Tag Archives: Travis Kelce

Patriots Report Card In AFC Championship Win Over Kansas City

Steve Balestrieri
January 22, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Well… That was a wild finish to that game. The fourth quarter and overtime were exactly the way we described it in our pregame matchup piece, an instant classic. A low scoring game for three quarters exploded in the final 20 minutes of the 4th quarter/OT.

The Patriots went on the road in a very tough place to play in front of a very raucous crowd and were able to pull out a very impressive win to capture their third straight AFC championship and for the Brady/Belichick legacy, this is their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win:

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady came out of the gate and led the Patriots on a beautifully called opening drive where the Patriots went 80 yards and ate up eight minutes of the first quarter before the Chiefs even touched the ball. They went back down again with a chance to go up 14 and Brady threw an interception on the end zone on a poor decision. Late in the half, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett on a really nice pass to the corner of the end zone.

Brady ended up completing 30-46 for 348 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions, the other going off Edelman’s hands and right into the hands of the defender. But after the Chiefs found their offensive mojo and came to take the lead, the Patriots needed Brady’s magic. He gave it to them in spades.

In the last eight and a half minutes of the game, (3:32 in regulation and about 5 minutes of OT) Brady led the Patriots to three touchdown drives. He was vintage Tom Brady and checked all the blocks: Throwing into tight windows? Check. Zipping the ball downfield? Yes for certain. During those last three drives, Brady was 11-16 for 147 yards.  And a perfect 5-5 on 3rd downs. In Overtime, the Patriots converted three 3rd and 10s.

Lucky? Why are we still even having this drivel asked anymore?

Running Backs: A

The Patriots were once again led on the ground by Sony Michel, the rookie had another very productive day, grinding out 113 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. He was spelled late in the game by Rex Burkhead who ran 12 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner in Overtime.

James White didn’t have a big a role as we envisioned carrying just six times for 23 yards. The Patriots rolled up 176 yards on the ground. They did exactly what was asked of them, they set the tone early in the game and then late when the Chiefs were selling out on their pass rush, they gashed them for three late scores.

Wide Receivers: A-

Julian Edelman was once again the Patriots leading receiver with 7 catches for 96 yards and he was immense in the game-winning drive converting two huge 3rd and 10 scenarios with a 20 and 15 yard gain. But he was nearly the goat. He had a pass bounce off his hands and right into a Chiefs linebacker’s (Sorensen) for an easy interception. But he more than made up for that during crunch time. With the hits he took down the middle Edelman once again proved he is as tough as woodpecker lips.

Chris Hogan chipped in with five catches for 45 yards including a huge third-down conversion where he dove and pulled the ball into the crook of his arm for a catch that was challenged but upheld. White had four catches for 49 yards including a huge 30-yard screen pass that set up a score. Phillip Dorsett had just one catch but it was a big one, a 29-yard touchdown. Burkhead had four catches for 23 yards, Cordarrelle Patterson had two for 18, James Develin added in one for nine.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski once again dominated in the running game. He, Dwayne Allen, and Develin unleashed the backs with some crushing blocks on the linebackers and edge players. But the Chiefs decided to single cover Gronkowski mostly with a single safety (Eric Berry).

Gronkowski had a big game in the passing department as well hauling in six passes for 79 including the huge 15-yarder over Berry that set-up the final runs by Burkhead that gave them the win. It was an almost vintage-like Gronkowski performance and a well-needed one.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line had another dominant performance. The Patriots rolled up 524 yards of offense, they ran 94 offensive plays and had only one play (1) go for negative yardage. The kneel down by Tom Brady at the end of regulation.  Kansas City had a very good group of pass rushers who tallied up 52 sacks in the regular season.

Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney dominated Chris Jones last night and not only did he not get any pressure on Brady, but they also pushed him around a lot in the running game.

This was magnified by the Patriots being on the road in a very loud stadium. So the Chiefs could anticipate the snaps from Brady without having to worry about a hard count. Brady was pressured on only seven of 46 dropbacks. Outstanding.

Defensive Line: B+

The Patriots defensive line had a very big game. The Chiefs running game was registered as an afterthought gaining only 41 yards on 12 carries. The defensive line did a great job of mostly containing Patrick Mahomes in the pocket and bringing pressure.

Trey Flowers was terrific on the edge and Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown were stout inside. Flowers had a sack, a tackle for a loss and two QB hits. Guy split a sack with John Simon.  Adam Butler came on in passing downs and helped push the pocket.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots much-maligned linebacking corps had another big day. Kyle Van Noy was outstanding, making plays all over the field. He had a pair of sacks, six QB pressures, and five run stops. He was a pain in the ass for the Chiefs offensive line all night.

Dont’a Hightower had another strong game playing 100 percent of the snaps and providing some pressure up the middle. John Simon saw more snaps than Elandon Roberts and had another under the radar strong game. He had a half-sack, and three QB pressures.

Secondary: A-

Wait you say. They gave up 31 points and 24 in the fourth quarter??? Well, look at the job that the secondary did on shutting down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Those two combined for just four catches for 65 yards. No one held them under 100 yards all season and the Patriots did it in Arrowhead. Hill was doubled by Jonathan Jones/Keion Crossen with outstanding help over the top by Devin McCourty. Big Mac was terrific.

Sammy Watkins had 4 catches for 114 yards but his big one, 54-yarder was one play where Mahomes had all day to throw and Watkins finally shook free from Stephon Gilmore. The Pats moved Gilmore over to Kelce in the second half and he smothered him.

Rookie J.C. Jackson was the victim of several flags and was beat by Kelce (with a push off) for a touchdown.

Special Teams: A-

The only potential bad play was the almost muff by Edelman on a bouncing punt. It was a near and potentially game changer. But Edelman was very good in the punt return game returning three for 38 yards. Patterson had three kick returns for 80 yards including a nice 38 yarder. The coverage units did a much better job time around.  Ryan Allen was solid and Stephen Gostkowski hit a difficult 47-yard field goal considering the conditions.

Coaching: A+

Bill Belichick had an absolutely masterful game plan and the players executed it flawlessly in the first half. The Chiefs were shut out at home for the first time all season and they held them to just 32 yards of offense. They would adjust and finally explode with a huge fourth quarter but that allowed the Patriots to play with the lead all game.

Josh McDaniels called another strong game. He knew where the Chiefs’ weaknesses were and the Patriots offense rolled up 524 yards while having a more than double time of possession advantage (43:50 to 20:53).

Brian Flores called another very good game as the Patriots defense held Kansas City to under 300 yards of total offense. Penalties hurt but those are part of the game. We’re on to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Brady Engineers OT Drive To Lift Patriots in 37-31 Win Over KC

Steve Balestrieri
January 21, 2019 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots Heading to Atlanta For Super Bowl

It all came down to the coin flip. The Patriots and Chiefs battled like two heavyweight boxers for 60 minutes with each landing haymakers in the fourth quarter leaving the other battered and wobbly but still standing. It would go down to overtime. And there was little doubt that whoever got the ball first was going to score and move on.

And it just so happened that the Patriots won the toss and Matthew Slater emphatically told the referee, “We Want the Ball!” Once again Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman worked their magic to lift the Patriots to the Super Bowl. The only way to ensure the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t score in OT was to not let them touch the ball. And that is exactly what they did. Rex Burkhead actually did the honors, running it in easily from the two-yard line but the three veterans came up huge in key third downs in the overtime.

But while we focused on the exhilarating fourth quarter, it would ignore another coaching gem from Bill Belichick. Belichick and the Patriots have faced the league’s top offense in the postseason five times and their record is now 4-1.

Faced with a team that can literally score at any place on the field and was outscoring opponents at home 49-0 in the first quarter, the Patriots could not afford to fall behind like that on the road in that stadium. So Belichick the coach showed why he is still the master at game planning going against his good friend Andy Reid who loves to script an early way to get his offense rolling.

