The Kansas City Chiefs fell 43-40 in a shootout to the New England Patriots in Week 6 after falling behind 24-9 at halftime before a comeback bid was ultimately wiped away by Tom Brady.
Patrick Mahomes lit up the box score in that loss, tossing for 352 yards and four touchdowns. A slow start, which included two first-half interceptions by the presumptive NFL MVP, however, put K.C. in a big hole.
Ahead of Sunday's AFC Conference Championship, Mahomes said Wednesday the Chiefs can't fall behind big again in the rematch.
"We didn't feel good. Especially me, and I felt like we didn't play our best, especially early in the game," he said of the Week 6 loss. "When you play teams of this caliber, you play teams with this much history of knowing how to win and capitalizing on people's mistakes you can't come back and win games like that. It was shown that game. For us, we've learned from that, know we can't make those mistakes. We have to come out with our best effort from the beginning of the game all the way through the end and it's going to be a dog fight for the entire game if you want to try to come out with a win."
"They did what they always do, and that's come out with unscouted looks, stuff they haven't shown in weeks, maybe even years and then try to throw it on you and surprise you," he said. "For us, it's about finding ways to adjust to that as fast as possible and going out and having success and making those in-game adjustments in order to capitalize earlier in the game than we did last time."
Facing a Bill Belichick-coached team is tough for any quarterback. The Patriots' legend has been particularly dominant against green signal-callers. Against quarterbacks with one or fewer playoff starts since 2001, the Patriots are 8-0, have allowed just 56.9 completion percentage and 230.0 yards per game, have surrendered only nine TDs while logging 10 INTs and have allowed a passer rating of 73.3.
Mahomes noted that the Patriots were one team that gave him most trouble out of all the defenses he's faced in his first year as a starting quarterback.
"Them and I would say Baltimore were probably the two biggest ones that threw out unscouted looks the whole entire game," he said. "But I think that just comes with the veteran leadership on the coaching staff and the players on that team. They have the talent where they can play the man coverage and do that stuff. At the same time, they can change up the look and do stuff they're not necessarily doing all season long and still execute it. So, when you play veteran teams like this, you have to make sure you have a plan for everything every single play."
Mahomes knows he won't get the exact same looks from Belichick on Sunday. His job will be adjusting quicker this time around, so any early-game hole isn't as deep.