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Terrance Mitchell on Influx of Targets Coming His Way: "Come On With It"

Mitchell welcomes the competition

It's fair to say that it's now a trend.

The NFL isn't going to test Kansas City Chiefs third-year cornerback Marcus Peters as much as they have in the past.

After all, why would they?

Peters won the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2015, and followed it up with first-team All-Pro honors last year. He leads the NFL with 14 interceptions over the past two seasons, and he's the first player in NFL history to have six-plus interceptions and 20-plus passes defensed in each of his first two years in the league.

That's not a guy you want to test because he's eventually going to get his hands on the ball, and that could often be the difference between a win and a loss.

It's not just the eye test either, the numbers show teams aren't willing to gamble in his direction.

As a rookie, Peters was targeted 151 times, and then last year, that number dipped to just 91, per Pro Football Focus.

The first time it was obvious that a team (and quarterback) were actively staying away from Peters was last year against future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

"He's playing as well as anybody in the league right now in the secondary," Brees said of Peters the week leading up to that game. "He's a very dangerous player and has exceptional skills, exceptional ball skills, great instincts, especially for a young player. He just seems to have a nose for the football."

That wasn't lip service.

Peters was targeted just three times in that game—the fewest of any game in his career to that point.

"I mean that's a respect thing for Marcus," Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained after the game. "That doesn't mean you can let down, obviously. I remember that with Deion Sanders, that's kind of how those things rolled. You kind of stayed away from him and went over to the other side. So, I've seen that before.

"The other guys have to know that they're going to get some action, and that's okay. We've got good players there."

One of those players for the Chiefs is journeyman Terrance Mitchell, who stepped up and played big snaps for the Chiefs late last year as teams were testing Peters less and less. He played well enough that the Chiefs thought enough of his ability, as well as the other guys on the roster, to not bring in another cornerback in the draft or free agency. They were going to roll with what they had.

This all became much more of a focus last week heading into the game against the New England Patriots because of the "core muscle injury" to Steven Nelson, who played more snaps than any other cornerback on the roster last year and was placed on Injured Reserve and will be out a couple of months at minimum.

The Chiefs were going up against one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Tom Brady without one of their top cornerbacks.

And much like Brees did last year, Brady completely avoided Peters, who finished the Chiefs' dominant 42-27 victory with just one pass thrown in his direction. It wasn't completed. That's respect on a whole other level from Brady in that environment with the weapons he has and the ability to determine matchups with Peters playing on the left side.

It gave Mitchell, who was targeted 11 times, plenty of opportunities to make plays.

While it wasn't a perfect game for Mitchell, who allowed four receptions for 96 yards and had four penalties as well, he did make one of the biggest plays in the game.

With a little more than four minutes remaining and with the Chiefs holding an eight-point lead at 35-27, Brady bombed a third-and-17 pass deep down the middle for the speedy receiver Brandin Cooks, who looked to have a couple of steps on Mitchell.

Running at full speed and fighting to get across Cooks' body to affect the pass, Mitchell reached up with his left hand and swatted the ball away at the last second.

If not for that play, Cooks may have scored and the Patriots would have had a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. It would have changed everything.

Despite giving up a few big plays earlier in the game, nothing has diminished the confidence Mitchell has in his ability to handle the workload that comes with playing opposite of Peters.

When asked Wednesday afternoon of all the targets perhaps heading his way, Mitchell just smiled and said, "Come on with it."

"The game is 80-20," Mitchell added. "It's 80 percent mental, and 20 percent physical. So, if you've got the game up top and you're pretty strong there, everything else will take care of itself."

With everything Mitchell has been through leading up to this opportunity to start the season as "a guy" for the first time in his career, including being released seven times by three teams in just two years, the mental toughness isn't a question. It's there.

"Well it means a lot, you know," Mitchell explained of the chance to start this year. "The opportunity, I'm grateful for the opportunity and I just want to continue to grow, keep working on my game, and be doing it with my teammates."

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