Patrick Mahomes Is A Runaway Train. Can He Be Stopped?
This image is a derivative of Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes - Indianapolis Colts Jabaal Sheard & Denico Autry by Jack Kurzenknabe (Public Domain Mark 1.0)
It seems as though the moment the Kansas City Chiefs made Patrick Mahomes their starting quarterback in 2018, he’s taken the NFL hostage, dragging it back to his wondrous Missouri lair.
From a sporting perspective, what this young man has done in such short time simply defies logic. From the stupendous, Steph Curry-like plays, to the ungodly numbers to already having won a Super Bowl and MVP honours therein, those that watch and appreciate sport acknowledge we’re dealing with a once in a generation type of athlete.
It's thus only fitting that at this stage of Patrick Mahomes’ masterpiece of contemporary theatre that a certain Tom Brady should enter the stage, brandishing his six Super Bowl rings and threatening to hijack the offical Mahomes coronation.
Just how Mahomes responds to the living embodiment of consolidated greatness will define how we evaluate his standing in the game, both in the short and very long term.
While there are times when it looks like Tom Brady is lacking all of the precision, power and poise of his former self, he's able to quickly perform a Willy Wonker-like somersault, magically reminding everyone of his excellence.
Which is where Mahomes must take note. To take the next step he'll need to beat the greatest chocolate maker of all time and not fall for Brady's patented 'the old man is finished' routine.
But apart from the magical powers of that 43-year old adversary/sociopath on the other side of the field, is there anything else Mahomes should be worried about? Anything else that might stand in the way of hauling another Super Bowl back to his cave?
Well the opt-out answer is no. That Mahomes is the perfect athlete sent to earth in un-perfect times, completely transforming and re-imagining every aspect of the NFL. How else do you explain something we've never seen before. To throw one's hands in the air, close one's eyes (and mind) and instead smile like idiots. That's what Mahomes does. He turns sports fans into zombies.
But you know who's not a zombie? You know who's not smiling like an idiot and is instead plotting Mahomes' destruction, intent on ripping out the brilliant QB's heart and revealing it to a global television audience? Todd Bowles, that's who.
As Tampa Bay's Defensive Coordinator, Bowles might ultimately prove the difference as to whether Mahomes collects his second Super Bowl ring, or whether the golden boy instead takes home his seventh.
While Mahomes' boasts an insane, almost incomprehensible 42-9 record as an NFL quarterback, its those nine losses Bowles will be pouring over intently, as he looks for the perfect formula to stop this runaway train.
And one of those key ingredients to curtailing Qb greatness, and which Tom Brady himself can attest to, is the power of a well organised, deranged, unrelenting pass-rush.
In fact it wasn't for the New York Giants pass-rush Brady would probably be entering this Super Bowl with eight Super Bowl rings instead of six, and it'll be precisely what Bowles will be calling upon to unseat Mahomes on Sunday.
Luckily for Tampa, and worryingly for the Chiefs, the Bucs are accustomed to bringing the heat, and bringing it often.
During the regular season, the Bucs blitzed the opposition Qb on 39% of his drop-backs which qualified as the fifth-most aggressive number in the league, while generating pressure on 27.9% of those opposition plays- the NFL's third-best mark.
Most crucially, that pressure has ramped up even further in the playoffs, leading the league with 7 sacks, 5 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. In the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers, the full ferocity of the Bowles defence was on show, sacking Aaron Rodgers no less than five times and limiting the future first-ballot Hall of Famer to just a 101.6 QB rating, down sharply from the 121.5 he flashed in the regular season.
For Bowles, this Super Bowl will be all about playing the right numbers. He'll know that when Mahomes is kept upright and limited to just a single sack or less, the Chiefs are a ludicrous 24-2 which translates to a downright scary 92.3% win-rate. When he's been sacked at least twice however, the Chiefs have gone 14-5 (73.6%) which though still ridiculous, will provide Tampa with a lot more hope.
With the Buccaneers housing five players who've produced at least 14 Qb hits in the regular season, and with the absence of Eric Fisher who's functioned as Mahomes' blind-side security blanket, a path to getting Mahomes down, and down regularly, might be just available to Tampa.
If they're capable of driving through it, the Bucs are a massive chance of hoisting the franchise's second-ever Lombardi Trophy into the confetti-saturated Florida sky.
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