Patriots

Patrick Mahomes injury: Latest update on Chiefs QB's right hand after win vs. Patriots

Patrick Mahomes injury: Latest update on Chiefs QB's right hand after win vs. Patriots

FOXBORO -- Patrick Mahomes didn't play at his normal elite level against the New England Patriots in Week 14, but he had a valid excuse.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback hurt his right hand (throwing hand) in the first half, and it clearly had an impact on his ability to deliver an accurate ball.

"It doesn’t feel great right now, but it’s something that you play with," Mahomes said after his team's 23-16 win at Gillette Stadium. "In this sport, you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to bang something. So for me, it’s about going out there and competing and relying on my teammates to help me out whenever I’m not feeling 100 percent."

It didn't take long for Mahomes to realize something wasn't quite right.

"I just kind of hit the ground weird when I was trying to throw that ball away and got hit, threw it away and got tackled right as I threw it away," Mahomes said. "I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know for sure. Then I tried to fire that next pass and it didn’t look too pretty, so I kind of just let the trainers look at it. They gave me the good-to-go, and so I went out there, battled, figured out ways to throw the ball across the middle and maybe not shoot those long shots that I usually throw, but enough to get them back and still score touchdowns."

Coming out of the game was never an option for Mahomes.

"No, no, never," he admitted. "For me, I’m playing until they take me out."

Mahomes completed 26 of 40 pass attempts for 283 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He threw for just 57 yards in the second half and the Chiefs offense struggled to score only three points over the final 30 minutes of the game. Kansas City's defense stepped up and delivered two clutch stops in the fourth quarter with the Patriots trailing by a touchdown.

The fact that Mahomes was able to play through the injury is encouraging, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed his quarterback will undergo further tests to make sure he's OK.

"Pat hurt his hand early in this game and you know, we think it’s OK," Reid said. "We will see how it goes. It was hard for him to grip the ball and do the things that he needed to do there. But he powered through it and didn’t say much. That’s how he is, so we will just take an x-ray of it, as we go here and all that stuff that we do."

The Chiefs clinched the AFC West division title by beating the Patriots, but for them to remain in the race for a top-two seed and a playoff bye, they need Mahomes healthy and playing at a high level over the final three regular season games.

Updated NFL playoff picture after Week 14>>>

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Which Senior Bowl participants look like Patriots prototypes?

Which Senior Bowl participants look like Patriots prototypes?

The time has arrived for those obsessing over the upcoming NFL draft to obsess over heights, weights, hand sizes and arm lengths. It's not football. It's guys in their underwear, sometimes on stage, in front of a crowd, having their measurements taken. 

It's weird. It might be a little dehumanizing. But it matters. 

How much? That's up for debate. But every year, multiple times a year — at college all-star games, the combine and pro days — scouts, coaches and evaluators of all types spend time paying attention to the fractions of inches that could determine whether or not a player fits their system. 

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As we've pointed out in the past, the Patriots have a backlog of draft history more significant than any team in the NFL since there's not another operation that's been run by one individual over the last 20 years. Bill Belichick has types at certain positions. We've labeled them as "prototypes" over the years.

And while it's too early to figure out who's a prototype and who isn't — acquiring athletic testing numbers at the combine and pro days is part of the process — we can look at measurements as they start to come in and key on certain individuals for certain roles in Patriots offensive and defensive schemes.

Senior Bowl measurements were taken on Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. ahead of the week's first practices, for which Belichick is in attendance, allowing us to tear through them and key in on potential Patriots prototypes. Here are some names who stood out based on their size...

QUARTERBACK: JORDAN LOVE, UTAH STATE

Jordan Love's interception numbers in his senior season might've been a little high for Belichick's liking, and he's not out of a Power Five conference, but physically he checks every box. He's a shade over 6-foot-3, 223 pounds and he has massive hands measuring larger than 10.5 inches. In theory, that should help him get a good grip in the elements of New England.

Under Belichick, the Patriots have typically drafted quarterbacks who stand 6-foot-3 or taller and their hands usually measure larger than nine inches. Love, who was reportedly scattershot with his passes on Tuesday, is athletic and possesses plenty of arm talent, but Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is the top passer in Mobile this week.

Herbert measures in at 6-foot-6, 227 pounds with 10-inch hands. The only quarterback the Patriots have drafted under Belichick who was that tall was Ryan Mallett.

TIGHT END: JARED PINKNEY, VANDERBILT

The Patriots have drafted 14 tight ends under Bill Belichick. The "prototype" there is a bit easier to peg than those at receiver and running back, who've come in all different shapes and sizes in New England. The tight end mold falls in the 6-foot-4 range and just over 250 pounds. Big hands (about 10 inches) are preferred.

