Patrick Mahomes and the visiting Kansas City Chiefs are prepared to test their mettle against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a high-profile showdown on Sunday night.
As of now, the game remains scheduled for Tampa, Fla. Hurricane Ian, however, made landfall in western Florida on Wednesday, forcing the NFL to adopt the contingency plan of Minneapolis for Sunday’s contest.
While expressing sympathy for those affected by Mother Nature, Mahomes said the plan remains the same as the Chiefs (2-1) brace for the Buccaneers (2-1).
“For us, it’s an away game regardless,” Mahomes said Wednesday. “So, you’re going to be going somewhere else to play. So, you just have to focus on the gameplan, and try to prepare yourself that way.”
Mahomes and Brady are no strangers to one another, with the former holding a 2-1 edge in regular-season play while the latter has gotten the better of both postseason matchups. Brady guided the New England Patriots to a win over Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game of the 2018 season before quarterbacking the Buccaneers past the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay’s defense arguably was the star of the show in that game and can make that same claim this season by surrendering a league-best 9.0 points per game.
Linebacker Shaq Barrett provided some bulletin board material on Wednesday by comparing the Chiefs’ offensive line that took the field on that day to the current one.
“I really don’t think it’s too much of a difference,” Barrett said with a laugh. “I think we have a lot of favorable matchups. We have an opportunity to really dominate the game. I think we’ve got an opportunity to really impose our will as pass-rushers, as edge rushers in this game. We can really have a coming-out party.”
Brady, however, appears to be waiting for the party to start this season. The three-time NFL MVP has thrown for just 673 yards and three touchdowns in three games after setting franchise records in both categories last season (5,316, 43).
Brady, 45, threw for 271 yards and one touchdown in Tampa Bay’s 14-12 setback to Green Bay last Sunday.
Russell Gage had 12 catches for 87 yards and a score for the Buccaneers, who played without wideouts Mike Evans (suspension), Julio Jones and Chris Godwin.
While Evans will return to the fold against Kansas City, the returns of Jones (knee) and Godwin (hamstring) are not set in stone. Jones, Godwin and Gage (hamstring) joined tackle Donovan Smith (elbow) and defensive lineman Logan Hall (groin) in being limited in Wednesday’s practice, while wideout Breshad Perriman (knee/hamstring) and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (foot) did not participate.
Mahomes started the season with a brilliant five-touchdown effort in a 44-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals before turning in a pair of relatively mediocre performances. The 2018 NFL MVP threw for just 235 yards in a 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and completed just 57.1 percent of his passes in a 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.
Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles isn’t buying any potential offensive woes for the Chiefs, however.
“The running game has picked up. They’ve got big offensive linemen down there. They’ve got bigger receivers — as opposed to smaller, quicker receivers — that can catch the ball very well,” Bowles said. “They’ve still got (Travis) Kelce, they’ve still got (Clyde Edwards-) Helaire, they’ve still got a lot of pieces and Mahomes has only gotten better since we played them. He was great then, he’s great now, he’s gotten better.”
The Chiefs are hopeful kicker Harrison Butker is able to return after missing the last two weeks with an ankle injury he sustained in the season opener. Kansas City waived journeyman Matt Ammendola on Monday.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Butker, who joined wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (abdomen) in being listed as limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones (rest), wide receiver Mecole Hardman (heel), running back Ronald Jones (illness) and defensive end Mike Danna (calf) didn’t practice.