Patriots

Should Patriots defense keep it simple in dealing with Patrick Mahomes?

Should Patriots defense keep it simple in dealing with Patrick Mahomes?

FOXBORO -- Are the Patriots in a position to try and confound Patrick Mahomes?

Even though they’ve been outstanding for six of their last eight defensive quarters (the second half against Indy being the exception) and Mahomes is just six starts into his NFL career (all wins), this might not be the time to try and make Mahomes' brain overheat with a bunch of sophisticated schemes. 

The complement of complementary skill position players the Chiefs have is one reason. From versatile tight end Travis Kelce, to whippet-quick wideout Tyreek Hill to long and athletic wide receiver Sammy Watkins and dangerous running back Kareem Hunt, KC can play a few different styles. 

Then factor in Mahomes’ arm strength, accuracy and mobility which allow him to buy time and create on the move. And toss in the myriad motions and formations the Chiefs use, identifying who’s lined up where and doing what is a big enough pre-snap chore. 

But it’s not just about Kansas City. Last season, the Patriots were undone in the season opener against the Chiefs by defensive breakdowns that led to long touchdowns. There was a 75-yard pass to Hill early in the third. In the fourth, there was a 78-yard pass to Kareem Hunt and a 21-yard run by Charcandrick West. The Patriots led that one 27-21 entering the fourth and lost 42-21. 

MORE PATRIOTS

What impresses Belichick about Mahomes? 'Pretty much everything'

After the game – and for weeks following – communication breakdowns were an issue. 

It took until nearly November for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to find the right scheme to fit his players’ skills. 

But as they enter this game against the 5-0 Chiefs, Kansas City coach Andy Reid expects the Patriots to do what they do. Which is whatever is best for flustering an offense. 

“(Patriots head coach Bill Belichick) is going to form fit the defense to your offense and do what he feels is best there,” Reid said on Monday. “It might be completely different than the week before. He has done a great job of that over the years. The same thing on offense. They are going to fit it to what they think are your tendencies and matchups and everything else. I think he is great at that.”

Asked if this will be Mahomes’ “greatest test,” Reid predicted, “(Belichick) will have something new. (Sunday’s opponent, Jacksonville) was more diverse in the Cover-3 deal that you might have seen with Seattle. (Jags head coach Doug Marrone) branched off and worked a bunch of things in there so they threw a lot of stuff at him. I would tell you Bill, will do the same thing. He is going to find what he feels is best and he will test you. You have to trust your eyes and what you see and go play.”

The same goes for the defense though because Reid’s offense is forever morphing as well. 

MORE PATRIOTS

“There’s so many shifts and so many motions, they’re attacking you from everywhere from an offensive standpoint,” Jason McCourty said on Monday’s Quick Slants. “Tyreek Hill is outside lined up at receiver in a normal spot, then he’s in the backfield. Then they bring in (5-9, 175-pound wide receiver) De’Anthony Thomas and move him around. Then they bring in Sammy Watkins, he’s in the slot, he’s on the outside. Travis Kelce’s in the backfield, he’s split out wide, there’s just so much that you have to prepare for with so many weapons, I don’t know if there’s a quarterback playing better than Pat Mahomes right now.”

Over Belichick’s career, his teams have had great success against young quarterbacks. They are 16-5 against rookie quarterbacks and 9-0 at home

The caveat? Mahomes isn’t a rookie anymore. And he sure isn’t playing like it either. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Chris Simms: Patriots' Jarrett Stidham 'reminds me a little of Tony Romo'

Chris Simms: Patriots' Jarrett Stidham 'reminds me a little of Tony Romo'

Jarrett Stidham is expected to take over the New England Patriots offense in the 2020 NFL season, and he's getting rave reviews from teammates, former coaches and several members of the media.

Despite having thrown only four career regular season passes, Stidham impressed people with his work in training camp and the preseason last year, and in practices during the 2019 regular season.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Where does he rank among NFL quarterbacks? NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms placed Stidham at No. 35 on his latest list. While that isn't very high, Simms had plenty of good things to say about the Patriots quarterback.

"First off, I loved (Stidham) coming out of college," Simms said. "I saw a lot of him in preseason last year and loved the way he looked. Really, when you look at him, there's nothing to say or look at him physically and go, 'Oh, there's a weakness to his football game.' He reminds me a little of Tony Romo. He's a very pure thrower of the football. He's got great mechanics, he's natural that way. He's smart, and we know he's being well-schooled up there in New England.

