Patrick Mahomes Vs Kirk Cousins: Chalky QBs in High-Scoring Game

Patrick Mahomes Vs Kirk Cousins


You could spend all day looking up crazy Patrick Mahomes stats, like the fact that he has 112 touchdown passes on the road since 2018 and the next best quarterback has 80 or that his 111.8 career QB rating on third down is nearly 10 points better than the next highest. But the craziest part of his game that shows up on his stats page might be how rarely Mahomes takes sacks.


Kansas City’s superstar has never been brought down in the backfield more than 28 times in a single season and has a career 3.8% sack percentage. That’s sixth best all time, right behind the likes of modern-era GOATs Peyton Manning and Dan Marino and just ahead of Drew Brees. Except the difference is that those guys were pocket quarterbacks. Mahomes has the same number of scrambles this year as Lamar Jackson, yet he’s only been sacked two times in four games.

That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been under duress. He’s the 13th most pressured quarterback, yet Mahomes is the highest graded PFF passer under pressure and averages 8.4 yards per attempt when under pressure and has the lowest percentage of pressures that turn into sacks.


Former quarterback and Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell explained on Friday:

“It’s the physical ability to avoid catastrophe and bad plays and negative plays, and sacks and hits, that he has… but then it’s the feel….based upon the front, based upon the rush pattern, without looking at it, he can feel and know where he needs to leave the pocket or climb the pocket or move up and out in the pocket, and then the last thing is just the calmness that he’s able to do it with and then at any point in time, put all three of those factors together and then still throw the ball with unbelievable accuracy from really any platform. It really is, when you start studying him and watching the way he does it…it’s very, very impressive.”

The Vikings haven’t shied away from acknowledging Mahomes’s greatness this week. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores smiled at the podium and admitted that it’s “fun to watch.”

Flores, whose defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL by a country mile in blitz percentage, has a unique task. Does he blitz Mahomes and try to create some type of havoc even if he knows those blitzes are unlikely to result in sacks or does he try to play a different type of style than the team has used for the first four weeks?

It isn’t just that Mahomes avoids sacks vs. blitzes, he dices them up in ways no other quarterback can. In 2021, he put together a 119.0 QB rating against extra rushers and last year that number remained strong at 107.4. Teams have basically stopped blitzing him after seeing him carve them up like a pumpkin and this season he’s only seeing blitzes on 15% of drop-backs (per PFF).

When Flores faced Mahomes in 2020, the Vikings’ defensive coordinator did not change his stripes, attacking him 59% of drop-backs. It was a win-some, lose-some game for Flores’ highly-talented Miami defense. Mahomes went 15-for-20 with 269 yards against Flores’ blitzes but also threw two interceptions and, shockingly, was sacked three times.

“I think they have answers for pretty much anything that someone would do defensively,” Flores said. “It’s important to mix things. Pressure, I think you can, I think you have to but you have to mix your pressures with regular four-man coverages, some man, some zone because if you just do one thing…there are answers.”

Last week the New York Jets put together one of the most impressive games against Mahomes of any team since the Chiefs’ quarterback came into the league. Robert Salah’s Jets pressured him on 50% of snaps while only blitzing six times on 36 drop-backs and Mahomes gained just 6.5 yards per attempt and threw two ugly interceptions.

Between linebacker Bryce Huff, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and defensive end John Franklin-Mayers, the Jets got 17 pressures and seven hits on Mahomes. The outside corners DJ Reed and Sauce Gardner only gave up 28 yards in coverage.

“It’s great when you can get pressure with the four guys that you want and how you deploy your rush to try to activate better chances to get home, but then, even when you do, he’s going to find a way up and out,” O’Connell said. “We’ve got to plaster on the back end and then mix some timely pressures as well.”

Where Kansas City does not appear as invincible as years past is in their receiving core and on the edges of their offensive line. Tackles Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor rank 30th and 46th out of 62 tackles by PFF. That gives the Vikings’ defense a chance, if pass rusher Marcus Davenport is healthy and performs like he did last week (he is listed as questionable). In the receiving corps, Rashee Rice (on just 18 targets) is the only top-50 graded receiver on the KC roster. Both factors have pushed the Chiefs to throw shorter passes, which the Vikings have seen often against Flores’ blitzes.

The X factor is Travis Kelce. He has 17 receptions in three games but is 27 yards per game lower than his average last season. The Vikings have yet to face a dominant tight end so far and Kelce is much more than your average star at the position. His ability to adlib with Mahomes is unlike the connection between any two players in the league.

“You can see sometimes on tape, you know exactly what the play is meant to be, you know what it looked like on the chalkboard, and then Travis will just stop the route and uncover the other way or restart the route and uncover,” O’Connell said. “It’s just their ability to feel how the play is actually playing out and then alter it based upon feel and comfort with one another is really what makes it so hard.”

Despite some tough stretches the Vikings’ defense has shown signs of improvement. They are 19th in points allowed and sixth in yards per rushing attempt but still are struggling to bother passers, ranking third worst in pressure percentage. That will have to change — whether they blitz Mahomes or not — in order to chip away at some of those incredible stats and get the season back on track with a victory.


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