While the New England Patriots did not open the season against a murderer’s row of opponents, their schedule has gotten significantly more difficult as of late. On Sunday, the next big challenge awaits in the form of a Kansas City Chiefs team that leads the AFC West with an 8-4 record and also fields one of the most talented teams in all of football. This is especially true on the offensive side of the ball, where the Chiefs rank second in the league with 26.9 points scored per game.
Led by reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, Kansas City features elite talent across the board: from wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, to tight end Travis Kelce, to an offensive line led by stalwart right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Add one of the most creative offensive schemes in the NFL designed by head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and you get a lethal mix capable of inflicting harm upon any opponent.
How do you defend this? Fielding the top scoring defense in the league is a start, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made sure to point out this week that talent alone will not beat Kansas City’s explosive attack. As the future Hall of Famer noted during a media conference call on Tuesday, his team will also have to challenge the Chiefs on a mental level by using disguises and mixing things up when it comes to coverages and pressure schemes up front.
“They’ve seen everything. They’ve seen man, they’ve seen zone, they’ve seen different types of man, different types of zone, different types of blitzes, different fronts,” he said. “You know, there’s a certain type of fundamental way that they would attack any of those, and I think if they know where you’re going to be, they’re probably going to have something pretty good against it. So, you don’t always want to just line up and tell them, ‘Look, this is what we’re in, and let’s see what you want to do about it.’”
“They’re probably going to have a good scheme or a good matchup that’s going to cause you a problem,” continued Belichick. “So, somewhere along the line, you’re going to have to disguise and make them figure it out. There’s a point where you might just have to line up and play it, and maybe they know what you’re in, but I don’t think you want to do that the whole game and just let them tee-off on you.”
New England used a similar approach during its two matchups against the Chiefs last year. While the team was still able to put up a considerable fight both in the regular season and the AFC Championship Game while scoring 40 and 31 points, respectively, the Patriots’ defense was able to slow Mahomes and company down just enough — particularly in the first halves of both games — to ultimately come away victoriously twice.
Belichick knows that creating confusion and making Kansas City think will be a key for another win this week, simply because the Chiefs will try to use the same tactics to also challenge the Patriots’ defense. For as good as the team’s standout quarterback and his group of weapons are, the scheme and how the players are able to run it adds another dimension to the attack that needs to be accounted for.
“They’re not just going to give you a couple looks and say, ‘Here we are.’ They’ll run complementary plays, complementary formations and personnel groups that even if it is the same play, it’ll look differently, or it’ll look like it’s the same play, but it’ll have a misdirection or a counter element to it that if you’re over-playing one thing, then you can’t stop the other one,” said Belichick. “That’s just what they do. They’re very good at it.”
“They have a lot of complimentary plays,” he added. “If you’re stopping one thing, you’re probably a little light on something else, and it’s hard to stop everything. It’s hard to stop the different elements that they have. Within one basic concept, they have two or three things that off-shoot, and then you go to another concept with another set of off-shoots, and that’s just — the multiples are a lot. And they’re good at it, and they have a lot of good players.”
“So, it’s all one big challenge with the Chiefs,” New England’s head coach said to conclude his analysis of one of the most potent offenses in the entire NFL. “It isn’t like just stopping one guy, or trying to stop one play, or one formation or anything like that. There’s enough of everything that you’ve got to work on it all, and sometimes it runs together. And again, they eventually find mismatches and ways they can puncture you.”