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AFC Championship Preview: Mahomes Vs. Belichick



Tom Brady may be the Greatest of All Time (The Goat), but Patrick Mahomes is the Biggest of the Moment (The GORN?). How New England's defense against the upcoming league MVP scores will determine whether Brady and Bill Belichick reach the Super Bowl for the ninth time.

When the Patriots and Chiefs met on this Sunday night in this classic shootout week 6, the Patriots sent out a plan for Mahomes similar to the one they wiped out Philip Rivers on Sunday: various flashes from a series of undefined Presnap -pressure looks. Outside the bag, Rivers is as mobile as a man in snowshoes. The Patriots, especially on Sunday, tended to exert the pressure they threatened. This included an overflow of bloody lightning (aka Cover 0).

Mahomes, of course, has the slippery mobility to come out of the bag, and the flexibility of the arm to cut you when he does. Because of this, the Patriots have often put pressure on in this Game of the Week 6, but are in the reporting.

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Their other featured tactic that evening was something called "Bullseye", which Belichick had invented Stop Marshall Faulk and upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. In "Bullseye," either a defender or a linebacker jams an interior receiver out of the clasp, hopefully destroying the timing of its route. The Patriots occasionally did so to Tyreek Hill when he was in his most dangerous position: the "inner slot" in travel. The main focus of her bullseyes, however, lay on the narrow end of Travis Kelce, who often aligns himself somewhere inside.

Both tactics ̵

1; showing pressure before taking cover – and bullce-earing-Kelce – produced some positive results, with Mahomes throwing some catchable balls and the Chiefs failing at some early third tees. Ultimately, however, the plan has not prevailed, also because the wrong pressure and the Bullseyes have the same disadvantage: they give Mahomes time to work late into the depths. This is the moment Mahomes beyond world-famous skills play the game. This game is reinforced by Kansas City's fast-moving squad, which was reinforced on Saturday with the return of Sammy Watkins.

The New England man-to-man defenders are now better than in week 6. Stephon Gilmore was this season's top cover corner. Former rookie J. C. Jackson, strong and lanky at the edge, is becoming a leading defender. Both men can provide restrictive coverage outside in the press.

The question is how to defend yourself inside. Corner No. 3 Jason McCourty is smart when he uses his safety kit, but he does not have the best wheels. His twin brother Devin is an excellent defender (he beat Sunday's dangerous Austin Ekeler from Chargers on Sunday), but it's hard to imagine him staying with Kelce, step by step.

Bullseyeing Kelce may appear viable again. Apart from the fact that this would affect the plan, Belichick should use this time against Mahomes, which in turn should show pressure, but this time indeed. Belichick would lean heavily on the corners of his press here.

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If you do Lightning Mahomes, it must be in the middle, and the Randrauscher remain in their outer strip to hold him in the bag. Yes, on Saturday NBC Cris Collinsworth has cleverly pointed out that Mahomes is actually more dangerous in when he can get the ball out quickly, but that is partly because these fast-paced throws come when Kansas City's ingenious passport designs function. The hope of New England would be that the physical reporting of the man could derail these designs.

Yes, men's coverage is a big task, especially considering that Tyreek Hill triggers the movement before printing. But remember, K. C.'s ingenious passport designs largely dried up in November and December when the defense began playing man-to-man. This did not happen this year because Mahomes gives the offense an almost infinite dimension. For this reason, the Patriots must take care of the attack on the QB.

Tracking Mahomes is risky, but remember this: If you sit back and only respond to him, the Chiefs will probably score 40 points. Maybe you'll give up 50 … or you may spend only 30, these attacks being the young QB to force a few reckless games. Mahomes still misses a few throws in each game and how many great playmakers can sometimes go too far in the mentality of his revolver man. Belichick can accept his QB – who is not The GORN, but is still The GOAT and still plays at the highest level – will not make those mistakes, even in the unfriendly atmosphere Arrowhead.

• Question or Comment? Write us an email at talkback@themmqb.com .


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