When Patrick Mahomes becomes a running back, will the 49ers treat him like one?

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Quarterbacks who become runners become running backs. They surrender all quarterback protections. Which means that they can be hit the same way a running back can be hit.

It’s a topic that came up from time to time throughout the regular season, as more and more quarterbacks decided to take advantage or an actual or perceived opportunity to run the ball on a passing play, or via a designed run. In January, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has joined the list, and he has led the Chiefs in rushing in both of their playoff games. Fully healed from ankle and knee injuries, he has the mobility to extend plays horizontally and also to take off vertically, as he did on Sunday with a 27-yard touchdown run that covered 64 yards and that featured a head fake for the ages and ugly, flailing efforts by multiple Titans defensive backs to tackle him inside the five.

All too often, defenders get freaked out by the prospect of hitting a running quarterback the same way they’d hit a running back, especially when the quarterback strays toward the sideline or seems to be on the verge of sliding. And some quarterbacks take advantage of that dynamic, acting for example like they’re heading out of bounds and then darting forward for another five or 10 yards when defenders pull up, fearing a 15-yard penalty and/or a fine.

Some defensive coaches take things the other way, constantly reminding defensive players to treat running quarterbacks like running backs. Remember the controversial hit by Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz? (Clowney should have been flagged and fined.) That play felt like the product of seeds planted in the meeting room, with defensive coaches showing clips of Wentz pulling the ball down and running it and urging defensive players to take advantage of the opportunity to apply a maximum degree of physicality to a player who at all other times is protected from it. (Clowney’s hit crossed the line when he dropped his helmet and rammed it into Wentz, a protection that applies to all players.)

It’s a relevant consideration as the 49ers prepare to face Mahomes. Surely, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and the team’s defensive position coaches will be displaying the 27-yard touchdown run, pointing out the various missed opportunities to treat Mahomes like a running back, and ordering the defensive players to not let Mahomes have his cake and run it in Miami.

With more and more talk about Mahomes exploiting defensive efforts to blanket his receivers by running to where the defenders aren’t, it’s a critical talking point regarding the manner in which Super Bowl LIV may unfold. And so we’ve been talking about it. And some Chiefs fans have gotten riled up about it, ignoring the words that were used and hearing what they want to hear.

Here’s my quote from Wednesday’s PFT Live that has placed a burr into the butts of some Chiefs fans: “You know what? At a certain level I think that — and I want to be careful here because I’m not suggesting that they try to knock him out of the game. That’s not what I’m saying. But at a certain point, you trade the risk of 15 yards, if you can send a message. And football is still a physical, violent game. If you can hit him, even if it’s close to the sideline, even if he’s maybe started into his slide. When the championship is riding on it, I think it’s a different analysis. And yeah we may give up 15 yards or half the distance to the goal line. I mean, that’s the thing, Peter. If someone had blown up Patrick Mahomes inside the five, big deal. If goes from the four to the two. Big deal. So, again, I’m not saying that that should be part of the deliberate effort. But the Super Bowl is riding on it. And if this guy’s gonna think he can run through the defense without any physical consequence, they need to dispel him of that notion the first time he tries.”

That’s an accurate, candid, honest assessment of how football works at the highest level. The Saints’ bounty scandal from 2012 has caused players, coaches, and media to tiptoe around the topic, but football remains a very physical, violent game. And when quarterbacks choose to shed the rulebook bubble wrap that applies while in the pocket, they assume the same risk that every running back embraces on every single snap.

If the quarterback runs it once and absorbs the kind of hit that running backs routinely endure, the quarterback may decide the next time he’s considering whether to take off with the ball that maybe he should throw it instead.

That’s the point. The Super Bowl hangs in the balance. Legacies are on the line. Whether it’s Mahomes or Jimmy Garoppolo, the rules still allow a quarterback who runs the ball to be hit like a running back. And if the 49ers hope to avoid being shredded by Mahomes, they need to be willing to hit Mahomes the same way that Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen hit Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill when he decided to become a runner on Sunday.

