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Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes learned a few lessons in last year’s AFC title game – Kansas City Chiefs Blog

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — His first experience in the AFC Championship Game last year taught Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes a few truths about football this deep into the season. The main lesson: to be ready for anything the opponent might throw his way.

Mahomes will take those lessons into this year’s AFC title game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

“Last year they caught us a little off guard with the coverages they played at the beginning of the game,” Mahomes said of the Chiefs’ overtime loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. “We made adjustments and were able to score points later in the game, but you want to make sure that you’re just preparing for everything. You know that [the Titans have] a good defense. They do a lot of different things, play a lot of man, play a lot of zone and so you know they’re going to throw different coverages out there against you.”

The Chiefs were the NFL’s highest-scoring team in the 2018 regular season but were shut out in the first half of the championship game when the Patriots blanketed Mahomes’ receivers with man-to-man coverage. The Chiefs eventually adjusted and came back to take the lead on the Patriots before losing in overtime.

Falling behind 14-0 at halftime again is something Mahomes and the Chiefs are trying to avoid.

Succeeding against man coverage is an area where Mahomes and the Chiefs have improved since early this season. In the first seven games, Mahomes threw against man coverage 69% of the time, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and had a QBR of 65, a completion rate of 58% and a touchdown rate of 3.6% on those throws.

Since he returned from his knee injury in Week 10, Mahomes has a QBR of 77 against man coverage, a completion rate of 62% and a TD rate of 8.3%. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes in last week’s divisional round win over the Houston Texans.

“They played quite a bit of man, almost every snap,” coach Andy Reid said of the Texans. “Our guys have battled through it. I think we’ve gotten better at releases. … I think we’ve done a better job coaching it. I’ll take responsibility for that. We’ve spent a lot of time at that. The faults were my problem. … Changed some things up and got it straightened out.”

The Chiefs are now confident against any coverage.

“I feel like nobody in the NFL can guard any of us,” wide receiver Tyreek Hill said. “That’s no disrespect to [anybody]. That’s just the confidence I’ve got in myself and just the wideouts I’ve got around me, including the tight ends and the running backs. No DB unit, no secondary unit, no linebackers or any defense can guard any of us. Man-to-man, it’s just easy for us to beat. If you just allow us to run through zones, it’s even easier.”

The early struggles against man-to-man coverage were part of the learning experience for Mahomes in his second season as a starter.

“The second year in the NFL is a tough year for quarterbacks, a tough, tough year,” Reid said. “There are some great minds in the National Football League that are coaching the defensive side of the ball. They have a whole year, offseason, to study, and they’re going to come back with their absolute best against you and he answered it and he did it through some adversity with injuries or players that weren’t playing, whatever it might be.

“He didn’t flinch. He kept the same attitude, the same work ethic, and he went after it. He had a major injury that he pushed through where the coaches and the trainers and the doctors all had to back him off.”

Mahomes played through three significant injuries this season, though only the dislocated kneecap prevented him from playing in a game. He missed 2½ games in the middle of the season.

The Chiefs had a rash of other offensive injuries as well. Hill missed four games early in the season and the Chiefs were forced to start five different offensive line combinations.

The Chiefs scored 114 fewer points than in 2018 but had their highest-scoring game of the season last week when they tallied 51.

“He’s learning how to win when things aren’t perfect,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said of Mahomes. “Now he’s making plays with his feet in the pocket. He’s making a call at the line of scrimmage and giving us an opportunity to pick up pressure from a late-rotating safety.

“Don’t get me wrong: You always want to see those games where we can have 400, 500 yards passing and a lot of points. But you have to know how to win when things aren’t perfect.”

Mahomes in 2018 threw 50 touchdown passes and for more than 5,000 yards during the regular season, becoming only the second player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. This season, his touchdowns were down to 26 and his yards down to 4,031.

But his interceptions also were down, from 12 last season to five.

“Understanding Coach Reid’s game plan and knowing the big plays are going to come,” Mahomes said in explanation. “He’s going to dial up the plays where you can take the shots. Having the experience of more and more games, I really understand that more now. I obviously want to go for the big shot with all the speed and playmakers we have on the field but just let it come to you and not force it.

“In general I’m more prepared just [because of] the experience I’ve had this year. I still feel there are times where the defense gets me. But that happens. … Whenever I get an unscouted look, I’m able to fall back on stuff I’ve done in my short career and hopefully I’ll keep building that memory as I go.”

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Green Bay Packers consider Davante Adams a game-time decision for Sunday night game

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The Green Bay Packers will give star wide receiver Davante Adams up until game time Sunday night to recover from his hamstring injury and prove that he can play against the New Orleans Saints, a team source tells ESPN.

Adams is officially listed as doubtful, and the source told ESPN that it’s “unlikely” he will play. But the source also said that if Adams can prove he can run full speed in pregame warm-ups on Sunday night, the Packers would allow him to play.

The Pro Bowl receiver did not practice Friday, marking the third straight day he worked with the rehab group. Adams tied a franchise record in Week 1 with 14 catches against the Minnesota Vikings and had three catches last Sunday against the Detroit Lions before suffering the injury.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur has stopped short of ruling out Adams completely, saying Friday that Green Bay “will give him the rest of the week to see where he’s at.”

It was during Adams’ absence last season that running back Aaron Jones emerged. In the first game without Adams, Jones had four touchdowns in a win at the Dallas Cowboys and totaled 182 total yards from scrimmage. Against the Lions last week, Jones set a personal best with 236 total yards.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

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Las Vegas Raiders expect Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs to face New England Patriots

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While the Las Vegas Raiders have listed tight end Darren Waller (knee) and running back Josh Jacobs (hip) as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, both are expected to play, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Waller had 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Monday and drew praise from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Waller has 18 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown on the season.

In other injury news:

  • It doesn’t sound overly encouraging but Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, is not expected to have his final status decided until about 90 minutes before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, a source tells Schefter. “It’s nip and tuck, up in the air,” one Falcons’ source said Saturday.

  • Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown is nursing a “pretty significant knee bruise” that hasn’t responded as well or as quickly as the team had hoped, a source tells Schefter. It is a painful injury, and Brown easily could wind up missing more time with the slow-healing nature of it.

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Source — New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas ‘moving really well’ in workouts, eyes Week 4 return

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New Orleans Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas, who will miss his second straight game Sunday night with a high ankle sprain, was “moving really well” during Friday’s workout and wants to play in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions, a league source tells ESPN.

Thomas’ availability ultimately will hinge on whether he is cleared by doctors, but the record-setting receiver “looked good” this weekend, according to the source.

Thomas has not practiced since he suffered the ankle injury during the final minutes of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Saints chose not to place Thomas on injured reserve — which would have required him to miss at least three games.

New Orleans’ offense struggled without Thomas in this past Monday night’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, which led to scrutiny over Drew Brees‘ lack of downfield passes.

Thomas won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award last season after setting the NFL record with 149 catches in a season.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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