No. 1 'D' tackles No. 1 scoring offense as Jaguars visit Chiefs
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At the quarter-pole of the NFL season, no one has been able to slow Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs.
One of two undefeated teams in the NFL, the Chiefs (4-0) will try to remain perfect when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) on Sunday in what shapes up as a classic matchup -- an explosive offense versus an unyielding defense.
Behind Mahomes, the early leader in the clubhouse for league Most Valuable Player honors, Kansas City features the NFL's top-ranked scoring offense, averaging a robust 36.3 points.
"Right now, he is playing better than any quarterback has ever played. He is an MVP quarterback," Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone said of Mahomes. "The question is what he can't do. I don't know. I don't think words can really put in perspective how great he is playing. That is really all there is to it. He gives you challenges every which way whether you put him in the pocket (or not). He can make every throw."
The next challenge for Mahomes and the Chiefs are the Jaguars, who boast the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense at 14.0 points per game and the league's No. 1 total defense, holding opponents to an average of 259.3 total net yards.
"For us, they have a ton of talent over there, but we've got to utilize our offense and our weapons and try to do what we can to attack them," Mahomes said.
While Kansas City tops the league in total touchdowns (19), Jacksonville has allowed an NFL-low four this season -- the fewest through four games in franchise history. The Jaguars are the only team that has not allowed a first-half touchdown.
"This is by far the best defense we have faced," said Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who is relishing his matchup against Jacksonville Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. "Obviously he thinks high of his self. ... I can't wait to line up against him and I hope he presses me."
Mahomes rallied Kansas City from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit in Monday night's 27-23 win at Denver, leading the Chiefs to a pair of touchdowns in the final 6 1/2 minutes. He has 14 touchdown passes against no interceptions and became the first quarterback in league history to throw 13 scoring passes in the first three games of a season.
"He makes quick decisions. You get him out of the pocket and he can extend plays. He is athletic enough to run and run for a long way and take it to the house," said Marrone. "He has great command, and he has great weapons around him and an outstanding offensive line. Right now, offensively, what you're seeing is that it's kind of unbelievable, which is going to be a great challenge.
"We have our hands full. You are talking about someone that is a combination of a lot of the greatest players that ever played that position with the way he is playing."
Hill and tight end Travis Kelce are the favorite targets of Mahomes, leading the team with 23 receptions and three touchdowns apiece. Running back Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing in 2017, finally broke out with a season-high 121 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against the Broncos.
That presents myriad problems for a Jacksonville defense that limited the New York Jets to 144 passing yards and just 34 yards on the ground in last week's 31-12 victory. The Jaguars have permitted a league-low 12 points in the first half.
Still, despite the defensive prowess, Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles knows his team cannot rely on the defense to completely shackle Mahomes and the Chiefs.
The Jaguars will again be without star running back Leonard Fournette, who aggravated a hamstring injury in last week's win and already has been ruled out against the Chiefs. T.J. Yeldon will get the start in his place.
Bortles withstood the absence of Fournette by throwing for a career-high 388 yards to go with two touchdowns last week, including a 67-yard scoring strike to Donte Moncrief. He bettered his previous best of 382 at San Francisco last year and his season high of 376 against New England in Week 2.
"We will have to be sharp. We will have to make sure we do not hurt ourselves," Bortles said. "We will have to make sure we are poised and handling a hostile environment. We all know how loud it is going to be. That place will be rocking, so it will be fun and a challenge."
Updated October 4, 2018