From Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
For a football team that has spent the month of November struggling to play consistent and productive football, it was a Monday night with more of the same β and another loss.
Too many mistakes on offense, defense and special teams took the wind out of the sails of any thoughts the Chiefs had of an upset as they fell 34-3 to the New England Patriots. They’ve now lost three games in a row and are tied for last place in the AFC West.
Tom Brady and friends led just 10-3 at half-time thanks to a strong effort from the Chiefs defense. But there was a reason the Chiefs came into the game a 16-point underdog β the most points the Vegas odds makers had them getting from bettors in a couple of decades.
The Patriots got the first possession of the third quarter and drove right down and scored a touchdown that essentially sealed the game. Just to make sure, they followed up just a few moments later with a punt return for a touchdown that made a Chiefs comeback the stuff of dreams.
Mistakes, most obvious and others no so much, were the items that destroyed what slim chance the Chiefs had of beating the Patriots on a cold New England night.
“We did too many of the things that get you beat in this league too many times,” said head coach Todd Haley. “Penalties in the red zone; the onside kick that was the illegal touch was just a killer for us. We allowed too many big plays on defense and we turned the ball over. Our guys fought it out but we just made too many mistakes.”
In his first NFL start, QB Tyler Palko did not look out of place, but he also did not play well. He threw for 236 yards and completed 65.8 percent of his passes. But he finished with three interceptions, and wasn’t helped on two of those when receivers tipped catchable balls into the air and they were picked off by New England CB Kyle Arrington.
“Any time you turn the ball over in this league you don’t give yourself a chance to win a football game,” Palko said. “Three interceptions is inexcusable and I don’t care whether they were tipped or not. You can’t give them more opportunities than they already get. They are too good a team.”
On this night the Patriots were certainly good enough. Their injury-riddled defense allowed a struggling Chiefs offense 334 yards, but they did not give up a touchdown, while winning the turnover battle with those three interceptions.
No matter how much the defense might bend but don’t break, the Patriots are always going to carry the chance to win as long as No. 12 is on the field. At times, QB Tom Brady was ineffective, as an early Chiefs pass rush got to him three times. But when it was all done, he’s thrown for 234 yards and a pair of touchdown throws to TE Rob Gronkowski.
“We’re going to need to play better than we did offensively tonight if we want to start making some serious improvements down the stretch,” said Brady. “We’re 7-3 and I don’t think we’re really where we hoped to be at this point.”
For the first half, events played out about as well as the Chiefs could have hoped, save for a couple of mistakes on their part that made life more difficult for them. At the start of the game, the teams traded possessions back and forth four times with neither offense building much momentum.
On Palko’s first chance with the ball, he hit two of his three passes, but they produced just six yards and the Chiefs punted. Brady had his own troubles on the Patriots first possession as he went zero for three and also drew an intentional grounding penalty.
With 6 minutes, 42 seconds to play in the quarter, the Chiefs took over at their 47-yard line thanks to a 25-yard punt return by Javier Arenas. They converted a 3rd-and-2 play with a little bit of the Wildcat offense. Palko went in motion left and the ball was snapped directly to WR Jerheme Urban, who was lined up in the shotgun. Urban handed the ball to RB Dexter McCluster who got eight yards and a first down.
Eventually they had a 1st-and-goal at the Patriots 5-yard line, but here’s when they shot themselves in the foot. On first down, WR Steve Breaston was hit with an illegal shift penalty. RB Thomas Jones got one-yard on a run, but on second down, Palko took the snap in the shotgun and it was a designed running play. It didn’t fool New England DE Andre Carter, who tackled him for a loss of six yards.
It all wrapped up with Ryan Succop kicking a 26-yard field goal, giving the Chiefs the early 3-0 lead.
Pulling out all the stops, the Chiefs went for an onside kick, and Succop’s dribble after placing the ball on the ground went the required 10 yards where FS Kendrick Lewis fell on the ball. Only problem was as it was bouncing around those 10 yards, the ball struck the leg of LB Cory Greenwood. That’s an illegal touch penalty and the Patriots took possession at the Chiefs 44-yard line.
“That was bad luck,” said Lewis. “We executed that play about as well as you can. That really hurt.”
It was essentially all downhill from there for the Chiefs, although the defense fought back and forced a turnover, as DE Wallace Gilberry sacked Brady from behind, forcing a fumble that was recovered by DE Allen Bailey at the Chiefs 27-yard line.
Palko and the offense could not do anything with the gift and the teams traded possession before the Patriots started at their 15-yard line halfway through the second quarter. Brady started to connect and the ground game started moving the ball with RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
But the big play came when Brady found Gronkowski wide open down the middle of the field. He’d gotten behind LB Derrick Johnson in coverage and he ran without problems 52 yards for a touchdown and New England held a 7-3 lead.
They never gave up the top spot on the scoreboard. After Palko’s first interception, Brady moved the Patriots in the two-minute offense 51 yards, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. That set the 10-3 margin at half-time.
“We had played pretty well, we were in the game,” said LB Derrick Johnson. “Then, they came out in the second half and just took over.”
On the first possession of the third quarter, Brady moved them 85 yards on nine plays before throwing 19 yards to Gronkowski for a second touchdown. Just over 65 seconds later, Edelman returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown, on a play where he slithered through the Chiefs coverage without being touched. That made the score 24-3.
It moved to 27-3 on the final play of the third quarter on a Gostkowski 19-yard FG.
Late in the game, the Patriots added another touchdown, largely because the Chiefs could not stop their offense. Rookie RB Shane Vereen got his first NFL score on a4-yard run with 61 seconds to play. It came on a 4th-and-goal play.
Now 4-6, the Chiefs host the Pittsburgh Steelers this coming Sunday night. The national television audience will get the chance to see Palko and the struggling Chiefs one more time.
“We have to get home and get ready to go again,” Palko said. “We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Not in this league.”