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Chiefs-Broncos preview: Patrick Mahomes’ pocket management

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The Chiefs take on the Broncos Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Here is what we’ll be watching.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three points on offense and three points on defense to watch in Sunday’s game against the AFC West rival Denver Broncos.

Offense

Building off the first half in New England

The totality of the game wasn’t perfect, but the promising signs offensively in the first half in Foxborough were certainly something to hope on. There was more rhythm at times than we’ve seen in recent games. The Chiefs were able to sustain some drives and generate explosive plays. They went back into a shell for most of the second half, but some of that had to do with Patrick Mahomes’ hand.

Patrick’s Ma-hand

Speaking of Mahomes’ hand, it’s yet another injury he’s had to deal with this season. The third-year quarterback hasn’t been able to catch a break. The play calling and aggressiveness of the offense changed drastically last week in the second half, as Mahomes tried to navigate the injury while protecting the football and hoping to move the offense. The had some success playing short late, but it was derailed by a Travis Kelce fumble. Before Mahomes dislocated his kneecap against the Broncos the last time they played, he was having success throwing short. I wonder if that’s part of the plan this week.

Pocket management

Mahomes admitted to his inconsistencies with his drops and mechanics this week. It’s something we’ve been discussing for the last few weeks. There appears to be some lack of trust in his interior offensive line, which could be contributing to some of these inconsistencies. It sounds like a focus in preparation this week. Improvements in this area should help the offense be more consistent.

Defense

NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Lock

Denver’s rookie quarterback has shown promise in two games as the starter. He’s made some aggressive throws down the field with good placement. He has the arm talent and enough functional athleticism to create. The Chiefs will need to make a concerted effort to present Lock with a variety of looks up front and in the secondary for him to sort through. Giving him an extra thing or two to process will help the pass rush get home.

Can the pass rush replicate Thursday Night Football?

The Chiefs got to Joe Flacco for nine sacks the last time these two teams played. Lock is more athletic than Flacco and won’t be a stationary target back there. To ask for nine sacks again is way too much, but the Chiefs are still positioned to affect the rookie. The Broncos are still bad up front. Whether or not Frank Clark plays, this team should be able to have some success rushing the passes, but maybe not as much as last time these two played.

Courtland Sutton

When Courtland Sutton isn’t guaranteeing a victory against the Chiefs and an AFC West shakeup, he’s on the field making plays. The second-year receiver is the best pass-catching threat on the Broncos roster, and Lock has given him some 50-50 ball opportunities that have worked. The cornerback group will be tested by the 6-foot-4, physical receiver.

Arrowhead Pride Laboratory

We went into further detail on these storylines and listed players we’re looking forward to watching on this episode edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.