And in the gray areas of the sideline and the slide, yes, the defense may be more willing to risk a foul if it makes the quarterback think twice about trying to pick up some easy yards on the ground the next time around.

That’s a far cry from trying to injure Mahomes, who already has become one of my all-time favorite players. It’s about the fundamental nature of the game, a fundamental nature that has not changed despite the various rules changes that have made the game much safer than it once was.

For any quarterback who doesn’t like that, there’s an easy solution: Don’t run the ball.

48 responses to “When Patrick Mahomes becomes a running back, will the 49ers treat him like one?

  1. They should treat him like one. Had the Titan’s defenders treated him like one he would have gotten a 1st down not a TD. Hit him (or any running QB) hard, just like a back.

  2. As a diehard Packers fan who watched four quarters in the regular season and two quarters in the playoffs of the Niners treating Aaron Rodgers like a ragdoll, I can attest to the fact that, yes, they’re gonna treat Mahomes like any other runner. May God have mercy on his body.

  3. Mahomes is smart enough to take advantage of the protection he gets as a QB and it was on full display against TN. There were a couple of runs that looked like the defenders quit because he was heading to the first down marker and they let him off the hook. He deserves to be trucked like any other runner. Period.

  4. Spot on Mike. I have no dog in the fight, however if the 49ers allow Mahomes to run free without laying the lumber on him (when he crosses the line of scrimmage). Then they deserve to lose the game.

  5. I think ALL QB take advantage of the rules that protect them. Especially on the sidelines. I say clean their clock a few times and then they will think twice when taking those extra steps for the extra yards.

  6. 1000% agree. As a Titans fan that play really angered me and I believe was a major turning point in that game. It was brutal tackling and they really could have punished him but didn’t.

  7. torchamundo says:
    January 23, 2020 at 11:27 am
    I’m not sure what another defense would have done… he had the angle and was able to slip in.
    ——-

    After the defenders already thought he was going out of bounds he did. They gave up on that play and then when he didn’t go out they tried to get back into the play but it was useless at that point.

  8. You cheap shot Mahomes to send him a message he’s going to send you one right back. He’s all about competing and you might see him throw 10 TD’s and make you look like a fool.

  9. Part of this issue can be attributed to the slide rule. When that QB goes to slide, all bets are off in regards to making practically any sort of contact, same idea when the QB steps out of bounds.Or else it’s a penalty. As a defender, how are you supposed to know his intent in a split second within a couple yards of each other? There should be a better way to determine what is completely unnecessary and what is completely incidental

  10. I have no problems with teams treating QBs like a RB on running plays. I do have a problem with teams who use that as a chance to get in a cheap shot and that should be penalized.

  11. Poor tackling has been common since 2004 when they banned two a day practices and limited how many times you are allowed to have contact in practices. You can’t be perfect if you are not allowed to practice so you can be perfect.

  12. He’s a flopper. He’ll tiptoe the sideline and then when they hit him he’ll act like he hit a landmine. It’s cheating. They need to fix the late hit OOB penalty big time.

  13. So the 49ers are going to force Mahomes to throw the ball? I don’t think the Chiefs have a big problem with that.

  14. You put a shoulder pad in his gut and make him think twice about running again. That’s called FOOTBALL.

  15. The stupid sliding rule confuses defenses because QBs will slide at the very last moment and the defensive player has to jump out of their way.

    Take the penalty and ring their bell a few times. It’s worth it.

  16. I like Mahomes but I sure hope they do. Too many times you see defenders pull up because they thought the QB was going to give themselves up or step out of bounce.

  17. Dee Greenlaw, Alexander, Dee Ford, Bosa, etc. … They will have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER hitting him and treating him as a runner. Especially not Greenlaw. Ask Jacob Hollister how Greenlaw brings the heat.