The Patriots took the opening kickoff and stunned the crowd and the Chiefs defense by holding onto the ball for eight minutes before Sony Michel scored from the one-yard line. The Pats had already taken the Chiefs out of their game and they hounded and confused QB Pat Mahomes in the first half. Belichick essentially snuffed the Chiefs fast-break offense into a plodding half-court game.

They brought tremendous pressure up the A-Gap and unlike the first game in New England, this time they were getting home. The Patriots sacked Mahomes three times in the first half for 42 yards. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were getting in Mahomes face.

They did it by taking away the Chiefs two biggest weapons in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and made the Chiefs try to win with their secondary players…they almost did. But Hill had one catch for 42 yards which went for naught and Kelce had a quiet three catches for 23 yards.

The Patriots held the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half to the Chiefs 8:53, They outgained the Chiefs 245 to just 32 and led 14-0 at the break and if not for a bad and uncharacteristic mistake by Brady at the KC one-yard line, may have put the Chiefs away in the first half.

On third and goal from the one, Brady play-actioned passed to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, but he threw short and Reggie Ragland intercepted him and the Chiefs got the ball at the 20.

The Patriots would score just 27 seconds before the half when Brady engineered a nice drive that began at the Patriots 10-yard line and covered 90 yards and began with 3:08 remaining. The big play was a huge 30-yard screen pass to James White that set them up at the KC 38 with 41 seconds left. On second and one from the 29, Brady threw a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Phillip Dorsett for a 29-yard touchdown.

But just like in New England in Week 6, the Chiefs offense awoke in the second half. On their opening drive, they faced a third and two from their 32. Mahomes had all day to throw and Sammy Watkins eventually slipped past Stephon Gilmore and Mahomes delivered a strike for 54-yards. On the next snap, he hit Kelce who got away with a push off at the five and the Chiefs were on the board and in business.

After holding the Chiefs deep inside their zone and forcing a punt, Julian Edelman returned it 13 yards to the KC 37. But the Patriots would only get eight yards on the ensuing drive and Stephen Gostkowski boomed a 47-yard field goal which, in those conditions was hardly a sure thing.

Kelce then got an iffy pass interference call on J.C. Jackson on third down on the ensuing KC drive at the Patriots 14 which put the ball on the one. Mahomes hit Damien Williams for a one-yard score to make it 17-14.

The Patriots drove to the Chiefs 25 but on fourth and one, Burkhead was stuffed by Daniel Sorensen. The teams traded punts and then disaster struck. After nearly muffing the punt at the 26, Julian Edelman let a Brady pass bounce off his hands and right into the hands of Sorensen who returned it to the NE 23. That set off a wild sequence of events to finish the game in regulation.

Two plays later, Mahomes hit Williams with a beautifully designed pass play where he scored easily from 23-yards to give the Chiefs the lead at 21-17. Brady went to work taking the Patriots another 75 yards for a score.

Facing a 3rd and 8 from the NE 45, Chris Hogan made a diving stab at the ball where he got it tucked in the crook of his arm and fell to the turf for a gain of 11. The play was challenged but upheld which would cost Reid and the Chiefs a valuable time out.

Burkhead had a run of 14 and Gronkowski got them back down inside the red zone with a catch for 11 before Sony Michel burst up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown. The Patriots had the lead back 24-21 with just 3:32 left in the game.

The Patriots had a turnover reversed when a Kelce fumble and recovery by Hightower was erased by a holding call on Jackson, who would then get hit with another pass interference penalty. From the NE 40, Mahomes then hit Watkins with a 38-yard pass play down to the NE 2. Williams rolled in for his third touchdown of the game to put the Chiefs back up 28-24 with 2:03 left.

Brady began the drive with a 20-yard BB to Edelman down the middle. On 3rd and 10, Brady was picked off but Dee Ford lined up offside, giving the Patriots new life. On 3rd and 5, Brady delivered a huge play to Gronkowski down the left sideline for 25 yards to the Chiefs four. On first and goal, Burkhead burst in from the four and the Patriots once again took the lead 31-28 (our prediction) with just 39 ticks left.

It would be more than enough for Mahomes to tie it up. First, he hit Spencer  Ware for 21-yards, then he delivered a 27 yarder to Demarcus Robinson with just 16 seconds left. A pass was overthrown out of bounds into the end zone where Harrison Butker kicked a 39-yard field goal to tie the wild fourth quarter up with just 8 seconds to go.

In overtime, Brady showed why you should never count the Patriots out. Facing a third and 10 from the 35, he hit Edelman with a huge 20-yard pass play where he took a big hit after coming down with the ball. The Patriots faced another big 3rd and 10 from the KC 45 and once again it was Edelman with a big catch for 15 yards down to the 30.

Once again, on 3rd and 10, Brady hit Gronkowski for 15 yards down to the Chiefs 15 and that old familiar feeling was creeping in that the Patriots were going to end this. Burkhead sliced up the middle for 10 yards down to the five. On first down, he carried to the two and on second down he easily powered in for the touchdown and the Patriots were going to their third Super Bowl in a row and their 5th in six years.

To look at the stat sheet, you’d have thought that this game was a blowout. New England outgained KC 524 to 290, had 36 first downs to 18 for the Chiefs, held the ball for 43:59 to the Chiefs just 20:53. The Patriots ran 94 plays to just 47 for KC.

The offensive line once again turned in an outstanding performance, the team ran for 176 yards of which Sony Michel ran 29 times for 113 yards and two TDs Burkhead carried 12 times for 41 yards and two TDs. Brady wasn’t sacked once and completed 30-46 for 348 yards with one score and the two picks. Edelman had seven catches for 96 yards. Gronkowski had six catches for 79 yards and was immense in the running game.

Mahomes finished 16-31 for 295 yards and 3 TDs but the four sacks he suffered put them back 46 yards. The Chiefs running game managed just 41 yards on 12 carries. Watkins had a big day with 114 yards on four catches.

This was a scrap that the Patriots got off to a big lead, and then had to claw and scratch their way to a huge victory on the road where the #1 seed and the home team was favored. And to do so, they got fantastic performances by Belichick, Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski, and Michel.

After all the questioning of this team seemingly all season, they are on their way to another Super Bowl. We’re on to Atlanta.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
January 18, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Round Two Winner Goes to the Super Bowl

The New England Patriots travel to Kansas City on Sunday night to take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, the winner of which goes on to Atlanta to the Super Bowl.  The Patriots are advancing to their eighth straight AFC title game, an NFL record. With a win, they’ll also become the third team to appear in three straight Super Bowls.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson, Evan Washburn, and Jay Feely will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (12-5) dominated the LA Chargers 41-28. Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns, Tom Brady completed 34-44 for 343 yards and a score, Julian Edelman caught nine passes for 151 yards and James White caught 15 passes as the offense rolled.

The Chiefs (13-4) beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 on a snowy Saturday afternoon. The Chiefs defense played their best game of the year holding the Colts to just 13 points while the offense ran for four scores on the ground. Damien Williams ran for 129 yards on 25 carries and a score. Patrick Mahomes completed 27-41 passes for 278 yards.  

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Chiefs are meeting for the 37th time including the playoffs in their history since the days of the old AFL when they would meet twice a year. Kansas City holds the overall lead 18-15-3. The Chiefs hold an 11-3-1 advantage in games played in Kansas City and a 5-1 record at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Patriots won the last meeting between the two teams 43-40 on a Week 6 Sunday Night Football matchup.  

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been a strength of the team down the stretch. Opposing defenses can’t just pin their ears back and rush Tom Brady as they’ve been able to run and run effectively with Sony Michel. In the first meeting, Michel ran for 106 of the Patriots 173 yards on the ground. Rex Burkhead, James White, and FB James Develin will all contribute on the ground as well. The Pats were 5th (127.3 yards per game) on the ground this season.

