NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars

One of the most interesting schematic storylines of the NFL this week is whether the Vikings will blitz Patrick Mahomes when they play host to Kansas City on Sunday.

Should they? No. No. No. That is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Mahomes and Andy Reid are already the best offensive force in the game. All they need is the Vikings to ignite their offense by continuing to blitz at absurd rates. 

Will they? Probably. The Vikings are blitzing 58% of the time in four games this season, the highest by any team in a season since 2017 when PFF began tracking blitzes. It's also the highest blitz rate by any team in any four-game span since the Ravens in 2019. 

Don't expect the Purple People Eaters to walk through that door anytime soon, though. Minnesota's blitz is getting torched, which makes this astronomical blitz rate a head scratcher, to say the least. Their defensive success rate is the fourth-highest rate in the league when they don't blitz (65.7%), but fourth-lowest when they do blitz (48.4%).

Vikings blitz this season

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The man behind the blitz, Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores, knows Minnesota will have to blitz Mahomes, "They've got answers for anything someone would do defensively, it's important to mix things, so yeah, pressure, I think you can, I think you have to, but you've got to mix your pressure with your regular 4-man rush coverages."

That's a dangerous proposition against a QB who annihilates blitzes. Since he became a full-time starter in 2018, Patrick Mahomes has 55 touchdown passes and just six interceptions when blitzed. His EPA per play versus the blitz (0.39) doubles up anyone else's rate over that span (min. 400 plays), as Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are tied for second at 0.19. 

Patrick Mahomes vs. blitz since 2018

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That's why it would be questionable to blitz Mahomes anywhere in the ballpark of how often Minnesota has been going after QBs. Mahomes is the least blitzed QB in the NFL since 2018 (18.1%) for good reason. He's had the lowest rate in four of the last six seasons, including 2023 (14.3%). 

If that's not daunting enough, Flores isn't just going up against Mahomes, but also Reid. "He's (Andy Reid) seen every blitz," Flores said, "I think everyone knows that, and every coverage, so it's not just about the blitz game, he's seen every blitz, every coverage, every 3-man rush, every 4-man, 5-man, every 6 or 7-man blitz, they've got answers for it, our job is to mix it." 

The Vikings could certainly throw the kitchen sink at the Chiefs anyway. 

  • They've sent at least six pass rushers 62 times this season, nearly triple the next-closest team (23). 
  • They blitz a defensive back at the highest rate (32.3%) by any team since the 2019 Ravens (37.0%). They even sent a DB pass rusher 24 times in Week 3 against the Chargers, the most by any team in a game since Flores' Dolphins in 2021 against the Ravens. 
  • They play cover-0 (man coverage with no high safety) at the highest rate in the league in the past six seasons (14.5%)

The ultra-aggressive approach hasn't paid off to this point. Minnesota is 21st in defensive EPA per game, their exact same ranking as last season. 

This game plan isn't even generating much pressure. Minnesota still has the fourth-lowest overall pressure rate in the league (28.5%). Usually high blitz rates mean higher pressure rates, but the opposite has been true for Minnesota, which is not only failing to get pressure, but also leaving its secondary on an island with less defenders in coverage. 

Regardless of the results, the Vikings aren't backing down. 

Vikings undrafted rookie LB Ivan Pace Jr. was asked about blitzing Mahomes this weekend, and provided this jovial response with a smile on his face. "Yeah, I can blitz Mahomes. Yes, I can catch him. They just gotta send me after him, and I'm gonna go get him." 

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter added, "I mean, you can't be afraid, in this day and age in the league, that's ultimately up to Flo, he makes the game plans and we go out and execute."

The Chiefs certainly know what to expect, "Brian Flores, we've gone against several times," said Reid, "and he's very creative, brings people from everywhere, and he does have quite a blitz package." 

The last time Mahomes and Reid faced Flores was in 2020 when he was the Dolphins head coach. Mahomes was blitzed 28% of the time and tied a career-high with three interceptions, although none were against the blitz. The Chiefs still won 33-27. 

Those results might be the only glimmer of hope for Minnesota, as teams who blitz Mahomes pay dearly. 

Kansas City is 20-1 in the last four seasons when Mahomes is blitzed at least 20% of the time. 

The only time in his career he was blitzed at least half the time came in Week 1 against the Cardinals last year. Mahomes destroyed them with five touchdown passes, including four when they sent extra pass rushers. 

It's mostly adding up to a perfect storm of offense for not just Mahomes, but other members of the Chiefs offense. Jerick McKinnon (26.7% target rate vs. blitz) and Travis Kelce (29.5% target rate vs. blitz) see two of the biggest jumps in target rate when there's a blitz over the last two seasons. 

This could also be a bounce-back recipe for the Chiefs offense, which scored 41 points against the Bears in Week 3, but is averaging 20.0 points per game in three other contests this season.

Kansas City scores about five more points per game in the last four seasons when Mahomes is blitzed at least 20% of the time. The over is 13-8 in those games, compared with 14-18 when he's blitzed less than 20%.

Bottom line. Watch for plenty of exotic blitzes from the Vikings on Sunday and expect fireworks from Mahomes and Co. 

Contributions from CBS Sports Research