This past weekend was everything the New England Patriots could have asked for offensively: running back James White carried the team’s offense with 15 catches, wide receiver Julian Edelman added nine of his own for 151 yards, tight end Rob Gronkowski was a beast run blocking and Sony Michel had three touchdowns on 129 rushing yards.
Back in October, when the Patriots first played their upcoming opponent — the Kansas City Chiefs —, Michel brought in one of the best games of his short career as he rushed 24 times for 109 yards and two scores. However, even though it is a relatively small sample size, the other three key skill position players on New England’s offense in White, Edelman and Gronkowski have struggled a bit in the past against Andy Reid’s defenses.
In three career games versus Kansas City, White has a combined 11 receptions for 98 receiving yards to go along with 19 rushing attempts for 98 yards. Edelman, meanwhile, has only eight receptions in three games for 77 yards and one touchdown. Gronkowski has played in four games against the Chiefs defense and has totaled 11 catches for 257 yards and three scores.
The per-game averages for these three against Kansas City in their careers are as followed:
James White: 3.6 catches for 32.6 yards; 6.3 rushes for 32.6 yards
Julian Edelman: 2.6 catches for 25.6 yards and 0.3 touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski: 2.75 catches for 64.3 yards and 0.75 touchdowns
All three of these guys are crucial to the Patriots’ offensive operation, not just catching and rushing the ball but also in the downfield blocking game by opening up holes and room for other guys to excel. I have no doubt in my mind that they will be a critical part in Sunday’s hopeful win once again — so all three of them need to be on top of their game once more.
One way to get them to do that might be through establishing the run early with Michel. This, in turn, can help open up Edelman and White on underneath patterns and screens and potentially also create space up the middle of the field for Gronkowski to attack the seams.
The Chiefs seem to have figured out a way to slow New England’s top offensive weapons down a bit in the past, so coming up with a gameplay to get them going early is crucial for the Patriots this Sunday.