A couple of disclaimers before we start:
First of all, we're going to deal with some of the areas where Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes "struggled" this season — and we very much are using those quotation marks. Everything is relative: Mahomes had a passer rating of at least 110 in 11 of 17 games this season (Tom Brady did it in three of 17, for comparison). So these aren't gigantic flaws we're talking about. Even when Mahomes is having difficulty, he'll make four or five plays no other quarterback can make to right the ship.
And not every game is the same. Just because something holds true in one doesn't mean it will automatically transfer to another game, for any number of reasons. So we're going to talk about how Mahomes reacts to pressure, but remember that he had one of his lowest completion percentages of the season (58.3) when he faced the least amount of pressure (10.7 percent) against the Raiders. And the Patriots were definitely an outlier in that they beat Mahomes and the Chiefs generating pressure on just 18.4 percent of snaps. In the NFL, there are always different ways to skin a cat.
That being said, in the games where Mahomes and the Chiefs have had issues, there seems to be two common themes in the games — both home and away.
- In the four games where Mahomes faced the most pressure, the Chiefs were just 2-2 with one overtime win (Ravens).
- Mahomes had his lowest completion percentages (below 58) against the Jaguars, Seahawks and Chargers. The latter two teams dealt the Chiefs two of their three losses. The Jacksonville game (30-14, Chiefs) might have been more competitive if the Jaguars didn't turn the ball over five times (Blake Bortles had four interceptions).
The common thread? All three of those teams run the Seattle-based Cover 3 defense. Yup, the same scheme I said Tom Brady made the latest victim of his serial scheme-killing ways last week against the Chargers.
(Wouldn't it be just like Bill Belichick to show how flawed a scheme is, then take the best pieces of it and use them the next week to take down another team. "Yeah, Brady killed it. Now Belichick's bringing it back to life like Frankenstein.")
After studying the Chiefs against the Seahawks (at Seattle) and Jaguars (Arrowhead) — I tossed out the Week 1 loss to the Chargers because it was Mahomes' first as a starter — there are a few tactics that were effective against Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Can the Patriots duplicate those in their own way?