One team has a 41-year-old quarterback who’s destined for Canton one day. The bust can already be ordered, molded and mounted.
The other has a 23-year-old phenom who has taken the league by storm in less than two months.
Tom Brady may hold twice as many NFL records (12) as Patrick Mahomes has career starts (6) right now, but that’s only one reason the game Sunday night in Foxboro is slated as the must-see game of the week. There’s intrigue everywhere you look.
Both coaches—Andy Reid and Bill Belichick, are good friends, and they’re the only two active NFL coaches who rank in the Top 25 in career wins.
Reid (199) and Belichick (281) have 480 career coaching wins between them, and it’s not that often that two of the best to ever do it meet in a game like this.
“You spend a lot of hours doing what we are doing, and you love the challenge of it,” Reid told the local Kansas City media Wednesday afternoon of facing Belichick and the Patriots, who have 17-consecutive winning seasons with five Super Bowl titles in eight appearances over the past 18 years. “I think as players and coaches you cherish those things.”
In facing the defensive-minded Belichick, the offensive-minded Reid spoke about what makes this matchup so difficult, which starts with the flexibility and adaptability to the opponent that Belichick takes with his defense.
“He’s the best at that. He mixes and matches,” Reid explained. “He can change up and give you a completely different look one week than the other.”
Whether that’s three, four, or five guys up on the defensive line, or any combination of cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers on the field at one time against a certain offensive personnel grouping, Reid and the Chiefs have had success deciphering that Patriots’ look in their last two regular season meetings.
The won back at Arrowhead in 2014 on Monday Night Football—a game best remembered for Chiefs Kingdom breaking the Guinness Book of World Records sound record for an outdoor stadium, and then in the meeting in Week 1 of last season, which is best known as Kareem Hunt’s introduction to the country.
Hunt had 246 total yards of offense and three touchdowns in that game, which the Chiefs won, 42-27.
“They’re going to have a game plan on trying to stop some of your better guys,” Mahomes explained of facing the Patriots on Wednesday. “With us, I feel like the mentality we’ve had this entire season is that whoever is open, give them the ball and let them make the play. They’re going to do some stuff to try to confuse me, but I’m going to try to maintain our game plan and keep working.”
Through five weeks, teams have had difficulties trying to confuse Mahomes for an extended period of time.
He ranks among the best in the league from throwing inside the pocket, and the 192 passing yards from outside of the pocket he had against the Broncos on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago were the most for a quarterback in more than a decade, plus his Next Gen Stats passing chart looks like it’s allergic to the color red, which represents where a quarterback is struggling to throw the ball (spoiler: there is no red area).
But the early success has only been about what Mahomes has seen thus far, and not what’s ahead of him and what he hasn’t yet had to face or experience. There’s still plenty of that out there and Reid explained this week that it’s about stacking games, practices and experiences on top of each other to create an encyclopedia of knowledge that can only come through playing these games.
“Preparation becomes important that when you look at a route, you don’t look at it versus one coverage, but you make sure you have got it down at least mentally versus all the looks you might face,” Reid explained of how his young quarterback will develop over time. “You can’t feasibly practice every look, but you can go through the mental reps. That’s the way it will be I would tell you through the first couple years till you really get a grasp of it of all the different looks against all the different routes.
“And give credit to the defensive coaches, they are creative guys. Bill (Belichick) is very creative that way. He will have something there and will have a plan.”
And because Belichick is so versatile and adaptable to the offense he’s about to face, the preparation going into that game of what they might see changes for the Chiefs as well.
“I’ve definitely watched all the games that (the Patriots) have already played this season,” Mahomes explained. “Then you look back at how they played us (in the past) and how they played teams that run similar plays as us.”
“We make sure we have plays that are good versus all of them and then you go in and you play,” Reid added. “It will be similar to what (Chiefs’ defensive coordinator) Bob [Sutton] does during training camp— that way that you are going to get a whole lot of different looks.”
And while they won’t be facing each other on the field, Mahomes does understand the aura surrounding playing against a living legend like Brady.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” Mahomes added. “He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks, if not the greatest, to ever play. I’m going against their defense, but as a team we’re going to go in and try to compete, and just to compete against one of the best teams in the league is going to be an awesome opportunity.”
Mahomes’ college coach at Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury, spent a year with Brady and the Patriots in 2003 following his own impressive playing career at Tech. Mahomes told the media that Kingsbury had them watch tape of Brady in college and particularly the way he moved around the pocket.
“I’ve definitely taken some things from him,” Mahomes explained. “He does it at such a high level, it’s something you have to strive to be like.”
It’s two quarterbacks at opposite ends of their careers meeting alongside two coaches who are bounded by a passion and love for the game that’s driven them to heights only achieved by a handful of other men, and that’s just the surface of what’s special about this matchup.
It’s what it’s all about.