The Chiefs defense was pretty awful against the run this season, allowing 132.1 yards (27th) on the ground. Last week, however, they were aggressive and took control of the line of scrimmage and kept the Colts at bay. Chris Jones had a very big game for them.

Look for the Patriots to try to control the line of scrimmage, much like they did last week against a much better defense. However, this week the Chiefs are at home, with the deafening crowd noise, they’ll be able to time the snaps and get a very quick jump off. Michel and the ground game will be key on keeping the balance they need to keep the offense moving. They controlled the line last week and in the first meeting but this one will be tougher. The Jet sweeps weren’t a big factor the first time, but may very well be on Sunday night, taking advantage of the linemen pushing up the field.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game last week took advantage of the Chargers zone defense and Brady shredded them for 343 yards. Brady passed for 340 yards in the first meeting on throwing just 34 passes. The Patriots had the 8th best passing game (266.1 yards per game) in the league in 2018.

The Chiefs pass defense was worse than their run defense in the regular season allowing 273.4 yards per game (31st in the NFL) What they lived off of was their pass rush which is excellent. Chris Jones, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford, can not only get after the opposing quarterback but knock down passes as well. Their secondary should have Eric Berry back and they’ve played much better with him than without.

Look for Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton to try to jam the middle of the field and contest all of the short to intermediate throwing areas that Brady thrives in. If they force him to hold onto the ball a bit longer, it will allow their pass rush to get home.

The Patriots will try to move Edelman around to create some space on the outside, while trying to clear out the flat for James White to work in the passing game. Kansas City allowed the 5th most passing yardage to running backs this season. Brady will look to attack the middle of the field first. Gronkowski hurt the Chiefs with two big pass plays by getting the one-on-one matchups when they were there. That will definitely be in play if it becomes available to them.

Pass protection is everything in this game for the Patriots, regardless of the running game, it is still a complimentary game and they remain a passing team first and foremost. Key matchup here is LT Trent Brown against Chris Jones in both the running and passing games. With crowd noise and not being able to mix up their snaps, the Chiefs will look to tee off. Flashback to Pittsburgh, the OL can’t shoot itself in the foot again with double-digit false starts again.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs lost their workhorse in Kareem Hunt but have gotten nearly identical production in the running game from Damien Williams. He gashed the Colts for 129 yards on 25 carries last week. KC had the 16th best running game in the league, averaging 115.9 yards per game.

Kansas City likes to mix in the jet sweep and with the explosive Tyreek Hill, he blew thru the Indy defense for a 36-yard touchdown last week. The Chiefs rushed for 94 yards in the first meeting with Hunt getting 80 of those and averaging 5.5-yards per rush.

The Patriots run defense has really been trending up the past three games. Last week against Melvin Gordon and the Chargers, they allowed just 19 yards on 10 carries.The defensive line and linebackers have been much, much better. On the season they allowed 112.7 yards on the ground (11th in the league).

Andy  Reid has gotten pass-happy in big games before, will he have the patience to stick with his running game on Sunday? I expect the Patriots will go with a lighter front for much of this one and there should be room to run the ball.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game was positively electric this season. Mahomes threw for 50 TDs and they were third in yards this season with 309.3. But everything goes thru Hill, the small but incredibly fast wide receiver who, if he gets the slightest edge outside is gone. That happened in the first meeting, he got a step on one of the Patriots fastest defenders in Duron Harmon and he blew by him like he was a turnstile at the airport.

Mahomes also has Travis Kelce who caught over 100 passes this year, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Williams, Specer Ware, and Kelvin Benjamin, who was a healthy scratch last week against the Colts.

The Patriots’ secondary play has improved over the course of the season. Stephon Gilmore had an All-Pro type of season and rookie J.C. Jackson an UDFA from Maryland has come on and played terrific down the stretch. The front seven has gotten plenty of QB pressure but that hasn’t translated into many sacks.

Look for the Reid to run those RPOs (run/pass option) plays that gave New England fits last season. That allows Kelce to get quick separation at the line. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots approach covering Hill. While we fully expect him to be doubled with help over the top, who will draw him? The Patriots will probably get Gilmore on him with safety help over the top. We expect them to chip on Kelce at the line as well, to try to throw off their timing.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have a solid group of specialists with Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, and returners with Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson returning punts and kickoffs. The coverage units have been much better when the team added veterans Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber after Thanksgiving.

The Chiefs have kicker Harrison Butker and the excellent Dustin Colquitt in their kicking game. They also have the dangerous Hill and Tremon Smith who had a 97-yard return in the first meeting.

This time however, we’re going with experience. Edelman has been at his best in big games and Patterson is as dangerous a kick returner as there is in the NFL. Look for the Patriots to get after a punt this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is shaping up to be an instant classic. The first meeting went right down to the wire with the score tied at 40, Brady hit Gronkowski with a big 42-yard pass play down the field and Gostkowski kicked a FG with three seconds left. We expect another really close game, perhaps not quite as high scoring as the first matchup.

The keys from a Patriots perspective this week are:

Start Fast And Be Ready For the Onslaught:

The Chiefs at home have been ridiculously fast starters, they’ve outscored opponents at home in the first quarter by a huge margin.  Last week against the Colts was no exception. They bolted out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back.

The Patriots have been notoriously slow starters this season, especially on the road. That would be curtains for any chances of winning if that happens. They have to be on top of their game from the opening kickoff. Reid scripts his first 20 plays or so, so we’d expect the Chiefs to throw some wrinkles at them right off the bat. Expect a very aggressive start on both sides of the ball to get the crowd even more into it.

Last week the Patriots got off to the best start in the history of the team in the playoffs last week and that propelled them to an easy win over the Chargers. They need that type of start again.

Mix Things Up:

Offensively, the Patriots have to keep the Chiefs defense off-balance, Third and long situations will unleash the KC pass rush and they have to limit those type of situations. The Pats rolled up 500 yards of offense last time, by doing just that. Running effectively, and spreading the ball around.

Defensively, they won’t pin their ears back and come after Mahomes like they did to Rivers because if he escapes (and frequently does), then a big play is sure to follow. Mix up coverages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some split coverages by the secondary. The key is contain him and keep him in the pocket. When plays break down and the Chiefs play backyard football, big plays will result.

The Patriots will want to try to slow the pace down this week, a track meet will really favor the Chiefs at home. They want to grind them down with slow, methodical drives that eat the clock.

Win STs/Red Zone:

The Patriots special teams have been much better down the stretch and I expect some big plays to happen this week. Patterson and Edelman will have to kick it up a notch but a STs score or big play will go a long way this week.

The Red Zone will of course, be of paramount importance this week. Kicking field goals in KC is a recipe for losing. They have to score like last week. In the first half the Pats were 5-5 in the red area. On the flip side, they have to manufacture some stops and force the Chiefs to settle for some threes or get a turnover or two.

When the Chiefs beat the Colts, I immediately pegged this as a loss. I thought the Pats would win a tough, close game at home against the Chargers and then go on the road and lose to KC.

But the performance last week, sold me that this team isn’t dead yet. They’ve found their stride and saved their best game of the year for the playoffs. That makes me feel that they can go in and win this game. It won’t be easy and will go down to the wire. But something tells me Brady pulls another big win out of his hat, and Bill Belichick dusts off that Super Bowl game plan he used against the Bills when he was with the Giants. They may dare the Chiefs to run all day long, but they’re going to get it done. Get ready to head to Atlanta.   Patriots 31-28

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots, Brady Hand KC First Loss 43-40, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2018 at 6:32 am ET

Who can go to sleep after that one?

This one lived up to the billing. The Patriots-Chiefs Sunday Night Football game turned into an instant classic, at the end of the night resembling an old-fashioned AFL shootout as the teams were scoring back and forth. Punters? Who needs ‘em? This was a night for offense and big plays and the Patriots made just a couple more than the Chiefs did in the end and walked off with 43-40 win on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time ran out.

Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a huge 39-pass play down the right sideline to set up the game-winner as he and KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes put on a show for fans at the stadium and watching on television. If you were looking for offense and points scored, this was the place for you on Sunday night and you would not have been disappointed.

We wrote in our pregame keys that this would come down to whoever got the ball last. We said Brady would lead them to a 38-35 win on a late drive. We didn’t give the offenses enough credit.

The Patriots defense played a tremendous first half, holding the Chiefs explosive offense to just nine points and forced Mahomes into two costly interceptions, one which put the New England offense on the doorstep for an easy TD, and the other at the end of the half in the Pats end zone which cost KC three points at the end of the half.

They were aggressive and disruptive and did enough to slow down a Chiefs offense which had outscored their opponents by a whopping 59-9 in the first quarter of their first five games. But Mahomes in the second half showed the stuff that has been the hallmark of the Chiefs’ offense this year.

They began hitting big plays and turned a comfortable 24-9 lead at the break into a track meet. Mahomes made one play, running to his left and then in a twisting motion, firing a frozen laser downfield about 30 yards to an open Tyreek Hill that was just sick. And the 67-yard strike to RB Kareem Hunt had the déjà vu feeling of a year ago when the Chiefs torched the Pats on opening night.

He brought the Chiefs back to take the lead in the fourth quarter 33-30 on a pass to Tyreek Hill which quieted what had been a raucous New England crowd. That came on the heels of another big play, a 97-yard kickoff return by Tremon Smith that set the Chiefs up on the doorstep.

Brady behind the running game of Sony Michel who rushed for another 106 yards, then put up the next 10 points giving the Patriots a 40-33 lead with a little bit more than three minutes left on the clock. Mahomes and the Chiefs would need only 12 seconds of that, thank you very much. Hill flew down the field like he was shot out of a cannon, dusting Duron Harmon, who is one of the fastest Patriots like a turnstile at the airport, going 75-yards in one play and the score was tied at 40. If there was one mistake in that, it was that KC left Tom Brady too much time. With 3:03 left and all three timeouts remaining, the Patriots did what great teams are supposed to do in big moments. They answered the bell. Michel picked up a key 3rd and 1 at the Patriots 34 and they were in business.

Brady hit James White for 16 and then Gronkowski for 39 to set them up for milking the clock and getting the ball on the left hashmark for Stephen Gostkowski who nailed the 28-yarder as time ran out to give the Patriots the win and improve them to 4-2.

Brady finished 24-35 for 340 yards with a TD. He also ran one in from 4-yards for another. Mahomes finished 23-36 for 352 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs. While they flustered him a bit early in the game, he never panicked and was cool down the stretch and once he got them going, the Chiefs offense looked unstoppable.

The Patriots two-head RB tandem of Michel and White was again excellent, Michel carried 24 times for 106 yards, while White had 8 carries for 39 yards and added 5 catches for 53 more. Rob Gronkowski was quiet until the fourth quarter, catching two huge passes, a 42-yarder, where he displayed a stiff arm that belongs in the WWE, to set up the go-ahead score and his final catch that set the team up for the win. He finished with 3 catches for 97 yards. New England finished with 500 yards of offense.

Hunt showed he loves playing in Foxboro, he had another mammoth game for KC carrying 8 times for 80 yards and caught 5 passes for 105 more. Hill caught 7 for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Kelce had 5 grabs for 61 yards but the Patriots did a good job of neutralizing him early on.

The Patriots are on to Chicago to take on the Bears who lost in overtime to the Dolphins in Miami. They play 4 of the next five on the road.

Patriots Three Up, Three Down:

Trending Up:

Tom Brady – This wasn’t his best game, he made mistakes, he held the ball too long on a third-down play in the third quarter that ended up being a strip sack, but he more than made up for it. But on a day where the offense rolled to 500 yards, Brady threw for 340 and added a heads up running touchdown. And the final drive of the game was vintage Brady, Josh Gordon characterized his demeanor in the huddle then as “very poised.”

Sony Michel – Remember a few weeks ago some bobo began calling him a bust? And he got many fans jumping on board with that absurdity. How do you like them apples? Michel had another strong game and his ability to pick up the short-yardage conversions has been excellent. His last three games? He’s racked up 112, 98, and 106 yards and the Patriots have scored 119 points in those three games and won all three.

Dont’a Hightower– On the Chiefs first possessions, they were targeting Hightower using the RPO (run/pass option). But that changed. He began to play a more aggressive game and was chipping Kelce before he was going out in the pattern, and got a key interception. Faking a blitz, he dropped into the throwing lane where he picked off Mahomes. He later brought pressure on Mahomes which forced a throw that was picked off by Harmon in the end zone. The aggressiveness shown by Hightower and the defense held KC to just 4-10 on third down.

Honorable mention – Patriots offensive line. When you roll up 500 yards of offense, including 173 yards on the ground and control the clock for 36 minutes, you’ve done your job.

Trending Down:

Jason McCourty – The Patriots corner who has played so well this year, committed the cardinal sin of peeking back in the backfield early in the third quarter. It was then that Hunt blew by him and Mahomes hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown strike.

Devin McCourty – Yes, it wasn’t the greatest of nights for the twins from Rutgers. McCourty had the unenviable task of trying to stick with Hill. Nobody has the kind of speed that Hill has. He makes everyone chasing him look slow and he easily beat McCourty twice for touchdowns in the second half.

Patriots coverage units – Remember when the Pats special teams were among the best in the business at covering kicks and punts? The unit got gashed and hard by the Chiefs tonight. Smith returned one kickoff for 33 yards out to the 37 to give KC excellent field position which led to a field goal. Next, he returned on 97 yards to put the Chiefs inside the five-yard line for an easy go-ahead score. That is unacceptable.

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Players To Watch Patriots-Chiefs SNF Week 6

Steve Balestrieri
October 12, 2018 at 9:07 am ET

“It Feels Like We’re Playing Kansas City”  

The New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in a much-hyped game for Week 6 in the 2018 NFL season. Except for Bill Belichick that is. Belichick wasn’t buying into all the talk for playing for AFC supremacy, home-field advantage or anything else. On Thursday at his press conference, he was asked a few times about how he feels about the significance of the game. Belichick’s not-so-surprising response… “it feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

But make no mistake it is a big game for both teams. The Chiefs have been on a roll and are 5-0, they want to continue their dominance and build upon that. But they also know they were in a similar position a year ago when the wheels came off. The Patriots started badly at 1-2 but have played much better the past two weeks and now it begins a very tough stretch of games for them.  

This game features two very intriguing QBs, Tom Brady, the reigning MVP and winner of five Super Bowls and Patrick Mahomes, the second-year player making just his seventh start in the NFL who has been lighting the league on fire for the first month plus. Their skill sets and strengths are pretty different and each will have the chance to showcase their talents again on the big national stage on Sunday Night.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is actually questionable to play with a knee injury and was limited in Thursday’s practice session. It isn’t known if this latest injury is a continuation of his knee that was drained of fluid during training camp or it is another new injury that he suffered during the Thursday night game against the Colts.

Michel in the past two weeks has gained over 200 yards and has been really rounding into form after missing all of the preseason games this summer. He has begun to show the form that he exhibited in college that attracted him to the Patriots this spring and gives them a dynamic back who gain can break a small run into a big one.

He should be (if he’s good to go), a big part of the game plan this week. The Patriots will look to stay balanced and run the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Kansas City’s pass rushers off balance. And the best way to do that is running the ball right at them.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots newest wide receiver has still only been a member of the team for about a month and is still learning the playbook and the route tree for the Patriots wide receivers. So far, the results while encouraging, have been small in relation to what his potential can be. Gordon has been saying and doing all the right things and his teammates seem to be completely behind him.

