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The Chiefs’ Play-Calling Wizards Won the Mahomes-Lamar Showdown

Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy put on a clinic against Baltimore on ‘Monday Night Football,’ stealing the headlines from the matchup between the game’s top quarterbacks

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Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are not only the league’s two best players, they’re the two most exciting as well. The two most recent MVPs have amassed a laundry list of accomplishments and highlights, and their matchup on Monday Night Football projected to be the best on-paper showdown in the NFL this year. That’s why it was surprising that the two people to emerge with the most impressive highlight reel from Monday Night Football’s Chiefs-Ravens showdown weren’t Jackson or Mahomes, though Mahomes was his typical physics-defying self. In fact, those honors don’t even belong to players. Head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy architected a nearly perfect offensive game plan in a 34-20 win over the Ravens.

Bieniemy, who calls plays for the Chiefs, and Reid, who has his hands all over the offense’s design, mixed the concepts that guided Kansas City to last season’s Super Bowl win with some creative play calls that are worth drooling over, the kinds of innovations you just have to see to properly appreciate.

Let’s start with the touchdowns, because of course. Three Chiefs are tied for the honor of being the longest-tenured player on the Kansas City roster. They are tight end Travis Kelce, offensive lineman Eric Fisher, and fullback Anthony Sherman. Two of those three players scored on Monday, and neither of them were Kelce.

In the second quarter, the Chiefs faced a third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Bieniemy dialed up a unique under-center look with Sherman, who lined up like a tight end as Tyreek Hill lined up at running back. Mahomes rotated back as though he were going to flip the ball to Hill, the fastest player on the field, and the increased attention on the wideout-turned-halfback created the chaos for an easy touchdown. Mahomes underhand flipped it to Sherman, who had four linemen in front of him to block three Ravens who weren’t even close to him anyway. He wasn’t touched as he walked into the end zone.

In the fourth quarter, Fisher got the first touchdown of his career in his eighth year in the league. It was a play-action look that made it almost too easy for the 6-foot-7, 315-pound left tackle to trickle out toward the left side of the end zone, where Mahomes hit him for the score.

There were other play-calling highlights, too, even if they didn’t always result in six points. In the first quarter, the Chiefs stacked four receivers on top of each other at the line of scrimmage in a formation that looked like it took inspiration from a middle school poster showing how evolution works. It was the first quadruple stack play in at least the last five seasons, per Next Gen Stats. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Baltimore linebacker Tyus Bowser was able to get to Mahomes and blow up this look before it had a chance to live up to its potential.

In the third quarter, the team ran a wildcat play that began with wide receiver Mecole Hardman taking a direct snap, Hardman handing the ball off to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (who had come in motion after lining up as a receiver), Edwards-Helaire flipping it back to Mahomes (also initially lined up out wide), and Mahomes then tossing the ball back to Edwards-Helaire. Sure, this play gained only 7 yards, but it was fun as hell.

The play just before this one involved Hill coming in on some funky motion before picking up 3 yards on a swing pass. This play will be lost to history, but the Chiefs were doing stuff like it all night.

In fact—bear with me here, I’m going to highlight one more play, even though no one will remember it—in the first quarter, Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell knocked down this pass attempt, resulting in no gain for the Chiefs. But check out all the motion and deception used to dress up this would-be screen pass. It’s beautiful.

The Chiefs not only have the best offense in football, they also have one of the most creative play-calling staffs in league history. This team isn’t afraid of anything, and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch.

And of course, the game wouldn’t be complete without some Mahomes magic. The 2018 MVP finished with a stat line that would be a career night for almost anyone else: 31-of-42 for 385 yards, four touchdown passes, one touchdown run, and zero interceptions. He had his share of “wow” moments as well. In the second quarter, he pumpfaked so hard that he left the ground, then scrambled before slinging the football to Hardman for an 18-yard gain.

At one point Mahomes almost casually rocketed the ball 58 yards downfield:

The creative, aggressive Chiefs offense wouldn’t exist without Mahomes’s unreal talent. But Mahomes also wouldn’t achieve his peak form without the galaxy-brained play-calling and scheming Bieniemy and Reid provide. Monday night was an excellent reminder that the Chiefs-Mahomes marriage is the best partnership in football. Thankfully for football fans, the two are bound to each other for the next decade.