The tall tales of the Wild Wild AFC West have brought us a folk hero that exploded onto the scene. To use an old basketball reference, “Pistol” Pat Mahomes, wielding a sidearm more productive than any other gunslinger’s this year. With precision accuracy, he has struck down opponents week by week, wielding one of the most feared posses in all of the United States, boasting the man who many think has the fastest draw in the West. Mr. Tyreek Hill, along with one of the largest, and most skilled members of this Chiefs squad, Travis Kelce. Pistol Pat spent his last year learning from a less potent, but intelligent gunslinger in Alex Smith. But he exploded onto the scene this year, winning 12 of 16 duels, seven of which he won on his home turf, Arrowhead stadium.
From the more developed east, a storm has been brewing. A seasoned slinger, whose prized Colt .45 sidearm was destroyed, has rebuilt it and cared for it to its former state. While his posse is still young, they are fierce. The former civil war captain, Andrew Austen Luck, leads a squad who also boasts a speedy co-captain in Eugene Hilton. Along with bodyguards for the former war general, who strikes fear into the opposing hearts of gangs, the most impressive of these monstrosities goes by the moniker “Big Q”. In his return to his dueling grounds of the Lucas Oil Fields, Cpt. Luck won 10 of 16 duels.
Two of the most prolific gunslingers will face off this Saturday, at 4:35 in Kansas City. Although one of these quarterbacks has a distinct trait, the big play. Mahomes has a knack for finding the endzone, with 50 touchdowns. Some of which have come on massive, down the field plays to weapons like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins. But the Colts have seemingly found the remedy for this. With their Tampa 2 defense, safety Malik Hooker has practically eliminated the big play. His range and ability to diagnose plays
In this first clip, we see how the tandem of Kelce/Hill can really hurt teams. Here, Mahomes recognizes cover three, and for the defense, Kelce is too big of a threat to leave unattended. So when he cuts his route short and runs a curl, two defenders flood to him, one of which is the outside 3rd defender. He gives up his third of the field, and Hill slides in on a deep over and catches the ball and uses his plus-plus speed to outrun a defender for a touchdown:
In this clip, Mahomes shows his pre-snap prowess. Here he motions his running back out to the flat to his right, Mahomes keys in on the defensive back following him to the flat, he reads a 1-to-1 ratio of man coverage across the board with one safety deep. Knowing that the only people on the planet that can run with Tyreek Hill have more gold medals than super bowl rings, he throws a strike on a seam route after taking the safety’s attention away with the underneath post that Kelce runs. This is another example of the way Kelce and Hill affect the game even when they are not targeted:
Our last clip of Mahomes is more about the physical ability of the Chiefs to be ridiculously explosive. The Rams are playing four defensive backs with considerable cushion, so Mahomes infers that they are in cover 4. Tyreek Hill and Watkins run a sail pattern, with a post over the middle and a corner crossing it going to the sideline. The corner in his outside 4th chases the post for a split second, and Hill runs by him like he’s on the autobahn. Shields was out of position for probably less than a second and ended up flat on his stomach and by the time he looked up they were practically kicking the extra point:
The one thing you can draw from this is that Kansas City will make big plays, whether by scheme or just plain, unadulterated speed. But there are two sides to every story: the first pick of the Chris Ballard area shows Malik Hooker can be a pest in the passing game with his range and ability to cover ground.
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In the first clip of hooker, we see a classic Tampa 2 from the Colts and a classic Tampa 2 beater from the Giants, just a plan seam route. First off, Darius Leonard does a terrific job trailing this seam route and not giving Eli any room to fit it underneath. Then Hooker used his instincts, reads Eli Manning’s eyes and pounces on an overthrow, creating a turnover and icing the game. In this situation, since it was late and then the Giants needed a quick score, trailing this seam route as a linebacker was perfect by Leonard, and Hooker cleaned up the play:
On this play, the Colts are in man coverage across the board. Leaving it up to Hooker to go make a play on a ball is never a bad situation: his range and instinctual play as a single high safety are tremendous. Although the pressure really forces the bad throw, Hooker covers insane ground to make this interception. Mahomes can often make ill-advised throws and sometimes they turn into ducks; perhaps Hooker could capitalize on this and make a play as he does here:
The Colts and Chiefs could potentially be a game of the year candidate. The last time these teams met up in the playoffs, Andrew Luck stormed back on the Chiefs for a 28 point comeback, and big plays were a major factor in that game. I would expect them to be even more important this time.