Chiefs prepared for run-heavy Patriots Sunday
The Kansas City Chiefs have struggled over the years to stop the run, regardless of who was directing their defense. But they showed in last week's win over the Baltimore Ravens that they could rise to the challenge.
They have another big one this weekend.
The New England Patriots roll into Arrowhead Stadium behind new quarterback Cam Newton, himself a threat to run, and a backfield that went roughshod over the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend. Sony Michel needed just nine carries to pile up 117 yards, Rex Burkhead reached the end zone three times and the Patriots totaled 250 yards rushing in the win.
"Cam being in a role there that he's fully accepted, I think he's enjoying it," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "and we anticipate them being able to run the ball, but don't be fooled, because Cam can throw the ball very well, too."
That may be true, but it's not as if the Chiefs (3-0) are preparing for Tom Brady in his heyday. The first order of business any week may be to stop the run – something the Chiefs did quite well against the Ravens on Monday night – but the challenge is even more important when the Patriots (2-1) have shown such a propensity for grinding out yards on the ground.
They lead the league in rushing through the first three weeks. The Chiefs are 27th at defending the run.
The Patriots also hope their running game allows them to control the clock, shortening the game and thereby keeping record-setting quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the dynamic Chiefs offense off the field.
"Ball control and points. You know that," Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said. "Let's get the points and let's control the ball; I don't care how we do it. Dink-and-dunk, quarterback sneak, I don't give a (darn). Just get it done."
They have a lot of guys who can get it done, too. Michel, Burkhead and Newton are a considerable three-headed monster, but undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor also has gotten into the mix. James White was back at practice this week after the death of his father in an auto accident, as was Damien Harris, who has been on injured reserve with a finger problem.
"We're a bunch of competitors," Taylor said, "but we also want to see each other succeed."
The Patriots will need them to against the Chiefs on Sunday.
CAM AND GET IT
Newton is the fourth straight quarterback the Chiefs have prepared for that can run. They faced the Texans' Deshaun Watson in the opener, then prepared for the Chargers' Tyrod Taylor in Week 2, though he was ruled out shortly before kickoff because of a medical mishap. Then came the Ravens' Lamar Jackson last week.
"Cam can do anything. Cam, he's been the passer, he's been the runner, he's been the whole deal," Reid said. "You have to prepare for everything and we went in that way with Lamar, the same thing."
The Chiefs will be without rookie cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, who has two picks through his first three games, but who had surgery this week on the collarbone he broke Monday night in Baltimore. They also could be without Chris Jones, who came into the week leading the AFC with 3 1/2 sacks, because of a groin injury. Top cornerback Bashaud Breeland remains out while serving the final game of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
MAHOMES IN 2020
The reigning Super Bowl MVP continues to have an unforgettable year. He led the Chiefs to their first title in 50 years, signed a long-term deal that could pay him a half-billion dollars, got engaged to his long-time girlfriend and this week announced the couple is going to have a baby. Oh, and he's also started the season by throwing for nearly 300 yards per game with nine touchdown passes, another touchdown on the ground and no interceptions.
"I mean, all the superlatives that have been said about him, I'd just be repeating them all," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
PASSING THE BUCK
While the biggest challenge facing the Chiefs may be stopping the run, the biggest facing the Patriots will be covering their fleet of pass catchers. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins are merely the start of the headaches – fellow wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire are all threats.
"They have five good receivers out there on almost every play," Belichick said, "so it's hard to match up with two, three or four of them, but they've got five and a great quarterback and a great offensive system. They maximize the amount of pressure they put on you and they do a lot of different things."
The Chiefs will welcome about 17,000 fans to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. It's the 22% of capacity that they were allowed for their Week 1 win over Houston, but welcome news after empty stands on visits to the Chargers and Ravens.
WHAT — New England Patriots (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
WHEN/WHERE — Sunday, 3:25 p.m., Arrowhead Stadium
TV/RADIO — CBS (KCTV 5, Comcast cable channel 3, HD 803)/WDAF FM-The Wolf (106.5 FM)
OPENING LINE — Chiefs by 7
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Patriots 2-1; Chiefs 1-1
SERIES RECORD — Chiefs lead series 19-16-3
LAST MEETING — Chiefs beat Patriots 23-16 on Dec. 8, 2019, at New England
LAST WEEK — Patriots beat Raiders 36-20; Chiefs beat Ravens 34-20
AP PRO32 RANKING — Patriots No. 7; Chiefs No. 1
PATRIOTS OFFENSE — OVERALL (8), RUSH (1), PASS (22).
PATRIOTSS DEFENSE — OVERALL (T12), RUSH (19), PASS (11).
CHIEFS OFFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (9), PASS (4).
CHIEFS DEFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (27), PASS (4).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — The Patriots and Chiefs are meeting for the fourth straight season but playing at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time. ... The Chiefs beat the Patriots 41-14 the last time they met in Kansas City on Sept. 29, 2014. ... New England has not committed an offensive penalty; the Patriots have just seven penalties in total. ... Patriots RB Sony Michel had 117 yards rushing last week vs. Las Vegas. The team ran for 250 yards. ... New England is 52-1 since 2000 when it has a 100-yard rusher. ... WR Julian Edelman needs one TD reception to tie Wes Welker (37) for sixth most in Patriots history. ... Patriots QB Cam Newton needs 245 yards passing to become the 48th player in NFL history with 30,000. ... S Devin McCourty needs one interception to tie Mike Haynes (28) for sixth most in club history. ... The Chiefs have won a franchise-record 12 straight games. Their last loss was at Tennessee in Week 10 last season. ... Kansas City is trying to start 4-0 for the fourth consecutive year. ... Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes became the fastest player to reach 10,000 yards passing last week vs. Baltimore. He has 10,310 yards, 85 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 34 games. ... Mahomes needs 15 TD passes in the next nine games to become the fastest to 100, surpassing Dan Marino. ... Chiefs TE Travis Kelce needs one more 100-yard receiving game to tie Otis Taylor (20) for second in club history. Tony Gonzalez holds the record with 26. Kelce has caught a pass in 99 straight games, the fifth-longest active streak in the NFL. ... Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill has caught a TD pass each of the first three games. The last Chiefs player to do that was Willie Frazier in 1972. ... Kansas City is the only team in the NFL that has not allowed more than 20 points in a game this season. ... The Chiefs are second in the AFC with 10 sacks through three games. DT Chris Jones is tied for the AFC lead with 3 1/2 sacks. ... K Harrison Butker needs 14 points to pass Gonzalez (462) for the fifth most in Chiefs history. ... Fantasy tips: If you have a Patriots running back (any of them) put them in the lineup. They are coming off a huge game against Las Vegas on the ground and the Chiefs, despite a solid showing against Baltimore's vaunted ground game last week, have struggled against the run.
– Associated Press