While we don't have any of those athletic testing numbers yet for Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney, he looks like the Senior Bowl's closest thing to a prototype at this position. The SEC product — Belichick has a good relationship with the Vandy staff, inviting them to attend Patriots spring practices back in 2017 — stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 254 pounds, plus he has those massive mitts the Patriots like (10.6 inches).

Dayton's Adam Trautman is the next-closest prototype at this spot in Mobile. The 6-foot-5, 251-pounder has hands that measure just over 9.5 inches, and he dominated lower-level competition with 70 catches, 916 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

DEFENSIVE END: JAVON KINLAW, SOUTH CAROLINA

One of the most explosive big-bodied defenders at the Senior Bowl, the Patriots may never even get the opportunity to draft Kinlaw at No. 23. He's thought by some experts to be a top-20 talent. But he certainly looks like he'd be a long-term answer at 3-4 defensive end in New England's scheme.

At 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, with 10-inch hands and almost 35-inch arms, he looks like he was built in a lab. And while he's quick enough to beat blockers in a one-gapping scheme, his length and power would make him a dominant two-gapping player in a defense that could use another capable 3-4 end to pair with Lawrence Guy.

Ole Miss' Josiah Coatney (6-foot-4, 309 pounds, 9.5-inch hands, 33-inch arms) is another SEC product who could interest the Patriots as a 3-4 later in the draft.

NOSE TACKLE: LEKI FOTU, UTAH

One of the most physically imposing players at the Senior Bowl, Fotu measures in at 6-5, 337 pounds and would be a perfect middle-of-the-line anchor to eat up double-teams. Danny Shelton played that role for the Patriots in 2019, but he's set to hit free agency this offseason. Fotu's 10.25-inch hands and 34-inch arms helped him fight off blockers and earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019.

Nebraska's Darrion Daniels (6-3, 322), Ole Miss' Jones Benito (6-1, 321) and Ohio State's DaVon Hamilton (6-4, 327) all hail from programs the Patriots respect and could be seen as potential answers to their nose tackle uncertainty.

LINEBACKER: MALIK HARRISON, OHIO STATE

Never was there a better example of what it is the Patriots are looking for from their linebackers than what happened in the 2018 draft. Looking for depth behind Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots were clearly in the linebacker market. But they waited, and waited, and waited... until pouncing on Purdue's Ja'Whaun Bentley in the fifth round.

Bentley was off draft boards of other linebacker-needy clubs that year because he was viewed as not athletic enough to fit their schemes. But in New England, the player who had a high football IQ and played heavier than 250 pounds in college was ideal. Belichick has long liked his off-the-ball 'backers big (which may narrow his options in the draft as players at that position get smaller every year in order to try to keep up with the speed deployed by opposing offenses). That's why Harrison — who checked in at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds in Mobile — lands here. He's a true middle-of-the-field type with the bulk to hold up as a "Mike" or "Will" backer in a 3-4 defense.

Curran: 

Wyoming's Logan Wilson doesn't quite have the same size (6-foot-2, 241 pounds), but he's close in that regard. Plus, he has other bullet points on his résumé (three-time captain, second-team All-American, Butkus Award finalist, high-school defensive back) that might pique Belichick's interest.

EDGE: ANFERNEE JENNINGS, ALABAMA

We couldn't get through a list of potential prototypes for the Patriots without mentioning someone from Alabama, could we? We could not.

An "edge" defender in the Patriots defense in 2019 was an outside linebacker, called a "Sam" or "Jack" in the Patriots scheme. Those players — primarily Kyle Van Noy, John Simon and Chase WInovich — slotted in between 250 and 260 pounds. They were stand-up players who could rush or drop into coverage. While most of the edge players who fit the Patriots size profile at this position are up-the-field players, there are a few who look like they might fit.

Jennings, in part because of where he played his college ball, is right at the top of the list at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds with 33-inch arms. His teammate Terrell Lewis is someone the Patriots might like better as a player, but he's bigger (6-foot-5, 258 pounds, 34-inch arms) and looks more like a 4-3 end. Two more SEC edge players who fit the mold size-wise: South Carolina's D.J. Wonnum (6-foot-5, 254 pounds, 34-inch arms) and Florida's Jabari Zuniga (6-foot-3, 253 pounds, 33-inch arms).

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A decade later, are the Patriots poised to refuel and reload for another run?

A decade later, are the Patriots poised to refuel and reload for another run?