  18. Agreed Mike. As soon as he cut it back inside around the 10 they should have lit him up. That Titan defender tried a half hearted effort to strip the ball instead putting a good hit on him. He was asking for it right there.

  19. Its the slide that is frustrating, you never know if he is going to slide and you risk ejection from the game if someone decides you were being too physical.

  20. “Clowney’s hit crossed the line when he dropped his helmet and rammed it into Wentz”

    And Florio’s comment crossed a different line. The rules and penalties are in place to protect the players from injury. Florio’s clear implication is that a potential penalty, and the injury that might result, is worth it as long as “you can send a message.” After all, “The Super Bowl hangs in the balance. Legacies are on the line.” Well so are careers.

    Taking that illogic to an extreme, why shouldn’t the Chiefs risk a borderline late hit on Garoppolo to send a different message? Nicky Cheap Shot would have no qualms about knocking an opponent out of the game; he’s already proven that.

  21. QBs heading out of bounds should not be allowed to turn back in bounds. IMO, that should be unsportsman like conduct. OR they should give defenders some leeway to hit QB’s going out of bounds.

  22. jibberator says:
    January 23, 2020 at 12:47 pm
    Its the slide that is frustrating, you never know if he is going to slide and you risk ejection from the game if someone decides you were being too physical.
    ————————————————————————
    If he is outside the pocket, he is a runner

  23. Rob Brzezinski is a Magician says:
    January 23, 2020 at 12:21 pm
    So the 49ers are going to force Mahomes to throw the ball? I don’t think the Chiefs have a big problem with that.
    —————————————
    Neither does the best from 4 / pass defense in the league.

  24. If a team intentionally puts the other QB out of a super bowl, that team should have to forfeit. Geez, a 15 yard penalty is a small price to pay to get Mahomes off the field.

  25. The Frisco D has been good tackling runners and wide receivers all year long. They also gang tackle very well. If he does not slide, then Mahomes will be tackled like a running back.

  26. Patrick is a smart QB. He slides very early and he gets out of bounds before getting hit. The titans didn’t take it easy on him on that run. They couldn’t get the angle to hit him. Sorenson Had the angle to hit Tannehill and he paid the price for it. If Mahomes is standing up and taking on Tacklers he runs that risk of getting clobbered.

    To suggest the 49er hit him as he slides or is going out of bounds and take the risk of penalty. Is CHEAP and to suggest this, tells me that 49er don’t feel they have a fair shot at winning and have to cheat to win.

  27. The main problem is QBs who go to the sidelines and act like they’re going OB, and then “change their mind.” If the NFL is going to protect QBs – and they should, because QBs drive viewership and make games interesting – then they should treat going to the sideline as similar to sliding. Once a QB makes a move that could be interpreted as going OB, he must continue on the same path or receive a 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul. (The same goes for faking a slide or in any other way pretending he’s about to give himself up and then not doing so.)

  28. That’s exactly how Jimmy got injured for the year last season. He was running the ball and instead of going outta bounds he stayed inbounds as a runner got leveled and ended up tearing his acl and was out for a year.

  29. That’s exactly how Jimmy got injured for the year last season. He was running the ball and instead of going outta bounds he stayed inbounds as a runner got leveled and ended up tearing his acl and was out for a year.

  30. Football is a brutal and violent sport, as said by Florio.

    Goal is to inflict pain on your opponent, but not injure.

    Bad hombres on the gridiron are like hot stoves. You know what happens when you mess with a hot stove. You remember that it can hurt you and you stay wary.

    Mahomes just needs to mess with a couple hot stoves and his game will change.

  31. Yet, Clowney got neither a flag or a fine. Go figure. Maybe because a still frame shot isn’t the same as watching the play in real time. Where no one said a thing on air until 5 plays later.