This might be a week where the coaches try to get him a bigger piece of the game plan and try to stretch the field more vertically. We saw last week, the Jaguars try to the same thing time and again, and while it was successful a few times, their protection didn’t hold up enough to make it viable.

The Patriots could opt to do some of the same, especially if Eric Berry and Justin Houston are out. Gordon has the size and athleticism to be a huge target down the field, opening up all kinds of room for guys like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to work the middle of the field.

James White:

Assuming everyone is healthy (or reasonably so) and on the field, White could be the Patriots “X-Factor” this week in the passing game. As we wrote in our keys to the game earlier this week, with the Chiefs having to cover Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon, it opens White up as the movable chess piece for Brady to use in the air.

While Michel is the valuable piece in the ground game, White is the Swiss Army Knife for the passing game. Look for Brady to put him in motion and try to isolate him on a linebacker where they can possibly get a mismatch.

White is one of the most dependable, versatile players on the Patriots offense. He can do it all, run between the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and pass block. He and Michel will no doubt feature prominently this week.

Tom Brady:

With all of the league abuzz, and rightfully so over the early season excellence of Patrick Mahomes, Brady is usually a player that will use that fact as fodder to motivate himself to elevate his game this week. Not that he should need any extra motivation. The past two games against Kansas City have ended badly for New England.

Brady started slowly this season, but the past two games, he’s looked much better and is getting hot at just the right time. The Patriots will need a big game out of him, and with many questioning, whether New England is ripe to fall, this game against the undefeated Chiefs will be a big measuring stick.

Brady will look to start quickly this week, something he did against the Colts where he went 9-9 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson. KC’s defense has given up a ton of yardage but has been very stout on 3rd down, which will automatically be something that will bear watching this week.

Pat Chung/Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots defense has a pretty heavy task in front of themselves this week, in trying to scheme a way to slow down the high flying Chiefs’ offense. To do so will require a total solid defensive effort but a couple of players must have strong games on Sunday night. And it starts with Chung and Van Noy.

The Chiefs’ RPO (run/pass option) game is strong and gave the Patriots fits last year, not only against the Chiefs but in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. No doubt Andy Reid took note of that. Van Noy will need a big game this week. KC likes to fake the run and get Travis Kelce that deep open space behind the linebackers with lots of room to move. Van Noy will have to get the depth and take away those easy passes.

Chung is outstanding in run support and he’ll probably draw the task of covering Kelce much of the time. It will be an interesting chess match. It won’t be an easy one to win but they should have a good game plan in place.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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Patriots-Chiefs Week 6, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The New England Patriots host Sunday Night Football, their second primetime game in a row, where they will appear in four in five weeks. The Patriots travel to Chicago for a 1:00 p.m. start next week followed by a Monday Night Football game in Buffalo and then another Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (3-2) defeated the Colts on Thursday night 38-24. Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns while Sony Michel rushed for 98 more yards this week as the offense played the best game that they’ve had all year.

The Chiefs (5-0) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-14 as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense sliced and diced the Jags defense. After the talk that Jacksonville did before the game, it had to have been demoralizing to the say the least.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Chiefs are meeting for the 36th time including the playoffs in their history since the days of the old AFL when they would meet twice a year. Kansas City holds the overall lead 18-14-3. The Patriots own the edge in games in Foxboro with an 11-7-2 record. This is the fourth straight primetime game between the two teams since 2011.

The Chiefs won the last matchup between the two teams 42-27 on Opening Night in the NFL for 2017.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has found its rhythm the past two games with Sony Michel and James White sharing the duties. Michel had 112 yards against Miami and then 98 more against the Colts last Thursday night. They just brought back Kenjon Barner to add some depth. But they miss Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead who are both on IR.

The Chiefs defense has struggled against the run allowing an average of 118.8 yards per game and a whopping 5.8 yards per rush. And a part of that is that the Chiefs have been playing with the lead every game and are pinning their ears back with their pass rush. However, they aren’t great against the run and can be run on, running right at those edge rushers.

Look for the Patriots to stay balanced and keep riding Michel attempting to keep the Chiefs defense on the field and to slow down their pass rushers. This will allow them to use play action passing on early downs as well as to control the clock.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game finally has all of their weapons on the field at the same time. And that unit looked nothing like the one that struggled for the first few weeks of the season. Having Julian Edelman back gives them a huge boost from the short-yardage slot position and this keeps the chains moving. Josh Gordon has only caught four passes in two games but brings a different element to the field. As he gets more and more comfortable in the offense, his production will increase.  Rob Gronkowski has been slowed by a bothersome ankle but should see a spike as well.

The Chiefs pass defense has struggled in 2018 allowing an average of 343 yards per game. They miss safety Eric Berry who may not play this week. Pass rushers Justin Houston and Tanoh Kpassagnon may also miss this week with injuries as well. Only the Bucs have allowed more yardage thru the air and the KC defense is dead last in total yards allowed as well as 25th in points.

Look for Brady to attack the middle of this defense, especially if Houston is out with Edelman and Gronkowski early. This should open up opportunities on the perimeter with Gordon and their complementary guys in Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan. The “X-Factor” for the passing game this week is James White out of the backfield. With a full complement of receivers now, he can be a big mismatch when they split him out wide. This would be a good week to get Jacob Hollister involved a bit more in the passing game as well.

Of course, everything depends on the protection. The Patriots offensive line has to do a good job of keeping the Chiefs pass rushers at bay. They saw how Dee Ford single-handedly impacted the Jacksonville game. That must come with a combination of better blocking and having the running game keeping them off-balance.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs have their workhorse in Kareem Hunt who burst on the scene as a rookie with a huge game against the Patriots in his first NFL game. Hunt led the league in rushing a year ago and tremendous vision, balance and runs with good power.

Kansas City didn’t use him much the first couple of weeks because they were just lighting up the opposition through the air but that changed in Oakland where he rushed for 121 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

The Patriots run defense was awful for the first three weeks of the season and very good the past two weeks, albeit playing against teams that don’t run the football well (Dolphins/Colts).  But the difference was the play of the front seven, specifically the defensive line. Where they were getting pushed around a lot, they stiffened and were getting penetration, disrupting the opposition the past two weeks.

The Chiefs gashed New England with Hunt a year ago, opening up all kinds of holes in the passing game, particularly running to the right. Look for much of the same with Hunt who it seems is starting to find his groove.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game has been lights out so far in 2018. No one has figured out a way to stop them and with a plethora of playmakers to throw to, (Tyreek Hill, Sammie Watkins, Travis Kelce and Hunt out of the backfield), Patrick Mahomes has had historically crazy success. Thru five weeks he’s averaging nearly 300 yards per game with 14 TDs and just 2 interceptions.

The Patriots’ secondary play has been better as of late, however, the pass rush has been inconsistent again and they’re allowing opposing QBs for the most part too much time to see the field and throw the ball. Against the Chiefs this week, that is a recipe for another big night for Mahomes.

Look for the Andy Reid to run those RPOs (run/pass option) plays that they sliced New England up with last year again. Those plays freeze the defense and allow the TE Kelce to get immediate separation in the gap behind the LBs with room to move. When the Chiefs get in the red zone, they spread the ball around beautifully and nine different players with TD catches… Who do you try to take away?

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Chiefs

The Patriots have a solid group of specialists with Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, and returners with Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson returning punts and kickoffs. The coverage units have been a bit inconsistent and need to play better.

The Chiefs counter with Harrison Butker and the excellent Dustin Colquitt in their kicking duties. But the Chiefs feature the dangerous Hill who returns kicks and has a 91-yard punt return. As a team, the Chiefs are averaging a ridiculous 26.7 yards on punt returns, while holding opponents to 1.7 yards per return average. That’s called flipping the field.

