Andrew Gamble reports from Arizona ahead of Super Bowl
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Patrick Mahomes has been warned that the Philadelphia Eagles will be confident of preventing the Kansas City star from impacting Super Bowl 57 by targeting his injured ankle, according to NFL expert Mike Carlson. The quarterback is expected to be able to start in Sunday’s global showpiece event as he goes for his second Super Bowl ring, but concerns over his recent injury will give the Eagles some hope of stopping the most lethal passer in the division.
The 27-year-old has been nursing a sprained ankle that he sustained during the playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 21. Mahomes landed awkwardly on his ankle after a strong tackle and was later spotted with it taped up, before it was later confirmed he had suffered a sprain.
There were fears that Mahomes would be facing a race against time to prove his fitness, with the Super Bowl only three weeks away from that game. But with a fortnight’s rest in between their AFC Championship victory and the Super Bowl in Phoenix, it has given Mahomes time to allow his foot to heal.
But Carlson, a long-time American Football commentator and pundit for the BBC, Channel Five and Sky Sports, has warned that Mahomes’ injury could leave him exposed to possible sacks from the Eagles defense, who will be looking to target their star quarterback if he has limited mobility.
“It’s interesting because the Eagles have a good 70 sacks over the season, which is like the third best in history,” Carlson, speaking at a Betfair event, told Express Sport. “So they’re good at putting on their rush, and it’s not just rush from the outside.
“And that’s where someone like Mahomes… if you can force him to scramble, you’ve got a better shot [of stopping him]. He’s still looking downfield while running and you’ll remember when they lost to Tampa and he had that one play, he’d run like 800 yards in circles trying to find something open. The ankle’s going to be the first question if he’s got enough mobility to keep plays alive.”
Losing Mahomes before or during the game would resemble a massive blow. On Friday, he was named the NFL’s MVP for the second time in five seasons as a starting quarterback after a phenomenal season in 2022. He surpassed Drew Brees’ previous mark of 5,562 total yards with a new high of 5,614, with the majority derived from Mahomes’ passing efforts as he set the new benchmark of 5,250 passing yards and 41 touchdown passes.
The Chiefs cruised to a 14-3 record in the 2022 regular season and topped the charts in the AFC division, but without Mahomes, there is no telling what their campaign would have looked like.
Their 23-20 AFC Championship Game victory over the Cincinnati Bengals highlighted Mahomes’ value, as he finished the game with 326 passing yards and two touchdown passes to cement his status as the best quarterback in the division. And losing him for their third Super Bowl in five years would represent a massive blow.
Andy Reid, the Chiefs’ head coach, provided an update on Mahomes’ fitness on Thursday and indicated he is confident he will be ready to play without any problems: “He’s been doing really well with his ankle,” Reid told Chiefs.com. “We had a fast practice a couple days ago, and he moved well. He can really do just about everything that we’ve asked him to do.”
Carlson played down fears about the severity of his injury, however, after watching Mahomes deal with the issue during the win over Cincinnati: “It’s a concern but he played well, it didn’t look to me like a high ankle sprain two weeks ago,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine him playing that well with a high ankle sprain, he couldn’t move like he normally does but he could move and high ankle sprain is one short of injuring your Achilles. He had two weeks to rest and rehab that, so I have a feeling he’ll be pretty close [to full fitness].”
Should Mahomes suffer a problem during the Super Bowl, the Chiefs have experienced 37-year-old Chad Henne available to deputise. Carlson trusts the ex-Jaguars QB to step in if needed, although he conceded a comeback is unlikely if the Eagles are winning and Mahomes is replaced.
“It depends what kind of game he comes into, he’s a competent quarterback and I’ve got a lot of respect for Chad Henne,” he said. “If it’s a close game that he comes into, he’s probably not going to lose it. It may be difficult for him to win it, but not impossible.
“If Mahomes was to get hurt when they were down 14 points, and then he comes in, it’s going to be more difficult. They’d know he [Henne] is going to have to throw and the Eagles would make it hard for him, they know he’s a pocket passer. You can trust him not to lose the game for you but winning it or coming back is different.”
Listen to Mike Carlson on Betfair’s NFL…Only Bettor Super Bowl preview podcast and get the latest tips by heading to the Betfair website.
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