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Mahomes and Kelce want to change the Chiefs’ mentality against man coverage

The team’s two offensive team leaders said they want to see a change in how receivers approach man-to-man coverage like the Chiefs saw against the Colts

Going into Sunday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, few would have predicted the Colts would have emphasized man-to-man pass coverage against the Kansas City Chiefs; the Colts had tended to stay in zone coverage for about three snaps out of four.

But that’s exactly what the Colts did in their 19-13 victory over the Chiefs — and Kansas City just wasn’t ready for it, as tight end Travis Kelce explained on Wednesday.

”They just played us in pure man coverage and said, ‘Beat us.’ And then we didn’t,” he told the press. “That goes on myself. It goes all the other route runners and it goes on the front five — to be able to stop whatever they’re doing up front so that we’ve got enough time to open that up.”

NFL: OCT 06 Colts at Chiefs Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“You have to be prepared as a team about teams coming out playing man and pressing it up — trying to be physical with you,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “You have to have a counter to that. Obviously we’re going to prepare for that because of the last two teams we played — but we also have to prepare for the zone coverages and stuff like that. I think just having that mentality — that you could get that physical-type game and you have to find a way to get yourself open and be on time with the football [is] something we’re going to focus on all week.”

Kelce also spoke of having the right mentality.

”I feel like the mentality has to change,” he said. “That might not have been what happened out on the field [against the Colts]: the mentality of coming off the ball and attacking — putting them in a reactionary position, instead of kind of letting them dictate what we’re doing.

”We know what we’re going to get,” Kelce said. “They slowed us down last week with man-to-man coverage, so we know we’re going to get quite a bit of man this week — at least we would assume [that]. So we’ve just got to be ready for it.”

Both Kelce and Mahomes acknowledged that the Chiefs weren’t expecting the Colts to focus so exclusively on man coverage — but Mahomes said that for him, adjusting to those kinds of unexpected challenges is part of the fun.

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Week 4 Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

“When you get a different coverage or a different look, you get to go to your teammates and find a way to beat it and try to have success doing that,” he said. “I feel like we have done a good job of that the whole time I’ve been playing. We didn’t do a good enough job this last week. We’re going to try to get back on track with that.”

Mahomes said, however, that it often isn’t as simple as a simple switch from zone to man coverage. With increasing frequency, opposing teams are trying to surprise the Chiefs with different looks and disguises for whichever coverages they run.

“People are trying different stuff than they have been all season long as far as coverages and looking for ways to play different coverages,” he explained. “I think last game with them playing as much man as they did — and they hadn’t really shown that — so it was different. But you always have to be prepared for that.”

Reminded that he had held the ball longer than usual against the Colts, Mahomes said that it would be another point of emphasis in their preparations to face the Texans — and the rest of the season.

“Whenever you play a defensive line of this caliber — like the Texans — you have to make sure you get the ball out of your hands and into your playmakers’ hands. That’s stuff I’ve tried to work on all season. I didn’t do as good a job of it this last week, so I’m going to make sure I keep getting better at that as the season goes.”

But all the nuts of bolts of preparation for the next game aside, Kelce said that the focus within the building is obvious.

“You can feel the building was kind of drained yesterday,” he observed. “It means everybody cares — but that’s all it is. We have to light a torch, get a little angry and attack the next game with more aggression and more purpose than we did the last one.”

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