Belichick looks to solve Mahomes riddle

Los Angeles (AFP) –

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The greatest tactical brain in the NFL goes up against the league's hottest quarterback on Sunday when Bill Belichick's New England Patriots attempt to put the brakes on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Just three weeks into the NFL season, Mahomes and the Chiefs have already lit up the league, establishing themselves as early favorites to successfully retain their Super Bowl crown.

In a 34-20 rout of the Baltimore Ravens on Monday that was more one-sided than the final scoreline suggests, Mahomes was borderline unplayable as he unleashed the full range of his talents in a five-touchdown performance.

The prolific 25-year-old gunslinger is on track to shatter a range of records if he maintains the pace set during his first three full seasons in the NFL.

In his first three games of the 2020 campaign, Mahomes has completed 67.8% of his passes, averaged just under 300 yards a game and accumulated nine touchdowns with no interceptions.

In 34 regular season games since his debut as a rookie in 2017, Mahomes has amassed 10,310 passing yards and 85 passing touchdowns, more than any other quarterback in NFL history at the same stage.

It means that Belichick, the unparalleled master of designing gameplans capable of containing potent offenses, will have his work cut out for him at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

The famously taciturn Patriots coach was left impressed after studying the Chiefs quarterback's latest masterclass against the Ravens.

"All the superlatives that have been said about him, I'd just be repeating them all," Belichick said this week when asked to assess Mahomes' display.

- 'A lot to stop' -

"I mean they're really good," Belichick added. "It starts with an MVP quarterback and great offensive coordinator and head coach.

"They've got a lot of good skill players, a lot of experienced players. I think the backs are a big weapon for them, both in the running game and in the passing game.

"So, yeah, there's a lot to stop. We're going to have to play well collectively as a team."

The Chiefs, one of seven teams remaining with a 100% record after three rounds, are meanwhile focusing on the dual threat posed by rejuvenated Patriots quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, has been a revelation in the opening weeks of the season after replacing the departed Tom Brady.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid says Newton's formidable rushing and solid passing will cause problems for his defense.

"Cam can do anything. Cam, he’s been the passer, he’s been the runner, he’s been the whole deal," Reid said. "They have the run game that’s tremendous. You also have a guy that can throw the football.

"I've played against Cam enough and seen him enough to know how explosive he is doing both."

Reid is also expecting Belichick to have devised a plan to stymie the Chiefs' free-scoring offense. "Any Bill Belichick team is going to be well-coached in having answers," Reid said.

In other games on Sunday, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks take their unbeaten 3-0 record on the road against the Miami Dolphins while another surprise 3-0 team, the Buffalo Bills travel to Nevada to face the Las Vegas Raiders.

On Monday, Aaron Rodgers will look to extend Green Bay's unbeaten start to the season when the Packers host the Atlanta Falcons (0-3) at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers has enjoyed a blistering start to the campaign so far, with 887 passing yards in three games where the Packers' offense has averaged just over 40 points per game.

Week four is taking place after the season's first outbreak of coronavirus, with 11 members of the Tennessee Titans testing positive for Covid-19.

The Titans game against the Pittsburgh Steelers scheduled for Sunday has been postponed until later in the season following the cluster of cases.