EAGLES

Jonathan Gannon's blueprint for slowing down Pat Mahomes

EAGLES

Highest passer rating ever. Most TD passes and passing yards by a QB in his first 49 starts. Second-best interception percentage ever. Highest yards-per-attempt and highest winning percentage since Otto Graham. The only QB to play in two Super Bowls before his 26th birthday.

Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, and Joe Montana is second, but Pat Mahomes is on the fast track to join their company. He plays the game like nobody else ever has, and on Sunday he’ll face the Eagles for the first time ever.

Mahomes was a rookie backing up Alex Smith when the Chiefs beat the Eagles 27-20 at Arrowhead Stadium in 2017, the Eagles’ last loss before a nine-game winning streak.

Mahomes became the Chiefs’ starter in 2018 and has gone 39-10 since, winning one Super Bowl, reaching another, throwing 123 touchdowns and just 26 interceptions and rejuvenating Andy Reid’s coaching career.

“He's extremely accurate,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “When you look at their offense, they make you cover horizontally and vertically, and they use space extremely well. And he can make all those throws, and then he can make certain throws that you're going to say, ‘Man, he shouldn't be able to throw the ball like that to that spot accurately,’ and he can.

“I don't know what a generational quarterback is, but whatever that is, he probably is that.”

So far this year, Mahomes has been typically exceptional - his passer rating of 111.7 is higher than his career mark and he’s already thrown nine TD passes and hit on 70 percent of his passes. But the Chiefs are 1-2 for the first time since 2015, Mahomes has thrown some costly interceptions the last two weeks, and the Chiefs don’t look quite as untouchable as they did the last three years.

 

Mahomes has already lost more games this year (two) than he lost all year (one) and thrown half as many interceptions in three games (three) as he threw in 15 games a year ago (six).

But he’s still giving Gannon nightmares.

“What I think they do a really good job of is they make you defend -- everyone has heard, ‘every blade of grass.’ They really do,” Gannon said. “We have to understand that, and we have to do a good job of minimizing some of those explosive plays when he gets off schedule.”

That’s what Mahomes does better maybe than anybody else who’s ever played the game. He makes throws that other quarterbacks don’t even think of and he makes them falling down, without looking, into triple coverage, all the way across his field... you name it.

His creativity when he leaves the pocket is boundless. He doesn’t just do the unexpected, he does the impossible.

“When he starts moving around, their guys do a good job of knowing how to get open, what spots to find,” Gannon said. “And he can be running this way on the numbers and throw it back over here where typically you'd be like, ‘He's never going to throw it over there.’”

Mahomes is almost unbeatable when he doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s 31-5 when he doesn’t throw an interception, 12-3 when he throws one and 3-4 when he throws more than one.

The Eagles don’t have an interception yet this year.

Safe to say if that drought continues they’re not winning this game.

“The teams that hang with them, they execute at a very high level, and they take the ball away,” Gannon said. “Typically, you steal a couple possessions, the teams that stay in it with them.”

The Chiefs have faced an NFL-low 29 third downs this year, but they’re converting at an NFL-best 55 percent.

They’ve only failed to convert 13 third downs so far.

“They don't have a lot of 3rd downs because they convert 1st downs on 1st and 2nd down, and when they do get to 3rd down, they convert at a pretty high clip,” he said. “We're going to have to get them to 3rd down and then play pretty good 3rd down defense to get off the field, so we're not on the field for eight-plus minutes at a time.”

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