Tom Brady and the Patriots look like they’re finally hitting the wall
The Kansas City Chiefs schedule continues on Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champions. Will the Chiefs finally exorcise their demons and beat the Patriots?
It seems like we go through this every season. The Oakland Raiders win a few games, then play another few games close, and all of a sudden, the preseason hype they undeservedly received from the national media comes roaring back with a vengeance. This year, that was slightly dampened by the fact the Raiders got utterly shellacked by the New York Jets. The undeserved hype survived, however, if only barely.
Unsurprising to most Chiefs fans who have watched Andy Reid own the AFC West during his tenure, especially over the last four years, the Chiefs exemplified a great organization on Sunday and the Raiders did not. The Chiefs did not play to their usual strengths, with Patrick Mahomes and the offense struggling for what seems like the umpteenth time this season, but in the end it didn’t matter. A defense that has continued to be maligned by the national media showed that it is developing an identity of pressuring the quarterback and generating turnovers.
The Chiefs victory over the Raiders was a true team win, if not exactly supported by the offense. What it showed is that when things don’t go superbly for the offense, the defense can pick up the slack. Even though the Raiders are a bottom-10 team in the league, it was a great tune up for the game everyone has anticipated since the 2019 schedule was released.
The unofficial rematch of one of the most exciting games in recent memory is now here. Both teams, the Chiefs themselves and the New England Patriots, are a bit down on their luck from their usual brilliance. Even so, this game is a big time moneymaker for the NFL and will likely capture the attention of both the die-hard Chiefs and Patriots fans as well as casual fans of the sport.
The Patriots are three point favorites at home, which usually means Vegas believes both teams are about equal with a slight edge going to the home team. What are some ways the Chiefs can tip the scales? Here’s a look at key storylines heading into the game.
The Chiefs should incorporate the zone read with Mahomes
I understand this topic may come as a shock to those in Chiefs Kingdom. The idea that the Chiefs offense should incorporate the zone read with Patrick Mahomes seems preposterous, given how banged up he has been this season. Even if he hadn’t been, why would you put the crown jewel of the organization in harm’s way to utilize what isn’t even close to his best skill set?
Let me first start by saying I don’t think this should be a significant part of the game plan. I’m in no way advocating that the Chiefs scour the Baltimore Ravens game film, redesign their offense over the next couple days, and make the zone read with Mahomes the focal point of their game plan for the Patriots.
What I’m simply proposing is that they incorporate it as a small part of their offense early in the game. I’m suggesting that they give Mahomes the option three to four times to pull the ball on a running play and run it himself if he sees a wide open field. Obviously, he’d aim to slide immediately once the defense reacts and is in position to make a play on him.
Again, the idea is only when the field is wide open. If it’s not, Mahomes can simply hand the ball off to the running back or hit an open receiver. Some might argue that’s asking too much, putting Mahomes in this position. I’d argue he’s demonstrated far and away enough cerebral ability to handle any responsibility the team has put on him.
Here’s why this should be a consideration. Mahomes has shown in the last couple of games that he is a very adept runner when needed. In the last two games in particular, with teams so focused on playing deep and stopping the pass, Mahomes has had the opportunity to run on multiple occasions averaging nearly 12 yards per carry against the Los Angeles Chargers and nearly 10 yards per carry against the Oakland Raiders.
If the Chiefs were to incorporate this, sparingly, it could have several positive effects if Mahomes was able to gash a defense once or twice early in the game. With the threat of Mahomes pulling the ball on run plays this would effectively freeze the defensive ends, giving our running backs extra daylight to break a big run. Our running game has struggled, and this could be just the boost it needs.
That’s not all. While the running game will undoubtedly benefit, the passing game will benefit more. With Mahomes running as part of the early game plan, defensive lineman will no longer be able to peel their ears back with the threat of the offensive play being designed for just that.
In similar fashion, the linebackers would hesitate to play too deep for fear of giving up the shallow middle of the field or the flat for a big run. This would increase the size of the deep middle of the field for Mahomes, giving players like Kelce and Watkins ample room to work.
I get it, this probably seems like a crazy idea. With how banged up Mahomes has been, the last thing the coaching staff should do is put him in harm’s way. That said, Mahomes has shown he is smart enough to make the right decision. Why not add one more weapon to his arsenal that might alleviate some of the struggles the offense has had this season?
This element could be key for Sunday’s game against the Patriots, whose weakness is their run defense. They’ve shown this year to be incredibly tough against the pass, especially if teams don’t have another aspect to beat them with. Adding the zone read, as well as this next factor, could make it tough for the Patriots defense to keep up on Sunday.