By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (7-3) came into their latest game off of a resounding victory last week of the New York Jets, to face the Chiefs (4-6) on Monday night. New England increased their lead in the AFC East with a convincing 34-3 victory at Gillette Stadium.
As I expected, the Chiefs came to play in the first half, but eventually the Patriots would impose their will on their opposition in the second half. Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel certainly had a great game-plan against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Eventually, Brady and his teammates would find openings in the Chiefs defense to pull away.
So what did we learn from watching the game Monday night?
The first thing we learned is that opposing defenses can slow down the Patriots offense when they implement an aggressive defense with a very good game-plan. Crennel had his defense double team both Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski.
He also had his defense blitz and really give Brady different looks to confuse him. It certainly worked in the first half, but eventually Patriots offense settled in.
However, even if the Patriots are slowed down, it seems they eventually will kick it into gear. The question moving forward will be how long in each game will it take the Patriots offense to make the proper adjustments?
The second thing we learned is the defense can continue to tighten up in the red-zone. The 2001 Patriots were known for being vulnerable between the twenties, but tough to score on in the red-zone. Say what you want about this defense giving up yardage, but points are what really matters, and if you can limit the amount of points scored especially in the red-zone you are doing something right.
The third thing we learned is no matter what the Patriots do in their upcoming games, the critics will still point to the defense as a possible fatal flaw in the play-offs. Trent Dilfer on ESPN after the game doubted the Patriots defense to be Super Bowl caliber. He could end up being right, but they played last night without 3 defensive starters, and I feel there is still room to improve.
Just remember that similar comments were made about the 2001 Patriots, 2006 Indianapolis Colts, and the 2009 New Orleans Saints. Those defenses were not elite, but they were good enough to get the job done in the play-offs, and eventually win Super Bowls.
On offense, the Patriots were really stymied int he first half, but Brady came alive in the second half as he went often to Gronkowski who had 2 touchdown passes. If you look at Brady’s numbers they are not overwhelming as he threw for 234 yards, with 2 touchdowns, and was 15-for-27 passing. However, he and his receivers lead by the tight ends did enough to get the job done.
On defense, when you hold any opponent to 3 points you have to be doing something right. There is no question that the Chiefs were able to move the ball on the defense. The Chiefs actually ran very well as they gained 120 yards combined from their 3 top running backs.
Also, Tyler Palko did make some throws on the Patriots defense, but they were definitely opportunistic when they needed to be. They intercepted Palko 3 times, and they did seem to put a good amount of pressure on the young quarterback. The Patriots defense against the Chiefs was the classic “bend but don’t break”. You can talk yardage or the opponent all you want. Three points against any offense is the number you need to focus on. Overall, the defense did a nice job considering how depleted the unit was with 3 starters being out.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game and below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Chiefs.”
1. The Patriots really need to stop the run on defense. The defense did not do a real good job at stopping the run. When you give up 5 yards a carry to the Chiefs top 3 running backs, that is very sub-par. There is no question that the Patriots miss both Brandon Spikes and Patrick Chung in run defense.
Moving forward, I think the defense will be fine in stopping the run once those players return. However, last night’s effort by the rush defense was just not good enough.
2. The front four needs to put pressure on quarterback Tyler Palko. I feel the Patriots defensive line did a good job at getting pressure on Palko. Mark Anderson had 1.5 sacks, and from the other side, Andre Carter continues to bring it, and make quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick also did a nice job at creating some pressure. If the line continues to develop a pass rush, the Patriots defense could be good enough.
3. This is the game for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to really run the ball. Green-Ellis definitely ran the ball well. He especially excelled in the second half when the running yards were needed. He ended up with 81 yards on 20 carries. He certainly was a huge plus last night for the Patriots.
4. Both tight ends need to establish themselves in the middle of the field. This key turned out to be very important for the Patriots as the Chiefs took away Wes Welker . Aaron Hernandez had 4 catches for 44 yards.
However, the star of the game had to be Gronkowski as he had 4 receptions for 96 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He is a tough man to take down, and against the Chiefs his yards after the catch were impressive.
5. The offense should use the “hurry up” to change the pace of the game. The Patriots came out in a conventional offense and struggled. They did seem to try to use the “hurry up” in this game to jumpstart the offense. I think it played a role, but in this game it didn’t have the affect it had against the Jets.
So what did we learn from this game? I think we saw a club that had to fight threw some adversity early in the game, and still figured out a way to pull away and win.
I am not saying this is a Championship team right now. However, they do have some of those characteristics that those Super Bowl teams had. This Patriots team is continuing to show the character of a winner.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the Patriots 34-3 victory against the Jets.