  32. jturbo1402003 says:
    January 23, 2020 at 1:16 pm
    That’s exactly how Jimmy got injured for the year last season. He was running the ball and instead of going outta bounds he stayed inbounds as a runner got leveled and ended up tearing his acl and was out for a year.
    ——————————————–

    Not quite.

    Jimmy G did get injured on that play, but it wasn’t due to the hit. He tried to make a sharp cut at the sideline and his leg buckled. Jimmy G injured himself.

  33. chiefseek says:
    January 23, 2020 at 1:10 pm
    To suggest the 49er hit him as he slides or is going out of bounds and take the risk of penalty. Is CHEAP and to suggest this, tells me that 49er don’t feel they have a fair shot at winning and have to cheat to win.
    ————————————————–
    Nobody is suggesting that the Niners take cheap shots.

    The author is saying that the Niners should not back off as he goes for the sideline. They should treat him like a running back. Once Mahomes starts his slide, then they can back off, but not a second before. If Mahomes waits until the last second to slide and the defender can’t change direction…it’s on Mahomes.

  34. The 9ers haven’t played a QB all season that has Mahomes ability. He throws deep better than Rodgers and scrambles better than Wilson. Should be a good game. GO CHIEFS!!!

  35. Even people who haven’t watched the niners much are aware of the tenacity of the D line, but this team likes to hit people at all positions – even offense. Sherman is probably the softest hitter in the back end, but guys like Warner, Alexander, Greenlaw, Mosely, Tartt, Ward, and K’won Williams are all very physical players. They throw their bodies around with complete reckless abandon like heat seeking missiles.

    Expect a lot of 4 man rushes with a zone/spy in the middle, with occasional LB and CB blitzes – especially on third and 5+. Saleh preaches for his guys to play with violence. Given this is the last game for a few months, these guys are going to be wrecking balls all over the field. Mahomes and crew better be mentally prepared for how hard they’re going to be hit.

  36. jjackwagon says:
    January 23, 2020 at 2:02 pm
    The 9ers haven’t played a QB all season that has Mahomes ability. He throws deep better than Rodgers and scrambles better than Wilson. Should be a good game. GO CHIEFS!!!
    ———————————
    Maybe not the same arm talent, but the niners played Lamar, Baker, Russel (twice), and Kyler (twice). After the superbowl, they will have played every team in the league with a quarterback that is considered ‘mobile’. They only lost two of those games by a total of two field goals. To suggest they haven’t played a similar talent is disingenuous at best. Not knocking Mahomes who is clearly the best of that lot, but don’t discount the niners’ schedule this year.

  37. jjackwagon says:
    January 23, 2020 at 2:02 pm
    The 9ers haven’t played a QB all season that has Mahomes ability. He throws deep better than Rodgers and scrambles better than Wilson. Should be a good game. GO CHIEFS!!!
    ————————————————–

    The Niners faced Brees, Lamar Jackson and Wilson (twice).

    Brees is arguably the best pocket passer in football. He’s up there with Mahomes, but Mahomes is better at scrambling and throwing from all anges

    Lamar Jackson. He’s a good, accurate passer and faster.more elusive than Mahomes.

    Wilson. A very accurate passer that rolls out and throws accurate passes on the run.

    Yes, the Niners have played agaisnt QBs with Mahome’s type skills. I think that the big difference is that the Chiefs have the fastest WRs in the league, which may make a huge difference.

    I expect the Niners to attack Mahomes, not giving him the time to throw deep to the likes of Hill.

    It should be a great game. I hope the Niners win, but would be happy for Reid if KC wins.

  38. radar8 says:

    ————————————————–
    Nobody is suggesting that the Niners take cheap shots.
    _____________________________________________________
    There are post in here prior to mine suggesting different.

  39. If you are saying to hit him as a running back when he is running the ball, I have no issues with that. If, however, you are saying hit him even if he is starting to slide and take the late hit penalty because the Super Bowl is on the line, I think that is cheap. And I think the San Francisco defense is good enough to win without cheap shots.

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