t got a team. I think it’s going to be a really good game. You have probably the best offense in the NFL versus the best defense in the NFL. The defensive line for the 49ers are playing at an unbelievable level right now and you have Kansas City’s offense that’s putting up points that people don’t do regularly. I feel like it’s going to be a good battle. It’s going to be a great battle. So I think the battle is going to be won with 49ers offense and Kansas City’s defense. It’s going to be a good game.”

    As a defensive guy, do you lean toward the best defensive team?

    “I want to go with the best defense but I want to go with the best player. Patrick Mahomes, he’s a generational player. You can’t bet against a generational talent like that.”

  15. Let’s be honest, LaVar Arrington only wanted to hit guys who weren’t looking or he was going to wail in a punter who was laying on the ground. He’s not the best judge of anything. Aside from that, Florio was right.

  16. Mahomes and other QBs are gaming the system. The NFL wants to protect the QB, which is understandable. They don’t allow low hits in the pocket. They don’t allow high hits in the pocket. They don’t allow hits to the head.

    Once a QB runs out of the pocket, he’s a running back, subject to be hit just like any other RB. If a QB runs and slides late, he takes a chance on getting hit hard. It’s up to the QB to slide early or not. A defender should not have to worry about getting a penalty. If the defender is within a couple of steps before the QB slides, then it is OK to hit him. A QB that waits until the hit is in progress should not get the benefit of a penalty on the defense.

    Then there is the sideline nonsense. Mahomes uses the sideline to game the rules. Defenders should go full speed until the moment Mahomes steps out of bounds…and not one second before.

    The Titans were played by Mahomes. I hope the Niners play fair, but hard. No let up until they see Mahomes is already out of bounds. I have no doubt that the Chiefs will do the same vs Garoppolo.

  17. I love the excitement of a QB on the run i.e. Mahomes, Jackson, Allen etc. But if a QB is going to be a running back, then he should not be allowed to slide. He’s no longer a QB, no longer a threat to throw the ball and should lose his QB protections if he is going to become a runner. A few years back I saw Cam Newton fake a slide near the goal line, the defense let up and he scored. He took advantage of the rules, but that was wrong.

  18. When he does run SF will tackle him! Unlike hoping he’d slide or step out of bounds like the Titans did! Penalty or not! Tackle him, he’s a RB, no longer a QB when he scrambles!

  19. jkossrt says:
    January 26, 2020 at 1:42 pm
    I love the excitement of a QB on the run i.e. Mahomes, Jackson, Allen etc. But if a QB is going to be a running back, then he should not be allowed to slide. He’s no longer a QB, no longer a threat to throw the ball and should lose his QB protections if he is going to become a runner.

    I agree, but would like to point something out.

    When a QB runs out of the pocket, he’s considered to be a running back….but he CAN still throw until he crosses the line of scrimmage.

    Once a QB is running out of the pocket it is his responsibility to slide EARLY, not wait until a guy is a couple of feet from him and can’t stop.

    Watch Russell Wilson play. I hate that guy (because he’s good and I’m a Niner fan), but he knows how to do it right. He runs a lot, but usually slides with plenty of time for the defender to let up.

    If Mahomes runs and waits too long before sliding, I hope the defense makes him pay for it. It’s up to Mahomes.

  20. One of the most worthless articles ever posted here. It says nothing because Mahomes has shown intelligent play and adapts to his surroundings better than any other QB when running. He is not a Lame or a Great Gimmick. He won’t allow himself to be punished. But he also will not go out of bounds if you are not challenging him though he’ll make a step toward it if you make a move.

    Right now the 49ers and their fans are blowhards. Right now this 49er team has yet to play a full season at this level. The Chiefs repeated to the AFC championship game and performed far more consistently on offense than the 49ers. And this team has yet to play an offensive team with this level of players like the Chiefs.

    And I want the 49er fans to remember Joey G is a statue which can and will be hit as if he were a Confederate Civil War statue. For every time you wish a hit on Patrick, your statue will be pulling grass off his face mask after being planted by Suggs. Your wishes will get a payback you cannot imagine.

  21. “Damage control in full effect lol”

    So you really believe that three commentators for another network would conspire with Mike to participate in damage control? That is one wacky conspiracy theory.

  22. Mahomes outran the first Titan who whiffed on tackling him. He plain juked the 2nd Titan with a full upper torso swivel and footwork. He then stopped his forward progress and tight-roped down the sideline and saw a slim chance to score.

    Another Titan overran his pursuit, the fourth Titan tried to strip the ball instead of making a wrap up tackle at the four yard line and the fifth Titan then flopped on him after Mahomes crossed the plane of the goal line.

    I didn’t see any Titans or Texans letting off their accelerators when playing against Mahomes in the previous two play off games.

    I saw a top tier QB trying to extend plays when he noticed defense coverage blanketing his receivers.

    I see a lot of envy coming from fans of teams that Mahomes is beating the pants off of.

  23. Ultraviolet Thunder says:
    January 26, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Right now the 49ers and their fans are blowhards. Right now this 49er team has yet to play a full season at this level. The Chiefs repeated to the AFC championship game and performed far more consistently on offense than the 49ers. And this team has yet to play an offensive team with this level of players like the Chiefs.
    Nonsense. The Chiefs played an easier schedule and ended up with the same record as the Niners.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what has been done to this point. We’ll see how the game goes. The winners can brag.

    Bragging now is just pathetic.

    Bragging now, before

  24. It’s true. QBs are protected in the pocket, once they leave it, it should be open season. That way running backs would be in higher demand, and their pay wouldn’t be lagging so much. QBs would have to actually be accurate and on time with their throws. It’s getting to where these guys are protected everywhere and taking jobs from other players by being so called multi-dimensional all because they are treated like fine china.

  25. Keep spinning it. But when YOU advocate someone hitting someone “oh, about 4 steps out of bounds”, YOU have no leg to stand on. Context my a$$

  26. I watched that play live. I didn’t see a great run. I saw embarrassingly bad tackling and an athletic player who was able to take advantage of it. Kudos to Mahomes, but that play was more about what the defense didn’t do than what he did.

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