FRANKFURT, Germany – A walk through the heart of downtown Frankfurt, Patrick Mahomes is almost everywhere you look.
The Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback has an exhibition in the adidas store in the MyZeil shopping center. His jersey hangs in most sporting goods stores, and his face adorns almost every marketing element the NFL has used in preparation for its Frankfurt debut.
He’s hard to miss, but that won’t be the case on Sunday.
As the Miami Dolphins Prepare to take on the defending champion Chiefs (9:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network). Their main priority on defense is stopping the league’s reigning MVP.
“I’m just trying to stop him from having an incredible game,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “And hopefully try to limit the improvised plays where he starts scrambling around, making great throws off the run, getting guys open, he pulls the ball down and runs it for critical first downs. He’s really tough.”
“You have to defend the play they call in the huddle, which is hard enough, and then you have to defend the play they create after the first one breaks down a little bit.”
Mahomes’ career highlights include a series of extended plays, throws from difficult-to-reproduce arm angles and no-look passes.
It makes life difficult for opposing defenses.
Since his first season as a starter in 2018, Mahomes leads all active players in passing yards (16,187), passing touchdowns (121) and quarterback rating (69.4) when his throw time is more than 2.5 seconds. He is a prolific off-script passer, going so far that even when a defense is doing everything right, he is prone to completing a pass or going for the first down.
“Yeah, obviously he looks like a magician sometimes with some of the things he does,” Dolphins linebacker said Jaelan Phillips said. “But at the end of the day you just have to be disciplined in your rush. I think the most important thing, at least when it comes to edges, is to keep him in check and not let him roll out of the pocket.”
“It can definitely be very frustrating because you can hurry up, win, do everything perfectly and he gets the ball away. Or you run around, he runs around for five, six seconds and makes a crazy throw.” [tight end] Travis Kelce down the field. I think we have to expect that to happen and know that it will happen a few times throughout the game, but we can’t let it discourage us. We just have to keep going no matter what happens.”
Former Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hillnow in his second season with the Dolphins, was often a benefactor of Mahomes’ escape ability during their four seasons together.
Hill gave his defensive teammates some important advice for when plays fall apart and Mahomes gets into trouble: Find Kelce.
“I told the guys to just find Kelce,” he said. “If you allow Kelce to get open, he’s like the energy of this team. Even though Pat is a real all-around player, when he finds Kelce and Kelce only catches a 2-yard pass, he somehow finds energy in it and gets the team going. “They’re doing a great job. And they always provided great coaching when I was there. They have a whole PowerPoint presentation on it and everything.”
Since 2018, Kelce leads all players with 296 passes that take longer than 2.5 seconds to attempt. The Dolphins will use multiple coverages to limit Kelce’s impact, including potentially shadowing safety Jevon Holland or cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
“They have guns left and right,” Holland said. “They just get the ball to their main players when they need it and they make it happen. Then of course Pat Mahomes is something special. He can scramble, extend plays, use his feet, use his mind and look downfield.”
“It definitely adds a unique dynamic to their offense. … It’s an exciting game plan for them because you kind of don’t see something like that very often.”
Dolphins players and coaches insist there isn’t necessarily a specific key to stopping Mahomes — but to have any chance of doing so, you have to stick with your plan, even as the Chiefs’ plan evolves.
If your job is to cover, then cover as a linebacker Jerome Baker said, and if you have to hurry up, then hurry up.
When those lines blur, Mahomes thrives.
“Don’t try to do too much. That gets people in trouble,” Baker said. “If you’re a reporting guy and you try to rush it, then you’re leaving someone way down. So it’s simple, just do your job and everything will be fine.”
The Dolphins defense has had mixed results in longer games this season. It enabled the 15th best quarterback rating (41.3) on plays with a throw time of more than 2.5 seconds. Opposing quarterbacks have the third-highest completion rate above expectations on such throws (5.1%) and the tenth-highest yards per attempt (8.4).
However, Miami has also recorded 26 sacks on such plays, which ranks fourth in the NFL, and has contacted the quarterback a league-leading 55 times.
Linebackers Bradley Chubb said keeping Mahomes in check is “much easier said than done,” and the Dolphins are prepared for him to find some success on Sunday regardless of what they do to slow him down.
But Miami also expects its own successes – as long as it stays true to its tasks.
“It won’t be an easy task, but that’s the goal,” Chubb said. “We might not do it every play. We might not do it half the games. But at the end of the day, that’s the goal, to keep him in the bag. And even if we don’t, I know the guys on the back end are going to do their job to hold, redirect, plaster and all those things. It’s more about team defense and not so much about, “Oh, if he escapes the pocket, he’ll do it,” “hurt us,” because that’s what he’ll do.
“He’s one of the best for a reason, so that’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to be in those positions to make plays, we just have to be in a better position.”