The New England Patriots’ road game against the Kansas City Chiefs takes place under different circumstances than anyone could have imagined heading into the weekend: with Patriots starting quarterback Cam Newton getting tested positive for the Coronavirus late on Friday, the contest had to be postponed to Monday while the team itself will have to rely on a backup — likely veteran Brian Hoyer — to lead the offense against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
It therefore appears as if New England is facing a near-insurmountable challenge on Monday night. That said, the NFL is anything but predictable: while it will be tough, the Patriots’ coaching staff led by Bill Belichick will at least put the team in a situation to be competitive.
So with that in mind, let’s turn our attention to the game and what awaits the Patriots in Kansas City today. To get a clearer picture of the upcoming opponent, we spoke with Tom Childs of Pats Pulpit’s sister site Arrowhead Pride and asked him five questions about the team and how it matches up with a shorthanded New England squad.
1.) How do you think the Patriots should attack the Chiefs defense?
The Chargers and the 49ers are the two teams that have been the closest to beating the Chiefs during their 12 game-winning streak. Both teams ran the ball quite well against the Chiefs and put themselves in positions to win — the reason they didn’t win was that when the Chiefs came back in those games, both of those teams panicked and put the ball in the hands of their quarterback. Kyle Shananan will still be having nightmares over his decision to abandon the run in the Super Bowl. Sound familiar? The Patriots have the model there to run all over the Chiefs. Paired with a defense that has had relative success against Patrick Mahomes, it should be the way to beat the Chiefs. If the Patriots decide to turn this game into a shootout, they will be in trouble.
2.) How do you think the Patriots should attack the Chiefs offense?
It’s tough because Mahomes has been really good at spreading the ball this season. Against the Ravens the Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill all has a minimum of 4 catches for 62 yards. The Chiefs will be forced to adopt a similar approach on Monday, especially given how Bill likes to bracket to some of Mahomes’ favorite targets — in that past the Patriots have had success getting in the Chiefs receivers faces at the line of scrimmage and disrupt timing. I expect Bill to ask for more of the same.
3.) Three games into the season, Kansas City looks even better than last year. Fact or fiction?
They look more complete that is for sure. What we have seen in recent games is a defensive formula that compliments the Chiefs big-play offense. It’s now four games in a row that the Chiefs haven’t conceded more than 20 points — Mahomes has scored less than that just once in his entire career. Speaking of Mahomes, you could argue that Monday night was the best game of his career. One that was needed after a sluggish (for him) start to the season. I think now everyone has accepted that the Chargers game was just a blip that happens every now and then — you can’t be perfect every game.
4.) The Patriots defense loves to take away what teams do best. What do you think it will try to eliminate this week?
As Richard Sherman eluded to earlier this week it’s not a case of “picking your poison, it’s picking how you want to die.” That being said Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins have been the two players that have kept this offense ticking this season. Whenever the Chiefs have found themselves in need of a first down, it’s been these two that have come up trumps so far this season. If I was in charge of the Patriots defensive scheme, I would concentrate on eliminating those two first and then making sure your safeties play over the top on Hill and Hardman. Easier said than done of course.
5.) Who are under-the-radar players Patriots fans need to know, and why?
Offensively, you always have to account for Mecole Hardman. Since entering the league Hardman has made a habit of making a big-play out of nowhere. Elsewhere on the offense Kelechi Osemele has been dominant through the first three weeks and looks like the player of old. Darwin Thompson is another player who will be looking to make amends after a really rough game against the Ravens, it will be interesting to see how much responsibility he will have on Sunday, if any at all.
Defensively, despite what PFF have been saying, Frank Clark has been sneaky good. For the Patriots to win they will need to be run both to the left and the right. Running at Clark’s edge is exactly where some teams have struggled. Juan Thornhill had a great rookie season but has struggled since suffering an injury back in December — he normally plays the ball very well but has been found wanting so far this season — potentially we’ll see a bounce back game this week.