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Jaguars insider: Mahomes a "huge challenge…"

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes urges the crowd to make noise during overtime in an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes urges the crowd to make noise during overtime in an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

JACKSONVILLE – He is, in a sense, the ultimate NFL problem.

He's also the Jaguars' main issue this week – and there may be no tougher NFL task these days than defending Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

"It's a huge challenge," Head Coach Doug Pederson said.

Mahomes, a sixth-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowl selection, has been a big topic around the Jaguars (3-6) as they prepare to play the Chiefs (6-2) at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m. With reason. While the Chiefs have multiple offensive threats, Mahomes – the NFL Most Valuable Player in 2018 and the Super Bowl MVP a season later – is an era-defining player in his prime whose presence makes Sunday special.

"Patrick's a great player, fun to watch; whenever they're playing, that's a team you want to see play," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said.

Added Pederson of Mahomes, "There's a little bit of a no-fear factor. It's part of him. You respect that."

Though Mahomes leads the NFL in passing yards (2,605) and touchdowns (21) this season, his game is more than passing numbers. He is a threat to run when needed, and that mobility – and his ability to throw outside the pocket – make him particularly dangerous.

"They're frustrating because it's hard to get them down," Pederson said. "They do a great job of extending plays and that's where a lot of the explosiveness comes from – some of the broken plays they create. He does a great job of sort of ad-libbing on the run out of the pocket. He's hard to sack, hard to get to. The ball comes out fast and it can come out anywhere. That's what makes him special. We just have to do our best to stay attached to receivers and tight ends and backs out of the backfield.

"The pass rush has to be on point. We have to try to put as much pressure as we can and try to keep him in the pocket, but that's a challenge and that's hard to do."

Jaguars rookie inside linebacker Devin Lloyd called Mahomes a "stud" and "obviously one of the best – if not the best – in the game."

"You can't really prepare," Lloyd said of Mahomes' improvisational skills. "You have to just make sure you're on your guy. When he starts to extend the play, he can put the ball on the money anywhere. We just have to make sure we're in the right spot."

Mahomes this past Sunday in a 20-17 overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans had what many observers considered one of his best career games, and one that showed his maturation as a player. He completed 43 of a career-high 68 passes for 446 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for a season-high 63 yards and the game-tying touchdown late in regulation.

"That's just a part of playing the Chiefs, playing a quarterback like that," Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon said. "We know he can extend the plays. We know he can make all the throws. It's just going back to that discipline, staying with our man all the way through the down."

Making Mahomes' season particularly impressive: The Chiefs in 2022 are something of an offense in transition, having traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins this past offseason. Whereas Hill was one of the NFL's most consistent big-play receivers while with the Chiefs, Mahomes this season has emphasized shorter and more intermediate passes to a group of receivers including JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdez-Scantling and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.

"That's probably the biggest thing {difference), just not as many down-the-field deep throws," Pederson said.

But if the Chiefs look different, the changes have had little effect on production. They lead the NFL points and are second in yards through eight games, making Sunday a tough task for a Jaguars defense that has struggled at times this season against the deep pass – and that ranks 16th in the NFL yards allowed and 22nd against the pass at 238.3 yards per game.

"They're still explosive," Pederson said of the Chiefs. "They can still catch and run through the defense. It's a challenge. We just have to learn from our past and learn from the mistakes we've made and try to correct them this week. It's going to take a great team effort if we can get to him and maybe break up some passes down the field and maybe even get a chance to create some turnovers off a tip.

"It's a full effort, all hands on deck."

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