“They just played good defense,” Mahomes said of the Indianapolis Colts, who held him to 321 yards through the air—which is low for Mahomes—in their 19-13 upset victory. “They played man coverage. They rushed with four people and they found ways to get pressure and to cover long enough.
Mahomes was hit eight times by the Colts, including four sacks.
“For us, Detroit did it last week, New England did it in the playoffs and we have to beat man coverage at the end of the day. We’ve got the guys to do it, now it’s just about going out and executing whenever teams present it to us.”
Mahomes admitted that he did have some windows throughout the night, but for the second game in a row, there were times he was simply missing his targets.
“I feel like there were times when there were guys open in the man coverage and I was missing them,” he said. “Whenever you’re in a close-fought game you can’t miss a touchdown to [Demarcus Robinson], you can’t miss Travis (Kelce) when you’re backed up and trying to get out of your end zone. There were opportunities that were missed in that game that we need to take advantage of.”
Asked about how similar the Colts’ game plan was to that of the Detroit Lions, who nearly beat the Chiefs last week, Mahomes explained that teams are using a variety of man coverages against his Chiefs.
“As far as with the safety the hole player, or the linebacker, them putting pressure and doing stunts with the D-line and trying to find ways to put pressure on me as the quarterback,” he said. “We’re going to have to find ways to do better as far as protecting that, find ways to beat man coverage, quicken up our routes.
“Like I said, there was several opportunities for me to hit guys and I didn’t, so whenever I do get those opportunities, I have to.”
The other side of the football had a recurring theme as well—the Chiefs defensive leaders realize that stopping the run is a major issue.
“The last five games you’ve seen teams, as far as being able to run the ball on our defense, averaging over 150 yards,” defensive end Frank Clark said. “Historically, for a season, that’s bad. We have to do better as a defense in stopping the run. That’s the only way that we are going to be able to have fun. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to have the fun like we want to because we can’t get off the field.”
Over the past three games, the Chiefs defense has allowed an average of nearly 190 yards on the ground, a number that includes 180 against the Colts in the 19-13 loss. Colts running back Marlon Mack rushed 29 times for 132 yards.
During one stretch of the game, the Colts called nine straight run plays.
“Teams are going to do this every week to us until we figure it out,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “They are going to run the ball down our throats. After a while, it becomes a pride thing. It has nothing to do with coaching, it has nothing to do with technique, it has everything to do with attitude and if you want to stop (the run). We have a big week.
“Got a team that’s coming in next week that will score 60 points. So yeah, we’ve got a tough challenge ahead.”
The Chiefs will need be better if they intend to stop the Houston Texans, whose current leading rusher is a familiar face—running back Carlos Hyde, whom the Chiefs swapped at the roster deadline for offensive lineman Martinas Rankin.
“It’s a collective effort, at the end of the day,” added Clark. “As a player, your job is to execute. Make plays. Make the tackles that come your way. Be in the right gaps. Control your gap and dominate your individual matchups. At the end of the day, you look at the film and these are some of the things that we are not doing. You look at missed tackles and guys being able to squeak out the extra yards to convert on these early down runs and stuff like that. We get to third down, it’s third-and-1, third-and-2, it’s no mystery what these teams are coming in here to do.
“Any time that you look at the box score and you see rushing yards and stuff like that, as other teams, we understand what the other teams are going to look at. They are seeing 150 yards. They probably ran for 200 yards today. When you see things like that, it excites you as an offense. As a running back, I already know what it looks like. At the end of the day, it’s about just being able to stop this run so that we can have fun.”