"He doesn't have as strong of an arm as Tom Brady, but it's not far off -- it's right there in that range. It's a really good arm, and he's a good athlete. Not an athlete that's going to run for a ton of yards, but can move around the pocket and extend plays that way. That's what I'm excited about with Jarrett Stidham. He's got great feel. He's a natural at playing the quarterback position, let alone, he's got skills that can really shine and stand out as well."

The Romo mention is interesting. Say what you want about Romo -- sure, he didn't win a ton of playoff games, but he was a top-tier quarterback for a long time. If Stidham puts up similar stats to Romo, the Patriots should be quite pleased.

Watch the full segment with Simms in the video below:

While it's easy to like what Stidham has shown so far, he's still very much an unknown. The Auburn product will need to go out and prove these people right, and it looks like that opportunity will come soon for him.

The Patriots have not brought in a veteran quarterback this offseason, aside from Brian Hoyer, to give Stidham a tough competition for the starting job. So, unless something changes over the next few months, all signs point to the post-Tom Brady era in New England beginning with Stidham at quarterback.

Why is there a need to debate the 'Tom Brady or Bill Belichick' question?

Why is there a need to debate the 'Tom Brady or Bill Belichick' question?

Tom Brady left town 10 weeks ago. That’s it. It’s only been two and a half months.

But in that short time, one of the worst questions of the last 20 years has emerged, and I’m afraid it’s lurking in a corner of your neighborhood:

Brady or Belichick?

As in, who’s more important? Or, what would one’s career be without the other? There’s the familiar, how many Super Bowls would they have won on their own? And: whose side are you on now that they’ve separated?

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

The big question, which leads the army of the other annoying ones, is not new. I used to wait for it as I appeared on radio shows in other markets. I’d sit there patiently, knowing that it was coming toward the end of the interview in the form of, “One last thing before we let you go… and we’ve been debating this here for a while….”

Quiet sigh.

Eye roll.

Then my stock answer: Fortunately, in New England, we don’t have to look at it that way. It’s the perfect combination of quarterback and coach, and they work best together.

I’d finish with whatever duo analogy I was feeling that day (Lennon and McCartney; Thelma and Louise) and then hang up, feeling sorry for the people outside of New England who just didn’t get it.

Then Brady messed around and went to Tampa.

Suddenly the question that never had to be New England’s began popping up in New England. Tom Brady or Bill Belichick? It’s the ultimate intoxicant that doesn’t need an answer, and still sucks you in anyway.

It built slowly after Brady left the Patriots. He went on with Howard Stern and said the Brady-Belichick debate was a “shitty argument.” He told Stern, “To have him allowed me to be the best I can be, so I’m grateful for that. I very much believe that he feels the same way about me, because we’ve expressed that to each other.’’

It seemed that most people, especially here, agreed that picking just one was unnecessary.

You have memories and “3-28” shirts and Richard Sherman memes because Tom and Bill were together. It seems silly to take sides now. That feeling got a challenge when Rob Gronkowski came out of a 13-month retirement and absolutely picked Brady over Belichick.

The Tom or Bill lines got even heavier last week when Brady had the nerve to voluntarily organize a group of his new Tampa teammates, trying to get a head start on the season. The controversy being that he’s willing to do for the Bucs what he didn’t for the Patriots.

For 18 seasons in a row, Brady walked and talked and even negotiated like a Patriot. He attended voluntary camps, pretended to be happy throwing to Chris Hogan, and never publicly shared his thoughts with Howard Stern. He was a company man. He was that as a 23-year-old kid wearing a backwards baseball cap, and he was that as a 40-year-old man wearing a grown man’s fedora.

I’m sure Belichick wasn’t pleased that his quarterback skipped voluntary workouts for two years. Then again, the coach got outsized quarterbacking value — in every way imaginable — in those 18 that Brady was there.

Besides, I always get some cheap entertainment when I imagine where the outcries about voluntary camp are coming from. I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked with some folks over the years who volunteer nothing and, on the contrary, want days off for everything from Sweetest Day to Arbor Day to Canadian Thanksgiving. Don’t make me name names.

But seriously, beyond that, what is it about this particular tandem that makes people want to assess the individual value?

Most of the time in dynasties, the partnership is praised rather than parsed. Did anyone feel the need to pick Red or Russell? Popovich or Duncan? Montana or Walsh? In the last example, which Brady knows well because it’s his hometown team, Walsh is linked to Montana even though Montana won his last Super Bowl without him.

Even before Brady went to Florida, the Tom or Bill question was out there. I dismissed it then because it was someone else’s problem. Now, I’m convinced, it’s there to taunt me.

No matter what happens, don’t let the either/or, this or that people win. Tom is in Florida, Bill is in Massachusetts and the right answer, still, is both.

Listen and subscribe to The Michael Holley Podcast: