From Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Tackle the first time
When an offense is averaging 432 yards per game, and leading the league in passing yardage per game with 326 yards, it’s doubtful a struggling defense like the Chiefs is going to be able to shut the Patriots down. Rather, they need to limit their production and one of the surest ways to do that is to remove from the equation yards after the catch and yards after contact when the ball carrier is running with the ball. It’s not a surprise that WR Wes Welker leads the league with 1,006 receiving yards and also leads in YAC with 486 yards. New England gets 47 percent of its passing yardage from after the catch. Tackling is huge for the Chiefs defense this week. FAILED β there were far too many missed tackles by the Chiefs defense, especially when trying to handle RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and also TE Rob Gronkowski. It was one of the worst tackling days of the season so far.
Bend all day; don’t break
A defense can’t get involved in thinking they are going to limit the yardage racked up by Tom Brady and the New England offense. It’s much like it used to be for NBA teams trying to handle Michael Jordan β he’s going to get his 25 to 30 points, but the key is to make sure he doesn’t go crazy and throw in 40 to 50 points. If Brady throws for 300 yards, and Welker totals some 100 yards receiving, it’s a normal day at the office for the Patriots offense. What the Chiefs defense must do is turn TDs into field goals. Stephen Gostkowski is a good kicker, but he’s not a machine β he’s missed this year from 27 yards. Pats have 29 offensive TDs and that ranks third in the league. Romeo Crennel’s defense needs to keep Gostkowski busy with FGs not PATs. FAILED β they bent and they broke, although they gave up just two meaningful touchdowns to the Patriots offense. New England scored on a punt return and also tacked on a late touchdown in the game’s final moments.
Play extra smart
The Patriots are not the well-oiled machine they were in the mid 2000s with Super Bowl veterans on both sides of the ball. There are only six veterans left contributing from the team that won Super Bowl 39 β LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, WR Deion Branch, QB Tom Brady, RB Kevin Faulk and NT Vince Wilfork. But a Bill Belichick team normally plays pretty smart football, and to beat them, an opponent has to play just as smart or even smarter. That’s especially a team that’s talent level is very shallow and has been hurt by injury like the Chiefs. Penalties must be kept at a minimum and can’t come at key times. The turnover ratio must be even or in the Chiefs favor. Mental mistakes β¦ well, there just can’t be many errors in assignments. The Patriots need no help. FAILED β 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 5 penalties, missed coverage assignments β it all added up to providing New England with more help than it really needed to win the game.
A quarterback making his first NFL start is not likely to win a game for his team. He’s more likely to lose it. Palko’s evening is going to be a very important key to the outcome of the game and his teammates must give him every opportunity for success. That starts upfront with pass protection β it simply must be improved over what’s happened over the last two games when Matt Cassel was sacked nine times and beaten into a hand injury. Figure the Chiefs will use Palko’s fresh legs and move him around a little bit with some bootlegs and moving pockets. But his effectiveness will depend on having time to make the correct decisions. New England’s Andre Carter and Mark Anderson have nine and five of the Patriots 20 sacks. They are the rushers that must be handled. FAILED β Palko went down three times in the game, but he was hit nine other times as the Chiefs had all sorts of problems handling a couple of old pass rushing hands in Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. Palko needed help and he did not get much from his pass protection.