Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs respect 'game changer' Bengals QB Joe Burrow
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid loves young, talented quarterbacks taking center stage and elevating the overall competition in the NFL.
It’s easy for Reid to feel this way, knowing he has perhaps the best young quarterback, 26-year-old star Patrick Mahomes.
But if Kansas City wants to keep the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race and earn a first-round bye when the playoffs start Jan. 15, it must slow down another up-and-coming quarterback who played the best game of his career last week.
Reid, Mahomes and the Chiefs (11-4) will visit second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) Sunday.
And Burrow — the first pick of the 2020 NFL draft who threw for 525 yards and four touchdowns (both career highs) last week against the Ravens — certainly has the Chiefs’ attention.
“He’s a smooth operator,” Reid said. “He does a real nice job. Looks like he’s smart, well-coached and he’s accurate. He’s got some good wide receivers that he puts it up to, and they do a nice job, too. He’s great for the National Football League right now. These young quarterbacks, we’re so lucky to have them in this league, and it looks like we might have a couple more coming in this next year.
"It just makes the competition so great, and that’s what this is all about.”
While Mahomes has never thrown for more than 500 yards in any of his 61 career starts, he has thrown at least four touchdowns in 13 games, including two games with six touchdowns and three with five touchdowns.
Mahomes also had plenty of praise for Burrow ahead of what will be a marquee Week 17 matchup between quarterbacks.
“Not only is he a great football player," Mahomes said, "I think he’s a great leader. He has that special knack where he can lead anybody. No matter where he’s at, he can go out there with that swag, that mentality of ‘I’m going to win no matter what.’ It takes a lot of experience and it takes a lot of just going out there and doing it for people to believe that.
"He has that, as well as the physical talent to go out there and make a lot of stuff happen.”
The Chiefs have limited opposing teams to 12.8 points per game during their eight-game win streak and have forced 21 turnovers. They know applying defensive pressure to Burrow will be paramount to another victory.
With standout receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, as well as running back Joe Mixon, the Bengals have one of the NFL’s most formidable offenses when clicking on all cylinders.
Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones likened Burrow to other young quarterbacks such as Buffalo Bills standout Josh Allen and Los Angeles Chargers sophomore Justin Herbert because of their big-play potential.
“He has a lot of arm power," Jones said of Burrow, whose 69.9% completion rate only trails Dolphins starter Tua Tagovailoa (70.1%). "The accuracy is among the top of the league. And he has his way to get out of trouble when needed. We have to be correct on our angles this week, and our way we collapse the pocket for this guy. He can be challenging at times, at all times. He can make all the throws. He can make the tight throws.
"So, we have to do a good job containing this guy, keeping him in the pocket and putting pressure on him when we can get in his face — whatever we can do to affect this guy because he can be a game-changer.”
The Chiefs and Tennessee Titans (10-5) are the top two seeds in the AFC, while the Bengals have the third seed and a tiebreaker among three other 9-6 teams (Bills, Colts, Patriots) in the top six. The Dolphins (8-7) are seventh.
If Kansas City beats Cincinnati and the Titans lose at home to the Dolphins, the Chiefs could lock up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the AFC this week.
Considering the Chiefs started 3-4 this season, that’s an incredible position for the defending AFC champions. And if Kansas City can finish the season on a strong note, they could be primed for a run at a third-straight Super Bowl appearance.
“I think it was just staying with the process," Mahomes said. "That was the biggest thing. No one held their head down. We knew there was a lot of season left, and we knew that what we wanted was right in front of us. Our guys came in with the right mentality every single day to get better, and we’re sitting where we’re at now, but the job is not finished.
"We still have to try and find a way to get this No. 1 seed playing two great football teams these next two weeks, and then try to make a run in the playoffs. We understand that it’s not done yet.”