FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half at Gillette Stadium on November 21, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Tonight's New England Patriots victory over the Kansas City Chiefs wasn't really as "pretty" as the final box score would suggest.
The Patriots came out of the gates and had their fair share of struggles early. The team's first offensive drive was a three and out, and the team combined for just 33 yards and one third down on their first four combined.
Luckily for the team, the defense seemed up to the task in stopping the inexperienced Tyler Palko, who made his first career start Monday night for the Chiefs. While the Chiefs showed some signs of life on their opening drive, running the ball effectively with Dexter McCluster, setting a quick tempo, and getting the ball to the New England five - they bogged down in the red zone and came up with just three points.
As it turned out, those three points would be Kansas City's only points the entire night, as the Patriots would go on to score 34 unanswered points to end the game.
The Patriots first got things going offensively on a second quarter play, when the Chiefs sent a blitz at Tom Brady, leaving tight end Rob Gronkowski wide open over the middle. Brady delivered Gronkowski the ball on point, "Gronk" made the catch, beat one Chiefs defender and bullied his way into the end zone.
Kyle Arrington intercepted a Palko pass on the next drive, help setting the Patriots up for a late first half field goal and a 10-3 halftime lead.
2nd half notes and more analysis after the jump!
The Patriots continued their positive momentum on offense to start the second half. The drive was jumpstarted by a bruising 25 yard catch and run off a delayed screen from Brady to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. After a steady dose of runs to Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, the Patriots capped off the drive with another Brady to Gronkowski touchdown to give the Patriots a 17-3 third quarter lead.
The game was then blown wide open on the Chiefs' next drive. The defense held Palko and the Chiefs offense to a three and out, and Julian Edelman had a fantastic 72 yard punt return touchdown on the ensuing Dustin Colquitt punt.
After a second Kyle Arrington interception, New England took over on offense and drove down the field once again. Unfortunately, the drive was stalled inside the five yard line, with the team settling for a 19 yard field goal.
The Chiefs finally got moving on their next offensive possession, but once again had things fall apart in the red zone. On a first and ten from New England's 13, Tyler Palko threw the ball into triple coverage in the end zone, with the pass being picked off by Patriots cornerback Phillip Adams.
After trading a couple of defensive stops, the Patriots closed out the game with a 14 play drive that was capped off with a 4 yard Shane Vereen touchdown - giving the Patriots a 34-3 victory in primetime.
Overall, tonight's victory was a solid one for the New England Patriots. It was good to see the team come up with some key defensive stops and force turnovers. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson were once again consistent pressure producers for that unit, linebacker Jerod Mayo also had his best game of the year.
On offense, things started slow, but they certainly picked up later in the game. The team scored on six of its last seven possessions and had a great run/pass balance. I would have liked to have seen the team protect Tom Brady better, and the unit did have two drives stall within the five, it wasn't a terrible night for the offense.
With the win, the Patriots now stand at 7-3 and have a full two game lead in the AFC East. Next week, the team will travel to Philadelphia to take on the 4-6 Eagles, in what should be a challenging test for both squads.