FOXBORO — It’s been one significant storyline after another for the Patriots.
There was the always hyped season-opener, an AFC Championship Game rematch at Jacksonville, a reunion with ex-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia at Detroit, and a critical contest with the unbeaten Miami Dolphins as the Patriots sought to avoid ending September with a losing record for the first time in 17 years.
There was a brief respite to open October as the Indianapolis Colts — for once — presented few intriguing subplots. But it was back to the buildup ahead of a Sunday night showdown with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.
There’s plenty at stake for both sides, but more so for the Patriots, who have won two straight to climb to 3-2 and now are looking to avoid falling back to .500 and further behind KC in the AFC playoff standings.
Not that they were willing to go there.
“We’re not really focusing on the stakes out there, what it’s going to mean if we win or lose this game in the future,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “I mean, you can’t really control that. What you can control is that we’re playing the Kansas City Chiefs this week.”
As for the Chiefs, they’re downplaying their 5-0 start. They have evidence to support that approach.
The Chiefs won their first nine games in 2013, coach Andy Reid’s first season in KC. Then they proceeded to lose five of their final seven before being bounced in the wildcard playoff round.
So it’s all about putting their helmeted heads down rather than looking ahead through their facemasks.
“You’re happy for about a minute after a game,” Reid said. “Then, unfortunately as a head coach, you go back and you think of all the things you could have done better, right? So, then you move on.
“You go to sleep, wake up and, boom, you’re moving on to the next team. You exhaust yourself that way.”
Both teams come in with offenses that have multiple means to deplete defenses. The Patriots have scored 38 points in consecutive games and the Chiefs are averaging 35 per 60 minutes, good for second in the league.
While a high-scoring affair is likely in store, there’s also a strong possibility the outcome will be determined by which defense — both equally suspect — can come up with a turnover or make a stand at a pivotal moment.
The Chiefs, like the Patriots, do some things well on D and others not so much.
They rank 20th in the league in points allowed (25.8) and last in yards (461.8). They’re 23rd in the red zone, surrendering touchdowns 63.7 percent of the time.
“I mean, they’ve been ahead — they’ve given up some yards in garbage time,” coach Bill Belichick said before noting the only relevant stat is KC’s unblemished record.
The Chiefs do check the boxes in a number of key areas even in the absence thus far of three-time All-Pro safety Eric Berry with a heel injury.
They rank second on third down, getting off the field 70.7 percent of the time, and are sixth with 15 sacks, including four-plus in each of the last three games. They’re tied for ninth with eight takeaways, although five came last week in a win over the Jaguars and turnover-machine Blake Bortles.
“So we’ve got to be able to sustain drives,” running back James White said. “And we haven’t turned the ball over as an offense all season, so it’d be a good week to not turn it over.”
Indeed, the Patriots have committed nine turnovers, including at least one in all five games. Quarterback Tom Brady has been intercepted six times, although the last two were on his receivers.
Only four teams in the league have more giveaways.
“I don’t think you can ever lose sight of the fact that turnovers are the No. 1 statistic in terms of dictating your opportunities to win in our league,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “So, I think we always have to be mindful of that, and certainly our players are, as well.”
Published at Sun, 14 Oct 2018 00:08:44 +0000