But it was a 17-yard toss on second-and-1 in the second quarter that continues to generate the most chatter. Mahomes stepped up in the pocket amid pressure from the Ravens, then calmly whipped a ball left to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson — all while looking toward the middle of the field, and thus drawing Baltimore’s coverage in that direction.
The sleight-of-arm amazed CBS analyst Tony Romo, a former Pro Bowl quarterback who knows a thing or two about pulling a rabbit out of a hat with an unorthodox pass play, and it was still reverberating Tuesday, when Robinson admitted that even he had to take a further gander at the pass.
“I didn’t know he no-looked it at the time, for real,” the receiver told The Athletic. “I just caught the ball, so it’s fun just being on the field making plays. When he does scramble, you know you’ve got to keep your feet moving. He’s going to find you wherever you’re at on the field.”
Mahomes explained Monday that he began experimenting with no-look throws while at Texas Tech, where he and backup quarterback Nic Shimonek would try to “one-up each other” with them in practices. He said he eventually “realized it was a tool I could actually use in games,” but claimed he didn’t try it against real competition until his very first NFL start, against the Broncos in Week 17 last season.
Mahomes, though, at least attempted versions of no-look passes while starring for the Red Raiders. On his throw at Denver, he appeared to look at then-Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson while keeping his body pointed elsewhere.
Of course, NFL quarterbacks have spent decades helping get their receivers open by looking off safeties and other defenders before tossing passes in unexpected directions. Earlier this season, the Buccaneers’ Ryan Fitzpatrick made throws against the Eagles in which he didn’t let his eyes betray the exact direction of where he was going, but he was already looking in the general vicinity of his targets.
Most of the time, though, quarterbacks seeking to deceive have generally snapped their bodies back toward their intended targets at the last moment, whereas Mahomes seems to be taking a page out of the NBA playbooks of the likes of Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
The 23-year-old sensation indicated Monday that he understood the obvious risks involved, saying (via Arrowhead Pride), “I haven’t thrown an interception [on a no-look pass] yet. Hopefully, I won’t. I think I tried to throw one earlier in the season — I think it was Tyreek Hill — and he stopped running because he thought I was going to throw it back to the right. You have to have that chemistry in knowing and trusting he’s going to run his route the same way.”
On the throw to Robinson, Mahomes said, it helped that they had built that chemistry while playing on Kansas City’s second team for most of the 2017 season, as he played understudy to Alex Smith. Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said that he’d seen his young quarterback, drafted 10th overall last year, try no-look passes in practice, but that pulling it off in an actual game took “tremendous confidence.”
“He did a nice job with it. He actually froze the guy,” Reid said of the memorable play against the Ravens. “When you really look at what effect it had on the defense, there was a guy right underneath the route. I would have liked to interview that guy right at the point. That is a tough bind.
"How do you go explain that to your coach? ‘He was looking over here, but he threw it over there!’ They are going to think you are crazy.”
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