November 21, 2004
Winning Here Would Be A Chiefly Thing
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
KANSAS CITY -- The Red Wave. Patriots have not been able to overcome it in an awful long time.
Matter of fact, the Patriots have pretty much had a lousy time with the Chiefs since that game no matter where the game was played. Following the 1964 season sweep, the Patriots wouldn’t beat Kansas City for another 13 years. The Patriots went 0-7-2 against the Chiefs from 1965 to 1973, until a 21-17 win at Schaefer Stadium in 1977. That win triggered a 5-4 run by the Patriots in this series, with the Patriots winning three of the last four, all at Foxborough.
The last time the Patriots came here to Arrowhead Stadium, the 4-0 Patriots suffered their first loss of the 1999 season. Adam Vinatieri missed a chip shot field goal at the final gun, as the Chiefs edged the Patriots, 16-14. My distinguished PatsFans.com colleague, Ian Logue, called it the most fortuitous field goal miss in team history, because had Vinatieri made the field goal, Pete Carroll might still be head coach of the Patriots. Instead, the Patriots finished on a 4-8 run and Bob Kraft decided that Bill Belichick was a better choice to run the Patriots on the field.
The 2002 meeting between these two teams spelled the beginning of the end of the first world championship reign for the Patriots. A 41-38 overtime win at the first day game in Gillette Stadium history provided the league with a textbook way to beat the Patriots. Priest Holmes gouged the Patriots for 180 yards, which exposed the Patriots as a slow defensive team which could not stop the run. The Patriots would lose their next four games following this win, with LaDainian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams, Ahman Green and Clinton Portis taking turns giggling their way to huge games against the Super Bowl champs.
Holmes is a likely scratch from Monday night’s clash with the Patriots (he is officially listed as doubtful). Good news for the Nation?
There are two items that go with this favorable injury report. First of all, Keith Traylor was a recent addition to the injury list (questionable). Second, who was this guy who is not named Priest Holmes but still managed 186 yards on 33 carries last week against New Orleans?
The Chiefs have the 28th ranked defense in the league, meaning that the Patriots could very well ring up around 41 points on them like they did in 2002, despite the fact that they will be in a very tough road venue. But with Derrick Blaylock in the Chief backfield, looking like the best backup running back this side of Olandis Gary or Mike Anderson, and with Trent Green being protected by that awesome offensive line of his, the Patriots will be hard pressed to keep the Chiefs under 40 themselves.
Sooner or later, someone out there will expose the depleted Patriot cornerback tandem. Five times this year, Green has exceeded 100 passer-rating points, with a season high of 143.8 in a 45-35 victory over Indianapolis. He rang up 56 points against an Atlanta team which is currently 7-2 going into Sunday’s action. The Patriots will be facing the top ranked offense in the league, and in a road venue where they have never won in team history.
Is this a hopeless situation for the Patriots?
The Patriots may have to engage the Chiefs in a shootout, which could turn out okay given how poor the Chiefs play defense. Bill Belichick and Charlie Weis may decide to give Kansas City the Super Bowl XXV treatment, featuring lots of Corey Dillon and lots of good clock management. Keeping Green and his high-octane offense off the field for as long as possible is always a good ingredient to a victory.
Also, don’t let the high passer ratings from Green worry you too much. In those five games where Green exceeded 100 passer-rating points, the Chiefs are 2-3. The Chiefs are a 3-6 team overall. If we take Bill Parcells literally when he says “Your are what your record says you are!”, the Chiefs are not a good team right now. Scary? Absolutely. But unbeatable? Not hardly.
Besides, the Patriots know that they can stop high-octane offenses on the road. They held the Rams to only 22 points two weeks ago. They can do the same here.
It will once again require an emphasis on receiver coverage and a de-emphasis on blitzing Green. Behind an offensive line which features All-Pros like Willie Roaf and Will Shields, the Patriots aren’t likely to get lots of pressure on Green. The Patriots will likely turn to Earthwind Moreland and Troy Brown to provide help in the secondary once again, flooding the receiving lanes and making it hard for Green to find open receivers.
If this sounds repetitive, it’s because the Patriots have made this philosophy work on numerous occasions. But you can also expect Belichick and Romeo Crennel to come up with some wrinkles which the Chiefs won’t be ready for. This can come in the form of disguised coverages and even disguised blitzes which the Chiefs won’t be expecting.
The one remaining problem is what to do about Blaylock. If Traylor cannot go, then Vince Wilfork will have to step up big, as will Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi. It would be nice if the Patriots did not have to bring in Rodney Harrison to help out with run defense. The good news here is that the Patriots did well in shutting down Marshall Faulk and Willis McGahee in the two weeks since their only loss of the season at Pittsburgh. It is paramount that the Patriots do not allow Blaylock to have a big day, especially given that they likely won’t have to deal with Holmes.
No visiting team comes into Kansas City and expects to have it easy, no matter what the home team’s condition is at present. The Patriots have to play a mistake-free game and merely do their thing in order to have a chance at coming out of Arrowhead a winner for the first time ever. On the Monday night stage, which had historically been a bad scene for the Patriots, they have done a lot better in recent times, their last Monday night loss coming on late 2002, a 24-7 pasting by the Tennessee Titans. They have won four of their last five Monday night games, and are 11-19 in franchise history on Monday night.
Belichick has perhaps by now convinced his players that the Chiefs will play Buck Buchanan on defense and will have to guard Otis Taylor on the deep throw. That more or less is the right approach to beat one of the toughest road teams in the league.
Or, make that the chief ingredient to a win.
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