The pressure will be on Allen this week, to keep the ball away from Hill and angle his punts out of bounds.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is shaping up to be an exciting Sunday Night game, that may harken back to those days of the old AFL shootouts before the 1970 merger. Reid’s offenses always get off to a fast start in the season. It will be interesting if the Patriots and Belichick, with 10 days to prepare to figure out a way to slow down the Chiefs offense.

The feeling here is to do that, they’ll have to be aggressive, play Cover 1 man and try to jam and reroute and/or slow the receivers at the line of scrimmage. If they can do that and disguise their coverages, then they have a shot at slowing down KC’s offense. But traditionally against mobile QBs such as Mahomes, the Patriots M.O. has been to be more passive and in a react, containment mode. That, in our opinion, will not work and they’ll get smoked if they do that.

Offensively, the Patriots offense can match up just as well against the Chiefs defense with Brady leading the way. They can stress the KC defense with plenty of weapons of their own. One big area to watch is third down, one area that the Chiefs defense has done very well in.

The key from a New England perspective is to start fast. KC has outscored the opposition 59-9 in the first quarter of the games this season. They’ve either been slightly outscored or are even in every other quarter. They have to find a way to get the lead and force the Chiefs to play catch up for a change. This could be one of those games where the team that has the ball last wins. Since the Patriots are home, we’re saying that it will be Tom Brady.  Patriots 38-35

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Andy Reid’s KC Offense Is Fun to Watch, And Hard to Stop

Steve Balestrieri
October 9, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

You can always set your watch to certain things in the NFL, especially early in the season. There will be massive overreactions to early season wins and losses. The Patriots will struggle early and every show this side of Mars will ask, “Is this the year, everything falls apart in NE?” Some surprise team will arise creating some talk and the Chiefs offense under Andy Reid will get off to a blistering start.

Reid always has his offense much more prepared for the start of the season than opposing defenses in the NFL and the Chiefs are one team you don’t want to face in the early going, (see New England, Week 1, 2017).

Last year the Chiefs roared out to a 5-0 start and were averaging 33 points per game. But once the NFL defensive coordinators caught up, Kansas City would only score 30 points in two more games the rest of the way.

But… that was with Alex Smith. Smith, it should be noted, was smart, moved well in the pocket and rarely made mistakes with the football. But his weakness was his arm strength. Patrick Mahomes, on the other hand, does all of those things well too but has an absolute cannon for an arm. Bill Belichick said on Monday, that if Mahomes is on his own 20, then you have to defend your goal line because he can throw it that far.  The only thing he lacks right now is the experience.

Kansas City is off to an even better start this year under Mahomes as their offense, while fun to watch, has to be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to scheme up ways to slow down or stop them.

Eventually, the defenses will begin catching up, as they get more tape on this year’s version of Reid’s offense. They’ll get a better insight in how to slow them down and they’ll find things that Mahomes doesn’t do well. They can’t keep up this kind of scoring pace week after week. We saw this first-hand with the Patriots in 2007. By the end of the season, although they kept winning, opponents had figured out a way to slow the Patriots and Brady down. Will this be the week for KC after Bill Belichick and the Patriots have 10 days to prepare? Meh….I’m not so sure about that.

But it does require some dumpster diving into the film vault and watching that nightmarish night the Patriots defense had last year on opening night. It helps to have no game on Sunday with extra film time to spare. Because the Chiefs run much of the same concepts …only better.

Reid is an incredible innovator. He has blended a wonderful marriage of the Bill Walsh West Coast offense that he was raised on, and the college spread. Much of what Reid and the Chiefs do is pure college spread. The outside zone RPOs (Run/Pass Option the dirty word no one in NE wants to hear), bubble screens, touch passes, diamond formation options, etc.

While it isn’t quite the college spread…it is close.

How to Defend the Spread:

The old stand-by in college was to have the defense play in a nickel (4-2-5) and be aggressive by attacking the formation. One half of the equation is still correct and the other, not so much. Modern spread offenses in colleges have learned how to beat the nickel and Reid’s offense just eviscerates it.

Opponents have run a version of the nickel this year against KC, as the second most common defense against them, in an attempt to slow down their speed. And the Chiefs have been successful on nearly 60 percent of their plays.

Opponents have to be aggressive, as we saw Denver attempt to do for much of Monday night, but have to be willing to allow the occasional big play. The Patriots traditionally have eschewed that technique. And worse from a Pats perspective, this KC offense stresses the play of the opposing linebackers. And if there is a weakness on the Patriots defense, it is the depth and speed at linebacker and that is exactly what the KC offense attacks.

Where the aggressiveness negated Miami’s speed last week, the flip side of that was that the Dolphins are not good at running the football. Kansas City is much better at it, although they haven’t done it extremely well yet, they gave New England fits with their running game a year ago. They run to the right extremely well as we’ve seen here in Week 1 a year ago.

Their run-pass option will freeze the linebackers and allow their tight ends (Kelce, Harris) to get behind the second level and have a lot of free space to move. They then isolated Hunt on DE Cassius Marsh where Smith hit him in stride for a long TD, that was not Marsh’s fault, but a superior job by Smith and Reid for taking advantage of a mismatch.

They confuse the opposition with a lot of different looks and using different players. The run the Jet sweep with two different players out of two very different formations and they can, (Week 1 vs LA Chargers) make a defense look silly running it in for what appeared to be an uncontested touchdown.

The beauty of Reid’s offense is that while it appears very complex and confusing to the opposing defense, it is very easy for his players to execute. And he gets everyone involved. Between the 20-yard lines, the passing game relies mainly on Tyreek Hill, Sammie Watkins, and Kelce. Once they get into the red zone, they get everyone involved, which is the opposite of what most teams do.

Opponents have tried to run the nickel, as we listed above without effect, and the most prevalent defense facing the Chiefs this season has been a 3-3-5, which they’ve also shredded to where their play calls are almost 70 percent effective against it. The Patriots tried the big nickel with Jordan Richards last year and he reacted too slowly for a screen pass for Hunt who slid across the formation and had an easy touchdown.

What works? The old-fashioned 4-3 Cover 1 and the 3-4. But, as we’ve seen in the past, a QB that can run, the Patriots preach to contain and gradually squeeze the pocket and that player ends up with a ton of time to throw the ball. If that is the way they approach Sunday night, then look for KC to score in the upper 30s at least.

Against a spread type of offense, having players that are in a nickel and who aren’t going very aggressive towards the QB is a bad mix. Mahomes can gun the ball into very tight spaces and the only way to combat this is to be aggressive and try to mix up your coverages.

Last year, they ran a bunch formation to the right and the rub by the WRs left Hill wide open on a drag route across the middle for a huge gain. Then a busted coverage allowed Hill to run all alone down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. The communication in the secondary will have to be much better than this.

This will be a huge matchup to watch this week to see how Bill Belichick decides to attack the KC offense and how each side adjusts once the game begins. The Patriots may opt for a smaller, faster front with a big man (Shelton, Guy) anchored at the nose, but run the risk of being run on with Hunt.

No one has been able to slow down the Chiefs offense yet, and the Patriots defense doesn’t seem to match up well against what KC does best. But we’ll see what Belichick can come up with. He’s had 10 days to prepare for them, so not looking prepared for what they do isn’t an option this week.

“Buckle your seatbelts, it is going to be a bumpy night.”

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Patriots – Chiefs Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 6, 2017 at 11:19 am ET

The New England Patriots begin the 2017 season trying to become the first team since the 2003-2004 Pats to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. They have a great first game of the season on tap as they face the Kansas City Chiefs who were the #2 seed in the AFC a year ago. 

