It’s often said that Patrick Mahomes, with his slippery mobility and rocket launcher for an arm, makes you defend the entire field. But what exactly does that mean?
We asked players at all three levels of the New England Patriots’ defense for their keys to defending the Kansas City Chiefs’ superstar quarterback, whom they face this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots defended Mahomes and the Chiefs well for two quarters when Kansas City visited Gillette Stadium in Week 6 — they’re the only team this season to prevent the Chiefs from scoring a first-half touchdown — but buckled after halftime, allowing 31 points over the final 29 minutes in a 43-40 New England victory.
What needs to happen to prevent another KC offensive explosion? Here’s what several Patriots players had to say about defending Mahomes:
DEFENSIVE TACKLE ADAM BUTLER
“I think it really just comes down to making sure my rushes agree with me keeping my rush lane. Like, I can’t get too crazy and get too high upfield, and then he steps up and he’s got a clear throwing lane. Then again, I can’t get too crazy and get buried inside, because if I get buried inside or the defensive end gets buried inside, he’s known for making plays (with) his feet. So I’m just going to try to rush and try to minimize his ability to make plays (with) his feet like that.”
DEFENSIVE TACKLE MALCOM BROWN
“(I’m looking) to affect him any way I can. I think that’s the best answer I can give to you. You just try to be disruptive in the pass rush and get him out of the pocket, and try to contain him in the pocket sometimes, too. … Everybody’s just to got to be where they’re supposed to be at in the rush and try to contain him.”
DEFENSIVE END ADRIAN CLAYBORN
“We’ve all just got to rush together and have a solid rush plan, because you can’t get him down singlehandedly. He’s shown that through 17 games now. So we’ve all got to rush together and try to get him down together, because one person can’t do it.”
LINEBACKER DONT’A HIGHTOWER
“(Our No. 1 goal is) to keep him in the pocket but to also keep pressure on him, not letting him feel comfortable. But obviously, he’s an athletic quarterback. He can throw just as well outside the pocket as he can inside the pocket. I mean, on film, you see him not even looking where he’s throwing and he’s able to hit it, too. I mean, he’s a very accurate quarterback, so we want to keep him inside the pocket but keep pressure on him.”
CORNERBACK STEPHON GILMORE
“He can make all the throws. You can’t relax on the backside sometimes. He can throw it across his body. He can make all the throws, and he has great athletes around him to make him better. He’s in the position he is now for a reason.”
SAFETY DEVIN McCOURTY
“I think one of the things is that at times, you have kind of a clock in your head of when the ball’s coming out or when the rush will get there, you just kind of know, you have a feeling on plays. Against Mahomes, it’s a little different. Like that ball might not come out, he might run backwards 10 yards, he might go back across the field, like he just has that ability.
“Usually, you talk about if a guy is on one side of the field, he kind of cuts off the other half, but if you watch him, he makes throws across his body that get to the receiver. It’s more of an awareness of understanding what’s still alive with him and that’s what we mean when we say that the whole field is still alive because of his arm strength and athletic ability to buy time.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images