In only two days, the New England Patriots will kick off the 2017 NFL season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The two teams last met in the divisional playoff round two years ago and have seen some considerable personnel changes since then. However, what has not changed is the two teams' overall quality: The Patriots and Chiefs are arguably the top two in the conference right now.
The Chiefs, coming off a season in which they have had the AFC's second-best record at 12-4, have talent on both sides of the ball. It was the team's defense, however, that really stood out last season. The unit led the NFL in takeaways and, despite registering only the fifth-fewest sacks in the league, finished as the seventh-ranked scoring defense. In short: it was rock solid – and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady knows it.
“They have playmakers,” the future Hall of Famer noted during a press conference yesterday when asked about what makes the unit so dangerous and productive in the turnover-department. “They're very explosive and really force the ball out of your hands quick because they get a good rush and then their playmakers in the secondary have eyes on the quarterback and they're trying to make plays, too.”
Brady went on to name some of the team's core defenders as examples for that appraoch: “Derrick Johnson is one of the best linebackers in the league. He does so many things for that defense. You can tell it really hurts them when he's not out there. And Eric Berry is a big time playmaker. Marcus Peters – more interceptions than anybody since he came in the league. [Justin] Houston and [Dee] Ford, I mean, they strip sack the quarterback.”
The 40-year old, who is 4-2 all-time against the Chiefs (excluding the 2008 game durign which he tore his ACL), also noted how the team's safeties are roaming around the field and how this is challenging for quarterbacks: “You can't just stare them down where they're right where you want to throw the ball. It's always like a little cat and mouse with safeties and quarterbacks.”
Brady knows what he is talking about. After all the Chiefs registered a league-high 18 interceptions in 2016. “They get the turnovers, they score points, they get a lead, they rush the quarterback, strip sacks, turnovers, and it just keeps going,” Brady spoke before adding: “Hopefully we can get off to a fast start like we always talk about, but it's a very challenging team.”