FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The topic in the New England Patriots' locker room was Patrick Mahomes, and the comparisons ranged from Aaron Rodgers to Michael Vick, but the conclusion was more focused: There is nobody quite like the Kansas City Chiefs star.
There is maybe a little bit of Rodgers with the way he moves and fires lasers on the run. Perhaps a tinge of Vick with that lightning quick flick of the wrist that sends the football 70 yards or so downfield. Possibly a snippet of Brett Favre with that reckless abandon that’s sometimes on display as Mahomes is carving up defenses or tossing passes with his opposite hand.
More than anything, Mahomes is something most of the New England Patriots have never quite seen before, aside from Week 6 when they beat him 43-40 at Gillette Stadium. Mahomes was 23-of-36 for 352 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and a 110 passer rating in that game.
They will get another glance at the likely MVP on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC championship game (6:40 p.m., CBS).
“I feel as far as comparisons throughout our season, the only guy we played like him this year was in Week 6 when we played against him,” veteran cornerback Jason McCourty said. “There are no comparisons to him.”
Safety Duron Harmon admitted sitting in the film room this week almost in amazement at some of Mahomes’ film. It’s like they have to chuckle at some of the things they were watching.
There was the pass Mahomes zipped submarine-style around a pass rusher and offensive lineman to tight end Travis Kelce last week. That one opened some eyes. There was the left-handed pass he completed for a first down to wide receiver Tyreek Hill in Week 4 against the Broncos. There are the handful of darts he has thrown 40 yards downfield across his body this season and the unique arm angles that he seems to invent on a weekly basis.
No wonder Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards with 50 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions this season.
“He does it all,” Patriots defensive end Adrian Claiborne said. “If the rush doesn’t get to him, he’ll step up and hit Kelce up the middle. If you make him scramble, he’ll go outside the pocket, do two backflips or whatever. ... He probably could. He throws left-handed. He can do it all.”
This is Mahomes’ tape as a first-year starter. The Patriots can only imagine how much better it can get. It is why Mahomes has a chance ultimately to take the throne from Tom Brady, who's chasing his sixth Super Bowl title, as the face of the league and potentially its best player.
“I’m always going to strive to do some of the things that he’s done with the Super Bowls that he’s won. That is the ultimate goal,” Mahomes said this week. “He’s not trying to pass the torch any time soon.”
It may not be his choice. Mahomes might snatch it from him with a combination of Rodgers, Vick and Favre-like plays.
Mahomes and Brady are two different generations of quarterbacks. Brady is the more traditional pocket passer, winning during pre-snap adjustments in ways that would make his idol Joe Montana proud. Mahomes is the new-age freelance specialist, pulling rabbits out of a hat while being chased by defenders and traditionalists.
Harmon and All Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore see shades of Rodgers when they look at Mahomes’ skillset. The way they both roll around, not really looking to scramble but instead scrambling to throw the ball downfield with their big arms, and making throws using elite touch. That is familiar, along with the pinpoint accuracy on deep balls.
“When we sit and watch film, it’s very, very similar to Aaron Rodgers,” Harmon said. “[Mahomes is] probably a little bit more athletic. He is. But overall how they move, pocket presence, not letting plays die, literally creating time with their feet and throwing, launching the ball downfield.”
The Patriots faced Rodgers earlier this season and won despite him throwing for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Veteran safety Devin McCourty said Mahomes reminds him of watching a top high school talent against inferior talent. Mahomes is doing things that shouldn’t be done on an NFL field, such as the triple or quadruple pump that McCourty’s seen on tape.
“[Vick] is close. Mike Vick was like 4.3 [speed]. Mahomes isn’t that. But arm ability,” Devin McCourty said. “[Mahomes is] a little different. [The pocket] is what he wants to do more. But Mahomes you watch when he gets outside the pocket, he can run, but he’s trying to buy time. Mike Vick would be 30 yards downfield by then.”
More so than Vick's, Mahomes’ arm commands respect. And he has weapons at his disposal in this explosive Chiefs offense.
Kelce had 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hill had 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley and Damien Williams are also dangerous weapons that Mahomes can hit from any spot on the field. This unorthodox approach is something the Patriots know they must respect come Sunday night.
“He’s got that arm. He’s got a cannon,” Gilmore said. “He can throw across his body far. Sidearm. He’s got his own style. It’s working for him.”
Mahomes is somewhat like Rodgers but currently in a league of his own in terms of style. The NFL’s unicorn QB.
“He does too many things that other quarterbacks can’t do or won’t do. And because he does them at such a high rate of success it’s very hard to compare,” Jason McCourty said. “I don’t think you can say in your mind, ‘Who is that guy who threw a left-handed pass?’ or ‘Who is the quarterback who every time he rolls the right can throw the ball 40 yards back to his left across the middle of the field?’”
It’s Patrick Mahomes.