The bright side of a lackluster divisional round is a star-studded conference championship weekend, bringing us rematches of two of the regular season’s best games.
We’ll start at Arrowhead with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, who might have won Round 1 in Foxborough if it had lasted much longer.
1. How will Belichick adapt?
Despite intercepting Patrick Mahomes twice in the first half of Week 6, the Patriots and Bill Belichick couldn’t pin him down. Mahomes eventually caught fire, hitting big shots to Tyreek Hill and creating off-schedule plays outside the pocket to nearly pull the upset.
Belichick - Approach - Quarterbacks - Mahomes - Pocket
Belichick’s favored mush-rush approach against mobile quarterbacks isn’t enough against Mahomes, because he’ll win from the pocket when not pressured. However, blitzes can produce scrambling lanes if done without discipline.
To contain AND pressure Mahomes, the Patriots could use more of a tactic that worked in Week 6: Cover-0 with two lurkers. Presnap, they show all-out blitz with one-on-one coverage everywhere (the Cover-0 element), forcing the offensive line to leave one rusher (the furthest outside rusher) unblocked. But at the snap, two inside defenders — usually Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy — start to blitz before dropping into underneath zones. O-linemen must honor that initial rush, leaving an outside rusher unblocked. With scramble lanes up the middle jammed, the free rusher forces a quick throw, and the two droppers take away short throws inside.
Concept - Times - Philip - Rivers - Times
This concept worked a few times in Week 6 (and also foiled Philip Rivers at times last week). Because pressure comes quickly and inside options are limited, it often forces low-percentage deep balls — thrown before a target’s route is defined — leading to harmless incompletions.
Using this tactic early might unsettle Mahomes a bit, enticing him to expect pressure and play too fast. Using it often throughout the game would be...
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