Mahomes, Chiefs looking to bounce back vs. Broncos

Print

Patrick Mahomes is attempting to avoid the first three-game losing streak of his starting career when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Denver Broncos on Thursday night at Mile High.

For the first time since he took over the starting duties in 2018, things haven't come easy for the reigning MVP. The offense has been stuck on the sidelines, missed big plays, been inefficient and been hamstrung by the QB's wonky ankle.

Despite not experiencing these types of issues during his infantile pro career, Mahomes isn't fretting.

"I've definitely been through adverse times when I was in college of not winning the game I felt like we could have won," Mahomes said this week, via ESPN. "There were certain times at Texas Tech when we didn't do the things we wanted to as an offense to find ways to win. My first year here, the team went through a little stretch where they weren't winning games.

"It's a long season. You can figure it out. ... There [are] difficult times in the NFL. Teams are good, and we've played some great opponents so far this season, and we'll have to find a way to get this thing rolling again on a short week against a great opponent."

The past few weeks haven't been the crisp all-world offense we're used to seeing from K.C. under Andy Reid and Mahomes.

The Chiefs averaged 18.5 points per game in Weeks 5-6 (21st in NFL) after averaging the most PPG (35.0) in 20 games prior (Week 1, 2018 to Week 4). Mahomes' production has regressed over his last three games this season: Weeks 1-3: 134.9 passer rating (highest in NFL, minimum 30 attempts); Weeks 4-6: 89.3 passer rating (16th in NFL, min. 30 att.).

Mahomes' deep ball, whether due to his injured ankle, the lack of chemistry with wideouts or more man-coverage from defenders -- or most likely a combination of the three -- hasn't hit with the regularity we've become accustomed to from the reigning MVP. After completing 11 of his 18 deep passes for 436 yards and 6 TD in Weeks 1-3, those numbers dipped to 6-23, 177 yards, 2 TD on deep passes the past three tilts.

"We're going to bounce back," wide receiver Tyreek Hill said. "We're the Chiefs. That's what we do. We've got the MVP quarterback."

The question for Reid, Mahomes and Hill is whether it's the QB's ankle holding back the offense the past couple weeks or if teams have found a blueprint for success against K.C.: man-to-man coverage on D and ball control on offense against a struggling Chiefs defense to keep Mahomes on the sideline.

Both issues have popped off the stat sheet in recent weeks.

Mahomes has an 82.2 passer rating facing man coverage (17th in NFL, min. 25 att.) while leading the NFL with a 152.3 passer rating against zone coverage in 2019, per Pro Football Focus.

The Chiefs have the lowest average time of possession in NFL the past two weeks (21:29). Part of the issue is K.C.'s own inability to run the ball behind a banged-up O-line. In the past two weeks, the Chiefs' 12.5 carries per game (fewest in NFL) and a 24.0 run percent.

Despite the recent struggles, Mahomes still leads the NFL with 350.7 passing YPG and remains on pace to throw for 5,611 yards, besting Peyton Manning's record (5,477) for a single season.

Reid knows that things aren't as bad as they've seemed in the last couple of weeks, just as they weren't as high as they appeared during the 4-0 start to the season.

"We've got a bunch of things we've got to work on here and get turned around," Reid said. "I've seen us do it better, and we will do it better.

"Every season is going to give you some hurdles that you have to scale. This is one of those challenges. It tests you. But we'll bear down. We'll bear down and get it done."

The first big hurdle comes Thursday night in a pivotal road game in Denver against a Vic Fangio defense that is coming off back-to-back wins.

Print