How the Chiefs Can Protect Mahomes

The Chiefs’ offensive line has been banged up all season, and they took a major hit in the second half of the AFC Championship Game with the injury to left tackle Eric Fisher. Even before Fisher’s injury, the matchup of Tampa’s defensive line vs. the Chiefs protection was a distinct advantage for the Buccaneers. If Tampa has any chance of slowing down Kansas City’s offense, it will be based on them dominating this area of the matchup. While it might look like Patrick Mahomes will be in for a long day dealing with a fierce pass rush, you can look at KC’s approach against Tampa in Week 12 to see how they’ll likely address their protection issues on Sunday.

In that game, Mahomes did not just drop back on play after play, allowing the Buccaneers’ defensive line to pin its ears back and attack on every play. No, Andy Reid called for a steady diet of play-action, RPOs, and designed movement to keep Tampa’s D-line guessing and create time for Mahomes. In fact, 23 of his 53 called passes (43.4%) were either play-action, RPOs, or designed movement (and there was 1 shovel pass in there). This gave Mahomes plenty of time and space to throw for most of the game. Below are a few examples.

Here, watch the Buccaneers’ defensive line get caught moving sideways in response to the run action on this 23-yard completion to Tyreek Hill.


On the biggest play of the game, the Chiefs used play-action that held Tampa’s pass rush, allowing Mahomes time to find Hill downfield for a 75-yard touchdown.


RPOs got Tampa’s D line moving laterally throughout the game and kept them away from Mahomes.


When they weren’t using play fakes, Andy Reid put Mahomes on the move with sprint-outs to change the aiming point for Tampa’s pass rush.


The Chiefs will be forced to drop back without the threat of play-action at some point. The Buccaneers will likely be able to get pressure on many of those plays. But even when they do, Mahomes’ ability to evade the rush and buy time is second to none. In fact, it’s probably one reason you haven’t noticed the Chiefs’ banged up offensive line unless you were following Kansas City closely all year. Mahomes made plays with his legs in that Week 12 matchup, and this aspect of his game will be critical in the Super Bowl.


Another element of Mahomes’ game that will come in handy against Tampa will be his ability to take those Tecmo Super Bowl deep drops to buy time and avoid the pass rush, like on this play below:


That’s ridiculous, and it’s something only Mahomes has the ability to do. If you remember, that type of drop helped the Chiefs escape defeat in last year’s Super Bowl.

As great as the above play was, it’s tough to make a consistent living that way. The Buccaneers will still get their shots at Mahomes. The question is whether or not Andy Reid will have enough in his bag of tricks to keep the Buccaneers’ pass rush guessing and to manufacture time for Mahomes to make plays downfield.