Patrick Mahomes has appeared mortal only a handful of times so far in his young NFL career. There was the time he got hurt in October 2019, which was jarring because it was the first even semi-serious injury of his young career, and at least on my end I sort of unconsciously assumed he was immune to that sort of thing. Otherwise, the only instances where Mahomes looked like he was just another guy all came in games against the New England Patriots.
It was more of the same during Monday night's game. His Kansas City Chiefs won, which is all that matters, but Mahomes didn't play well. By his standards, he was awful. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 236 yards. He's credited with two touchdowns, but both were pitches off reverses to a player a foot in front of him that nobody outside of NFL statisticians would give him credit for. He also threw two balls that really should have been intercepted. The Chiefs offense, the closest thing to a weapon of mass destruction on a football field, did not score a touchdown until the end of the third quarter.
None of this is new, either. Not against the Patriots. Bill Belichick has constantly cooked up ways to stifle the best offense in the league with Mahomes at the helm.
In his 2019 meeting with New England, Mahomes went 26-of-40 with one touchdown and one interception. The offense scored 23 points. In 2018, the Chiefs visited Foxborough in the early days of Mahomes' MVP season, where he had his best game against that defense to date; he threw for 352 yards with four touchdowns, but added two interceptions, and nearly all of that production came in the second half after the Chiefs were held to just nine points in the first half.
The latter of the 2018 meetings came in January, where Mahomes experienced firsthand what it's like to go up against the Patriots in the playoffs with Tom Brady. New England managed to sneak by in overtime and advance to the Super Bowl, while Mahomes was once again frustrated by that defense. He had his best TD to INT ratio (3:0) of any meetings before or since, but completed only 16 of his 31 pass attempts. He also failed to get anything going in the first half once again as the Chiefs were held scoreless for the first 30 minutes of the AFC Championship.
Mahomes has been so outlandishly good that when he resembles anything less it's worth noting. His lifetime record against Belichick is 2-2 at this point, so it's not like the Patriots represent an insurmountable obstacle in his career. But whatever Belichick does back there, Mahomes just can't figure it out. He doesn't look like the guy poised to break every passing record in the book. He looks... regular. After 20 years, you'd figure we would all be used to Belichick making very good players look regular, but with how good Mahomes has been outside of those games, it's still surprising to see.
The Chiefs still won the game. But the Patriots defense should feel like they did their job again, holding the offense to only 19 points and forcing field goals on two of KC's four red zone trips. For now, Mahomes' issues against whatever Belichick is throwing at him doesn't matter all too much. But if the Chiefs see the Patriots again this season come playoff time, and Cam Newton is at the helm instead of Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham, there will be reason to sweat. For all of Mahomes' greatness, he's like everybody else in one crucial way: he can't fool Bill Belichick.