The game will be televised by NBC with their top announcing crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth handling the play-by-play and analysis duties. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (14-2) won the AFC East a year ago and were the top seed in the AFC They beat the Texans and Steelers at home before going to the Super Bowl LI and coming from 25 points down to wind up defeating the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

The Chiefs (12-4) won the AFC West before losing to the Steelers 18-16 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Chiefs have met 34 times with Kansas City holding an all-time 17-14 edge (three ties). The series has been dominated by the home teams, with KC owning an 11-3-1 lead at home and the Patriots enjoy an 11-6-2 mark at home. The last time the teams met was in January 2016 when the Patriots defeated KC 27-20 in the Divisional Playoff Game.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots running game is really a new entity in 2017 With Mike Gillisllee and Rex Burkhead coming on board this spring, Dion Lewis is waiting in the wings as well with James White. They have plenty of weapons and they will be able to run the ball very well this season. But in Week 1? They haven’t worked together much on the field and although the unit is solid, they’ll need to get things sorted.

KC was uncharacteristically soft in their run defense in 2016 giving up 121 yards per game. Dontari Poe was let go as they felt he couldn’t handle the double teams anymore and the team brought in Bennie Logan. Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson return as well and this unit should be much tougher to run against than a year ago.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was outstanding for the 2016 season and they’ve added Brandin Cooks this spring. However, the loss of Julian Edelman is a huge blow to the offense, especially on third down. But with Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen with RBs White, Lewis and Burkhead coming out of the backfield, QB Tom Brady has a plethora of targets to use.

The Chiefs have an outstanding pass defense. With CB Marcus Peters and SS Eric Berry, they have two of the best players at their position in the league. With Houston back and healthy after two seasons of knee injuries and Dee Ford as their pass rushers, they can get after the QB. They suffered a big blow with CB Steven Nelson going on IR. Terrance Mitchell will fill in and will be tested.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs lost their starter Spencer Ware during the preseason and he was expected to be the lead back in Andy Reid’s offense. That was a big loss for them, but rookie Kareem Hunt from Toledo is an intriguing player with a lot of upside. Many of the pundits had him as one of the top RBs in this year’s draft class. Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller back him up. Tyreek Hill is the X-factor in the running game as is Alex Smith who can scramble. The KC Offensive line is very good.

The Patriots are set up very well to stop the run in 2017 with Alan Branch returning, Malcom Brown inside along with Lawrence Guy and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and David Harris. This preseason, opponents were running right at the center of the defense, albeit with many backups in the game. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into the regular season.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Alex Smith had a stellar 2016 completing 67 percent of his passes. He rarely makes mistakes, and while he’s not an “elite” QB, he’s plenty good enough to take them deep into the playoffs if he gets help around him. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are his top two targets and they are each difficult to account for in their own way. With releasing Jeremy Maclin this spring, KC needs a third WR to step up.

The Patriots added CB Stephon Gillmore this spring to an already solid secondary. Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe (slot), along with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung give the Pats an (on paper), outstanding secondary. But the question this season will be is the pass rush going to be good enough? They get their first test on Thursday night against a good OL and a QB that can run.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots special teams get the slight edge in the kicking game, where Stephen Gostkowski is among the best in the league at the pooch kickoffs stranding teams deep and he’s seeming back on track after a solid summer. He gives them the edge over Cairo Santos. Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Allen are both outstanding punters that excel in directional punting and hitting punts inside the 20  But in the return game, the Chiefs have a clear advantage. Hill is a dynamic returner who averaged 15.2 yards per return. With Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman on IR, the Patriots return game is starting from scratch.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This game and the first game of every season are always among the most difficult to predict because there are so many unknowns out there with no regular season film to watch. The Patriots should get a huge boost from the home crowd especially with dropping Super Bowl banner #5 just prior to the game. But I worry about them coming out flat after all the emotion of the pregame celebrations.

I keep reading all over social media that the Pats are going to romp in this one. I couldn’t disagree more. This Chiefs team won 12 games a year ago and have a few of their key pieces back that was missing. I think this is going to be a tough, hard-fought one with almost a playoff atmosphere to it.

A couple of the key matchups to watch is Eric Rowe, who I think will draw Kelce on defense and if he can stand up to the physicality of him. Malcolm Butler will draw Hill with safety help. The Chiefs aren’t an air-it-out team but you can expect them to try a few times. I look for them to try to get Hill the ball in space. Look for shallow crosses or rub routes. When he gets the ball, he can fly.

On offense, look for Tom Brady to spread out the Chiefs defense and try to find the mismatches. With everyone talking about Cooks and newcomer Phillip Dorsett, who may not even play, they’re forgetting the main man for Brady and that is Gronkowski who is healthy now and wants to put on a show in primetime…much like Hill. With Brady stretching the seams and forcing some of the Chiefs excellent LBs into coverage, they should be able to find some space. This will be a tough, exciting matchup. I like the Patriots to hold serve at home.

Patriots 28-20

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Sunday Observations: Patriots Three Horsemen Lead to Win Over KC

Steve Balestrieri
January 17, 2016 at 7:04 am ET

Brady,Edelman, Gronkowski in mid-season form as Pats move on

The Patriots are heading back to the AFC Championship Game for the fifth year in a row due in no small part to the play of their big three on offense. Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski all played huge roles in the Pats 27-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs.

Tom Brady was back on top of his game on Saturday as he was able to stand and deliver the ball with authority. The return of Edelman gave him that short passing game that the Patriots have been able to use in lieu of a running game.

Brady was sharp, completing 28 of 42 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns on the day. His numbers would have been even better had not the Patriots suffered a case of the drops especially in the first half.  But most importantly, Brady wasn’t sacked nor turned the ball over.

The Patriots offensive line bolstered by the return of Sebastian Vollmer did a much better job of protecting Brady than they have in the last month, allowing zero sacks and pretty much giving him a clean pocket in which to work in.

The Chiefs defense has been very opportunistic during their 11-game winning streak, with a plus 20 turnover differential. It was one of our keys to the game that the Patriots had to keep from turning the ball over in order to move on…and they did just that.

Brady moved well in the pocket and felt the pressure when he had to was able to slide in the pocket while keeping his focus downfield. He even took off on a scramble down to the one-yard line where he appeared to score. But took it over himself from the one-yard line to put the Patriots up 14-3. That drive covered 98 yards in 11 plays and was a huge boost in momentum.

Brady’s scramble to the one ignited the crowd, and drew this post-game quip from Edelman. “When the Clydesdale gets running, the crowd goes wild.”

Edelman Gronkowski Step Up: Leading into the game, a lot of the talk centered around the return of Julian Edelman and if he’d be able to present the same level of production as well as cut and plant with his foot as we’ve been accustomed to. Also, rumors swirled around Rob Gronkowski as to his health with knee and back issues and he was listed as questionable as well as Edelman coming into the game.

In our Players to Watch pre-game piece, we answered those questions, Gronkowski was in Florida during the bye week relaxing and not at the facility getting treatment and as for Edelman and the “rust” factor, look at the Pittsburgh game in Week 1 after Edelman sat out the entire preseason. He caught 11 passes for 97 yards in that one.

Edelman looked to be the exact player he was when he went down in the Patriots ninth game of the season. He caught 10 passes for 100 yards and was the most dynamic player on the field on Saturday. He was involved from the first snap and was instrumental in setting the tone from the outset as the Patriots took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 12 plays to go up 7-0.

Gronkowski didn’t look like a guy who was suffering from knee and back woes and was his normal nightmarish self when it came to matchups. With Edelman and Amendola back in the lineup and healthy, the Patriots went 3-4 wide receivers often, spreading out the KC defense which frequently left Gronkowski in one-on-one matchups.

The big man caught seven passes for 83 yards and two huge touchdowns on the day. His second was a beautiful fake that he and Brady worked to perfection. At the snap Edelman ran a cross and Brady glanced that way, pulling the interior defense with him leaving Gronk alone with safety Eric Berry.

Brady executed a great pump fake and Gronkowski stopped as if on a comeback route. Berry bit hard, charging up to challenge and Gronkowski rolled around him to catch Brady’s pass for a 16-yard touchdown to make the score 21-6.

Of Brady’s 42 passes on the day, 24 of them (57%), were targeted to Edelman and Gronkowski…think #12 was happy to see them back in action?

