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. 


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. 


“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. 


Patriots don't want crushing loss to linger: 'Air out our grievances' and move forward

Patriots don't want crushing loss to linger: 'Air out our grievances' and move forward

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Some players streamed out of the locker room quickly. Others sat silent at their lockers or had quiet conversations with their teammates.

A loss like that has a chance to linger. 

"I think that's human nature," Matthew Slater said, "Emotionally and mentally kind of question what happened. 'This, that and the other.' I think that's human nature.

"But I think we have the type of men in this locker room that have resolve and character to be able to move past this. And we'll certainly find that out. That's one thing you can't do in this league: You can't hide. We'll be out there next week." 


It doesn't get much easier next week with the Patriots heading to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers team that absorbed an ugly loss at the hands of the Raiders. But they'll do what they do, Tom Brady said. 

Back to the grind.

“We get back to work,” Brady said. “We get back to work. If they didn’t make that play at the end, we’d do the same thing. It’s disappointing when we lose games, and I think we all realize we could have done a lot better job in certain areas. I wish I would have done a lot better job on certain plays, but that’s football.”

To treat this loss like any other would be disingenuous, though. 

The Patriots lost on a play few outside of the Dolphins sideline believed was possible, a hook-and-lateral play where Bill Belichick and his staff opted to leave one of their best run-and-chase players on the sideline. They left three points on the board when Tom Brady forgot the Patriots were out of timeouts. They left four more points on the board thanks to a pair of Stephen Gostkowski missed kicks. 

Weird. All of it. 

But there were other issues outside their seemingly once-in-a-blue-moon miscues. The Patriots allowed 9.0 yards per carry and 9.3 yards per pass attempt. They only averaged 2.6 yards per carry themselves against a defense that came into the game allowing almost twice that number per attempt (5.0). 

Would the Patriots like to flush it and move on? Maybe. But if ever there was a time to look inward, even if some of the mistakes are chalked up as shooting stars, this would be it.

"We have to process it, air out our grievances if anyone has any, and move forward," Slater said. "There’s no magic pill or secret recipe to move past this. It’s mental fortitude. It’s mental toughness. It’s character and professionalism to move forward . . . 

"We’ve got to continue to believe in one another. Believe in our process. Not panic. Not point fingers. I think really lean on the character that I believe the men in this locker room have. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to show that this week . . . We'll see how we handle it."

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