Avoiding sacks has long been an underrated aspect of quarterback play. Sacks are not solely an offensive line stat. The quarterback has some control over how pressures play out, whether that be a sack or pressure avoided altogether.
There are different ways to avoid sacks. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady used their football IQ — usually not their legs — to work from within a pocket and find throwing lanes. Then you have the freak athletes. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson use their athleticism to simply avoid being taken to the ground.
Patrick Mahomes is in a unique category. He uses a combination of all of the above to avoid sacks. It’s why, at times, it looks like he is playing a version of backyard football. But within that playmaking acumen is a clear ability to avoid sacks. He has done it at an elite rate in every single year of his career while not having a quick time-to-throw average.
|Year||Pressure to Sack % (rank)||Time to Throw (rank)|
|2018||13.3% (4th)||2.85s (26th)|
|2019||11.6% (4th)||2.87s (31st)|
|2020||9.6% (2nd)||2.91s (32nd)|
|2021||13.4% (3rd)||2.84s (T-23rd)|
|2022||10.1% (1st)||2.80s (28th)|
Mahomes consistently ranks near the top half of quarterbacks in average time to throw yet is one of the best at avoiding sacks. Those two stats don’t usually go hand in hand.
His career pressure-to-sack percentage of 11.4% is on par with Peyton Manning’s 11.3% career rate. While Mahomes certainly has come a long way from his college days in his understanding of defenses, he is able to blend that with the new-age “hero ball” we see from so many quarterbacks in today’s game.
His Week 1 performance on Thursday Night Football was a great showcase of his sack-avoidance ability. Mahomes was pressured on 20 dropbacks for a 44.4% pressure rate. Not once was he sacked.
Mahomes has always had an uncanny ability to find an open lane from a collapsing pocket. We’ve seen him do this time and time again.
average Mahomes play pic.twitter.com/I7B2YnHKVC
— alex (@highlightheaven) September 8, 2023
Another reason he’s able to avoid sacks at a high rate is his ability to make accurate off-platform throws — and at multiple different arm angles.
Aiden Hutchinson has an insanely fast first step. Nice recovery by RT J. Taylor to not allow the sack, and good jobs by Mahomes to stay put and make a nice throw. Hutchinson's presence was definitely felt throughout the night and he finished with seven pressures. pic.twitter.com/X4CBIaMKoX
— Tanner James (@tjdissect) September 9, 2023
It gives him the ability to wait until the last possible second to release the ball. That is what separates him from so many others. He doesn’t need any room to release the ball accurately, and it makes trying to sack him so frustrating for opposing defenses.
Combine his growing football IQ with his ability to release the ball whenever he wants, and you have your answer as to how someone who is constantly running around in the pocket rarely goes to ground.