Jones Makes Key Play Then Leaves Via Injury: With all of the hoopla surrounding Chandler Jones this week, there were questions surrounding him as well and many thought he may lose playing time as a result.

Well that didn’t happen as Bill Belichick, sent Jones out with the normal starting unit of the Patriots defense and Jones had two impact plays. He logged the only sack of the game for either team when he took down Alex Smith who proved to be very elusive all game long.

But the big play was a key turning point of the game. The Chiefs took the second half kickoff and were driving; down 14-6, a field goal or a touchdown puts the Chiefs right back in the game. Knile Davis appeared to pick-up a first down at the Patriots 31-yard line but in bringing him down, Jones stripped him of the ball. The Patriots recovered and went on a 69-yard drive to go up 21-6 in another big shift in momentum.

It was a huge play not only for the Patriots but for Jones as well as quickly made fans forget about his troubles earlier in the week. He later suffered a knee injury and didn’t return. But the good sign was he remained on the bench for the remainder of the game and his status will have to be monitored during the week.

Defense Steps Up in RZ, Back on 3rd Down: It was a mixed bag for the Patriots defense on Saturday. On one hand, they held Alex Smith to just a 58 percent completion percentage as he went 29 for 50 for 246 yards. His 4.9 yards per pass play was very good as well. They also were very good in the Red Zone, holding the Chiefs to a pair of field goals and really only one meaningful touchdown.

The second score was a long-drawn out drive where the Chiefs used horrible clock management (Andy Reid specialty). When they finally did score, the game was essentially over and forced them into trying an on-sides kick with just over a minute to go.

But the defense really struggled on third down all game long, credit Smith with making plays with his feet and being able to extend them and find receivers or scramble to keep the chains moving. KC was 12 of 20 on third down, at one point in the fourth quarter being 10 of 15. Those kind of numbers won’t cut it next week, and Bill Belichick stated in his post-game comments that the team, just couldn’t get the off the field on third down.

Welcome to the Milk Carton Mr. Kelce: Coming into this game, the Patriots knew that KC wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was either going to be either very limited or out. So they decided to put their main focus on taking Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce out of the equation, and did a fantastic job of doing just that.

Kelce aka “Baby Gronk” had torched the Texans the week before with eight catches for 128 yards but no one is better than Bill Belichick at taking away what you like to do best. While all teams do that, what makes Belichick’s method so effective is the manner in which they do that. They rolled different looks of linebackers and safeties on Kelce mixing it up but the onus of their coverage fell on Pat Chung.

Chung did an outstanding job of shadowing Kelce, with help all over the field. Sans Maclin, the Patriots were trying to force Smith and the Chiefs to beat them with Albert Wilson and Chris Conley. Kelce was invisible for the vast majority of the game and he finished with six catches for just 23 yards….Mission accomplished.

Injuries Rear Up…Again: With an injury list too long coming into the game, the last thing the Patriots needed was to lose any more players during the game, but that is exactly what happened.

We mentioned earlier that Jones went down with a knee injury and didn’t return. Jamie Collins left in the third quarter with a back injury and was out for the remainder of the contest and Jerod Mayo also went down with a shoulder injury. He went to the locker room and didn’t return.

Bryan Stork left briefly during the first half with an ankle injury, but after having it re-taped, he returned to the field and played the rest of the game.

With all eyes on the Denver – Pittsburgh game on Sunday to see who the Pats next opponent will be, We’re on the AFC Championship Game…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots, Chiefs: Three Players to Watch AFC Divisional Playoff

Steve Balestrieri
January 16, 2016 at 11:07 am ET

The Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the 2015 NFL Playoffs at Foxboro today at 4:30 p.m. The winner will move on the AFC Championship Game next week; the loser goes home. There’s no more playing it safe with injuries and guys banged up. It’s all hands on deck and if you can get out there and contribute, you’re playing.

The Patriots injury list is as long as it has ever been after coming OFF of a bye week and there are still plenty of questions to be answered on who plays and who doesn’t. The injury list from Friday contains 12 questionable players include Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Danny Amendola, Jonathan Freeny, Nate Ebner, Scott Chandler, La Adrian Waddle and Justin Coleman.

The Chiefs come in with injury concerns of their own with Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Jeremy Maclin, Spencer Ware and Albert Wilson listed as questionable. KC has run off 11 straight wins heading into this week in stark contrast to the Patriots having lost their last two and four of their last six.

Matchups are always a prime concern regardless of the opponent and this week’s will ultimately decide whether the Patriots move on next week. And all of our Patriots players are on the questionable list. Which is telling in itself.

Here are our three players to watch from a Patriots perspective this week.

Julian Edelman: The Patriots and Tom Brady’s most trusted wide receiver hasn’t played since early in Week 9 against the Giants when he suffered a broken bone in his foot. Not surprisingly with Edelman in the lineup, the Patriots were 9-0; without him they were 3-4 and their third down conversions went from 50 percent to around 33 down the stretch.

He and a healthy Amendola keeps the Patriots short passing game going and the chains moving. Edelman is particularly effective at getting open at the line of scrimmage and allowing Brady to get the ball out quickly which helps an offensive line that is battered, bruised and has been leaky down the stretch.

Edelman is going against a secondary that is very good but tends to give a cushion and then breaks on the ball. That would not be a recipe for success against he and Brady. How effective he is today will go a long way in deciding this one.

No one is tougher than Edelman. He’s battle tested, his Super Bowl heroics in the 4th quarter were instrumental in getting New England, ring #4. As to his being rusty? Some food for thought. Edelman didn’t play at all in the preseason and was off from the SB until the opener against Pittsburgh. His totals against the Steelers in Week 1? Very Edelman-like numbers with 11 catches for 97 yards. Anything resembling that today is a great sign for New England.

Dont’a Hightower/Jamie Collins: The Patriots linebackers haven’t been on the field much together down the stretch but they really need them today. Hightower is a beast inside in the running game and when he’s healthy, he flies up in the gaps and stuffs runners at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Kansas City has a potent running game with Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and QB Alex Smith. They operate nearly a 50/50 balance in offense between running and passing and average 127.8 yards per game on the ground. They need the running game effective to make their own short passing game effective.

If Hightower is close to his normal self, he’ll be a big factor in filling in those gaps. A look at the rush defense when he isn’t in there shows that teams have been able to run at the front seven, particularly between the tackles and if KC does that today they’ll be in good shape for an upset.

Collins will probably be tasked with spying on Smith today. He’s adept at making big plays with his feet and bust a long run from the pocket or roll out and hit one of his receivers on the fly. Collins is the Pats most athletic linebacker and with Maclin either out or limited, Smith will be forced to take on a bigger role with the offense. How effective he is will depend on the day Collins has trying to keep him contained.

Rob Gronkowski: What a week it was in Foxboro; between the on-going saga of Chandler Jones and the black eye of Belichick and the possible return of Edelman, the Patriots couldn’t afford any more distractions right? Well Gronkowski missed the last two practices with what was listed as “knee/back” issues.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported he went to the hospital for injections in his knee while Ian Rapopport of NFL Network said that it wasn’t the case. Jeff Howe reported on Friday that “if” Gronk plays he’ll be far less than 100 percent.

We’ll see, the Patriots need Gronkowski threatening the middle of the field and stretching the seams, something they haven’t been able to do in recent weeks. That opens up some real estate underneath for guys like Edelman, Amendola and LaFell to operate in with Brady.

The feeling here is not only will Gronk play but play well. Normally when a player is hurt the team keeps them around the facility for treatment. Gronkowski was spotted last week in Florida relaxing poolside which unless he reinjured it this week, tells me that his knee isn’t as bad as some are making it out to be. We’ll know for sure at 4:30 p.m.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have the latest on breaking news for the Patriots as well as a complete breakdown of the game from Saturday.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com