Editor's Note: For the first time since the 2010 offseason, the Patriots are looking at a "full" offseason, without a trip at least as far as the AFC Championship Game. Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry are detailing the challenges facing the team going forward. Read Phil's column here and click here to listen to the latest episode of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast.

*****

The 2007 Patriots were among the greatest NFL teams ever assembled.

A machine. Nearly perfect.

So how, in just two seasons, did the Patriots go from the precipice of perfection to getting run off the field by the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs?

For some franchises, the 10-6 record the ’09 Patriots posted would spark a parade. Not here. Not after five AFC Championship Game appearances, four Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl wins in the previous eight years. The Patriots’ first decade of dominance ended with them limping to a 1-6 road record and that 33-14 loss to Baltimore in which it took the Ravens 13 minutes to build a 24-0 lead. At Gillette.

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That happened with an in-his-prime Tom Brady at the controls of an offense that still had Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk, Matt Light, Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen. On defense, there was Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Jerod Mayo and, of course, Bill Belichick was overseeing all of it.

What led to the rapid decline? How did the Patriots pull themselves so quickly from the morass so that, in 2010, they were the No. 1 seed in the AFC and in 2011 were back in the Super Bowl?

What does ’09 have in common with ’19? What’s different? Are the elements in place for a start-of-decade reboot in 2020 similar to the one in 2010? Can the Patriots embark on a third consecutive decade of dominance?  

LOST SOULS

It was November 30, 2009, in the Louisiana Superdome. Belichick and Brady stood side-by-side on the Patriots sideline watching the Saints put the finishing touches on a 38-17 Sunday Night Football bludgeoning of the Patriots that dropped them to 7-4.

“Boy, I tell ya, we got a long way to go,” Belichick said to Brady with a resigned sigh. “We got a long way to go. We just have no mental toughness. We go on the road, no mental toughness.

“We can’t play the game the way we need to play it,” Belichick continued as Brady nodded agreement. “I just can’t get this team to play the way we need to play. I just can’t do it. So frustrating.”

Were it not for Belichick agreeing to let NFL Films go behind-the-scenes with him in 2009 for the incredible two-part “A Football Life” documentary, we’d be left to guess at the agitations Belichick was experiencing that season.

Thankfully, he did agree. And as a result, we see Belichick’s season-long effort to get that team to have the same kind of focus, resilience and maturity his teams had been known for.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why those Patriots were so drastically different than their predecessors. Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired after the 2008 season. Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour were traded. Those four players weren’t just the brains and brawn of the defense for a decade; they were in many ways the soul and conscience of the team.

With Scott Pioli leaving the personnel department to become the Chiefs’ GM, the yin to Belichick’s team-building yang was gone. Established veterans who’d done well with teams that didn’t run their business with the same authoritarian bent the Patriots did — Shawn Springs and Derrick Burgess — were brought aboard.

They joined a defense that — with Bruschi, Vrabel, Harrison and Seymour gone — suddenly had Adalius Thomas as its de facto alpha dog. Thomas, the team’s most highly-paid defender. had no qualms rolling his eyes at the way Belichick did things and younger players like Brandon McGowan, Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite seemed to follow his lead.

Jerod Mayo, in his second season, was the player Belichick hoped would grab the leadership reins and he was made captain. But there was a learning curve for him. Meanwhile, the locker room seemed uncharacteristically immature.

“I remember in 2009 during preseason I was the only captain and Bill was talking about leadership, leadership, leadership,” Mayo said on "Quick Slants The Podcast" in 2016. “Then the players brought it up [during the season] and the media was like, ‘Well maybe there is a leadership problem.’ When things aren’t going well, you start to question the leadership.

“But leadership is a funny thing,” he added. “You have the team and that’s 100 percent of the players. You have 10 percent here, who are good leaders. And there’s 10 percent who are bad leaders. And your job as a leader is to grab as many of the 80 percent left as possible.”

Mayo didn’t grab enough of the 80 percent that year.

An example? After a 31-14 win over the Jets in November — the week before the loss to New Orleans — McGowan, a safety from the University of Maine, spotted offensive lineman Mark Levoir passing by in the locker room. During the game, Levoir delivered a devastating block on a Jets defensive back. McGowan, in full voice, began loudly upbraiding Levoir for the block, complaining the Patriots defensive backs would have to deal with retaliation. Butler joined in, laughing.

“Are they yelling at you for blocking?” I asked Levoir.

“I guess so,” he said shaking his head.

Brady, who’d missed almost the entire 2008 season with his torn ACL, was getting back in the swing of things himself. At one point that season, I approached him in the locker room and mentioned to him how different the team seemed. Immature.

“We’re very, very young,” he said diplomatically.

