Printed: Jan 27, 2023 at 01: 36 PM

Patrick Mahomes has been lovely phenomenal unstoppable since taking on as the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs’ beginning quarterback in 2018. The outlier of outliers, Mahomes generated +694.0 anticipated factors added (EPA) on his dropbacks over the past five seasons, extra than double the next-closest participant. In phrases of quarterback tiers, there is Mahomes … and then there is everyone else. In head-to-head matchups with the merely elite quarterbacks in the next rung down, he has notched a victory against nearly each particular person of them. Tom Brady. Josh Allen. Justin Herbert. Lamar Jackson. Trevor Lawrence. Dak Prescott. Nonetheless there is one evident omission from that listing.

Mahomes will play in his fifth AFC Championship Sport in as a long time on Sunday evening, when he’ll be pleased any other so that you can add Joe Burrow‘s title to the listing of elite quarterbacks he has overwhelmed. Burrow’s document against Mahomes currently sits at 3-0, together with final yr’s AFC title bout. And after Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in the Divisional Spherical, he’ll face an uphill combat to in the end gain the simplest of Burrow. Would possibly presumably this be Mahomes’ “flu game”?

Now, Mahomes has been as efficient as any quarterback when having fun with in building this season, posting a league-high 53.9 percent success fee from contained in the address field. Nonetheless his capacity to lengthen and manufacture performs out of nothing has repeatedly been his superpower. Regain away his mobility, and Mahomes now no longer occupies a perch head and shoulders above everyone else; he drops to being a merely elite quarterback.

Mahomes became once noticeably diminutive after his damage in the first quarter in the Divisional Spherical. He traveled nearly half the distance from snap to pass after the damage (averaging 4.1 yards bolt yards per dropback) when put next with forward of the damage (8.0 yards) and became once constrained to operating contained in the pocket. Mahomes is one of many simplest quarterbacks we be pleased ever considered throwing off platform, nonetheless he simply became once no longer in the form to manufacture these throws publish-damage final week. He started the game with five of his first 12 pass attempts coming when he became once touring no no longer as much as 8 mph, nonetheless had apt one such try on his final 18 throws.

Whereas Mahomes desires to be extra contented with per week of medication, a high ankle sprain at times takes weeks to gain greater from — and the ominous chance of a extra extreme damage looms tidy. As such, it is possible that Andy Reid and the Chiefs will develop a game thought that gets the ball out of Mahomes’ palms quickly and minimizes the stress on his ankle. Mahomes additionally suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 of 2019, although it became once to his left (non-planting) ankle. On the very subsequent Sunday, he torched a porous Raiders protection for 443 yards and four touchdown passes — nonetheless given the usual of the opponent, that manufacturing desires to be taken with a grain of salt. The extra crucial takeaway from that game is that Mahomes threw a profession-low 4.5 percent of his passes on the flee and averaged apt 4.9 bolt yards per dropback (fourth-lowest). His time to throw became once 2.59 seconds, nearly a third of a 2nd sooner than his profession common (2.88 seconds).

In the possible case that the Chiefs cease embody the brief game to give protection to Mahomes, they with out a doubt be pleased enjoyed past success in doing so. Mahomes led the NFL in success fee (58.4 percent) and passing EPA (+94.6, the simplest QB over 70) on passes taking beneath 2.5 seconds this season. Sadly for Kansas Metropolis, Cincinnati became once a brick wall against rapid passes this season. In the beginning effect test, it is going to also manufacture sense for the Chiefs to lean into the flee game and purchase the burden off Mahomes. Nonetheless, K.C.’s offense has been very much extra efficient speeding this season when Mahomes traces up beneath heart, in preference to out of the shotgun. In insist to decrease the stress on Mahomes’ ankle, the Chiefs will doubtlessly stick him in the ‘gun and restrict his motion per play. No topic how you split it, the offense can be extra one-dimensional. And if any individual need to purchase encourage of that, it is Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

Anarumo has developed into one of many premier defensive minds in the league over the final two seasons. His in-game changes be pleased stifled opposing offenses, together with Kansas Metropolis’s attack one day of final yr’s AFC title game, when the Bengals flooded throwing dwelling windows and held the Chiefs to apt three factors after halftime, permitting Cincy to total an 18-point comeback. Popping out of halftime, the Bengals be pleased recorded the fourth-absolute most sensible defensive success fee (59.4 percent) against the omit the final two seasons (together with playoffs).

Anarumo, phenomenal extra so than Burrow and the Bengals’ explosive playmakers, has been the motive force in the support of Cincinnati’s three-game make a selection meander against Mahomes. Out of 92 profession begins (together with the postseason), all three of Mahomes’ performances vs. Anarumo-coached defenses be pleased ranked in the underside half by passing EPA. In each of these games, Mahomes has averaged a time to throw over 3 seconds.

By enforcing disguises and shedding extra defenders into coverage, Anarumo slows down opposing quarterbacks. The Bengals be pleased confronted a median time to throw of two.87 seconds since 2021 (together with playoffs), which ranks fourth-longest in the league. This is exactly what the Chiefs will desire to live away from on Sunday: The extra time Mahomes holds onto the ball, the extra change Trey Hendrickson and Co. can be pleased to gain dwelling. Without the chance of Mahomes scrambling out of the pocket, the Bengals’ pass rushers can be pleased to fright less about placing forward bustle-lane integrity and having fun with non-public; as any other, they’ll apt focal point on getting stress.

One more manner Anarumo can also purchase encourage of a hobbled Mahomes is by leaning extra into man coverage. Taking the coverage unit’s eyes off of Mahomes becomes phenomenal extra palpable when he lacks the capacity to purchase up first downs with his legs. The Bengals be pleased been intellectual in man coverage this season, earning the third-absolute most sensible defensive success fee (64.1 percent, together with the playoffs). In final week’s 27-10 make a selection over the Payments in Buffalo, the Bengals played man coverage on all six third-down dropbacks in the first three quarters forward of the game bought out of hand. The result? They allowed apt one completion and first down. Assuming Cincy has a thought to bracket tight extinguish Travis Kelce, the Bengals’ secondary should always be pleased a marked encourage over the Chiefs’ famous particular person-free receiving corps if they elect to man-up.

Suffice to allege, Mahomes will face one of many hardest tests of his profession on Sunday. Whereas Mahomes can also aloof be the simplest quarterback in the league even at 80-to-90 percent, the Bengals’ protection is designed to purchase away the easy throws that the Chiefs will test to emphasize. Reid and Mahomes can be forced to play with a handicap, and the chess game between them and Anarumo can be attention-grabbing to look.