PAPER TIGERS

The 2009 Patriots led the NFL in scoring, putting up 26.3 points per game. Included in there was the 59-0 snow-blown beatdown of the Titans and a pair of 35-7 wins over the Jaguars and Buccaneers (in London).

Their best performance against an objectively “good” team all season was the “Fourth-and-2 Game,” a 35-34 SNF loss to Indy. They could handle the bad teams with ease but up against talented, physical or well-coached teams the fight wasn’t so lopsided. Competency and incompetency came in spurts. Especially on defense.

Meanwhile, the offense was becoming overly reliant on Moss and Welker. The two combined for 2,612 receiving yards and 206 catches. The tight end position, manned by Ben Watson and Chris Baker, contributed 43 catches. Rookie Julian Edelman and Kevin Faulk had 37 catches each.

The Donté Stallworth-Jabar Gaffney complementary pieces of 2007 were absent in 2009. And the running game was tepid behind lead back Laurence Maroney (194 carries, 757 yards and nine touchdowns). Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor were also in the mix, but none of them carried more than 73 times.

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With Josh McDaniels having departed for the head coaching job in Denver, Bill O’Brien was in charge. The Patriots weren’t “easy” to defend with Brady, Moss and Welker involved, but a defense that could match those two left Brady looking to Faulk but with few other reliable options.

The day after the season ended, Belichick explained the exhaustive process the team would embark on to be better for 2010.

“The first thing we do is try to evaluate our team in all the things that we do — how much motion do we use, how each player played, what type of progress was made or wasn’t made, if there was a direction — whichever way the progress was going, whether going forward or if it was declining, and take a look at the team going forward in terms of what players we have, what players we don’t have and then gradually make determinations on how to improve those things,” Belichick explained.

“We’ll take a look at all of our practices, all of our mini camps, training camp schedules, all those things,” he continued. “We’ve done that a little bit along the way, but then we put all that together and discuss it, whether it’s as a coaching staff, or an organization, or sometimes in consultation with different players, whether it’s a specific situation or a group situation, whatever it happens to be.

“All that is put together, we talk about it and eventually we make decisions on players, on system, on scheme and how we do things. Some things stay the same and some things change. It’s inevitable there will be change next year.”

There was change. Culture change, personnel change and scheme change.

THE REBUILD

Players that would be indispensable in the retooling of the Patriots were in place before and during 2009. They just weren’t in prominent roles yet. Players needed to be cleared out in order for them to find their voices.

When 2010 began, Adalius Thomas was gone. So were Burgess, Springs, McGowan and Maroney. After the Patriots beat the Bengals in the season opener, Moss spent his postgame press conference complaining he hadn’t gotten a new contract. He was gone before Columbus Day.

Suddenly, young, recently-drafted players had a little elbow room — Mayo and Matthew Slater from 2008. Patrick Chung, Butler, Sebastian Vollmer and Edelman from 2009.

In 2010, the Patriots went rogue in the first round with Devin McCourty. They took a gamble in the second round on oft-injured Rob Gronkowski. They then dipped into the University of Florida pool of talent and came out with Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes who were, respectively, a great player/horrible human, an OK player and a pretty good player who was a bit of a handful.

Suddenly, a team without a tight end had two phenoms. The creeping reliance on vertical routes with Moss was reeled back in when the team brought Deion Branch back aboard. Brady sharing a brain with both Welker and Branch meant the offense was back to getting it out quickly again. Gronkowski and Hernandez became seam, middle-of-the-field and red-zone threats that couldn’t be handled. Maroney was replaced by the steady BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Danny Woodhead became Faulk’s understudy.

The defense was still a bit understaffed, especially on the back end, but offensively, the team was morphing. In 2011, the offense got even better through the draft with Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Marcus Cannon. And in 2012, Belichick spent first-round picks on Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.

Five players from the 2008-2012 draft classes were still Patriots in 2019. Obviously, the draft isn’t the only way to import talent. The best free-agent signing of the Belichick Era, Stephon Gilmore, came aboard in 2017. The team got a lot from Brandin Cooks in 2017, a player they traded for. Malcolm Butler made some plays. So too have Jonathan Jones, David Andrews and J.C. Jackson. All were undrafted.

But the foundational pieces of the team that won Super Bowls 49, 51 and 53 came aboard mainly through the draft. There’s something to be said for hitting on homegrown talent.

A decade ago, the Patriots were in the midst of a harvest even if we didn’t realize it while it was going on. They got younger, better and more professional thanks in part to scraping relative bottom in 2009.

Now, after having been whisked from the postseason in the Wild Card round for the first time since that infamous Ravens loss, they find themselves retooling at the dawn of a decade.