November 22, 2004
Chiefs vs. Patriots
At Arrowhead Stadium, Patriots WIN, 27-19
By Scott A. Benson

An abbreviated version of the Rear View this week, simply because I’m getting too old for the Patriots’ reign as late night TV stars. I’m not kidding. One more prime-time match up and I’ll be a dead ringer for Keith Richards.

Just imagine how bad it would suck if they were losing these games.

Well, not to worry. The Pats handled the Chiefs in Arrowhead tonight, winning 27-19 and snapping a 40 year losing streak in Kansas City.

The Pats, now 9-1, trailed early against the high-scoring Chiefs, but regained the lead early in the 2nd quarter and never looked back. Even when Corey Dillon’s 4th quarter goal line fumble turned into a late Kansas City touchdown drive, drawing the Chiefs to within 5, the Patriots were never in real danger of losing the game.

The win was critical as we move towards the final six weeks of the season. The victory enabled the Pats to keep their divisional lead over the Jets at two games, and left them trailing only the Steelers for top seed in the AFC.

Patriots on Offense

It was all Tom Brady tonight. Even though Dillon headed into the game on a team-record setting roll, the Pats elected to attack the Chiefs through the air from the opening gun. By the end, the run/pass scale ultimately balanced, but it was Brady who made the key offensive plays throughout. He was his usual effective self on third downs (the Pats were 8 for 12 overall), and hit three pass plays of over 40 yards (two sparkling catch and gallops by Daniel Graham and an over the shoulder grab by David Patten). Brady finished with 315 yards and a touchdown on 65% passing.

The touchdown, a thing of beauty, came courtesy of the returning Deion Branch, who had missed eight weeks after a nightmarish injury in Arizona during the season’s second game. After Kansas City had drawn to within 4 points midway through the 3rd quarter, Branch caught a short look in from Brady at the Chiefs 26 and cut across field before finding a crease for a quick burst to the end zone. It illustrated one point – as good as the Pats receivers are, none of them has Branch’s big play ability. He finished with 6 catches for 105 yards, grabbing a few key third down conversions as well, and looks to be fully prepared to contribute to the stretch run.

Though he seemed a secondary option for most of the game, Corey Dillon still had another strong performance with 98 yards on 26 carries. He knifed in from 5 yards out for the Pats first score and then added another TD run in the 2nd quarter. He could have had a third as the Pats drove deep into Chiefs territory to open the 4th, but Kansas City’s Fred Jones slammed an upright Dillon and forced a fumble that the Chiefs recovered at their two.

To his credit, Dillon returned after KC’s long touchdown drive and was a key figure in setting up an Adam Vinatieri field goal that stretched the lead to eight points and essentially sealed the game for the Pats with only minutes to play.

Patriots on Defense

I was all ready to complain about Trent Green shredding the Patriots secondary (he finished with 381 yards and two TD’s on 64% passing), but then I realized that the New England defense – as depleted as they are – had allowed exactly TWO touchdowns all night to one of the league’s best offenses. So I stuffed my complaining.

The Chiefs did seem to have an angle on the Pats, with Green hitting on two nearly identical scores to Eddie Kennison (one in the 1st quarter that gave them a temporary lead, and then another in the 4th quarter after Dillon’s fumble) . On each, Tony Gonzalez had drawn safeties to the middle of the field and left Kennison alone with Earthwind Moreland, who could only lunge for deft Green throws that dropped just behind him and into the waiting arms of the former Bronco.

But that was it, along with two Lawrence Tynes field goals. Not bad for a team still missing their starting corners. In fact, they were almost missing more than that – both Randall Gay and Asante Samuel were nicked up and missed periods of the game, but both returned. Samuel particularly struggled with his ailing shoulder.

The Pats crushed the Chiefs ground game, which was fortuitously missing Pats killer Priest Holmes. His replacement, Derrick Blaylock, who had ripped New Orleans for 186 yards last week, could do nothing against the Pats linemen and linebackers. He finished with only 58 yards.

The biggest defensive play of the game belonged to Rodney Harrison, who intercepted Green in the end zone as the Chiefs tried to tie the game at 17 at the half. After Kansas City had driven 60 yards to the Pats 9 with 54 seconds left, Harrison stepped in front of a third down throw to Gonzalez, who was conveniently getting the business from Roman Phifer at the time, keeping Green and the Chiefs off the board and preserving the Pats’ lead.

Ty Warren continued his strong development, totaling 7 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He also stood firm against the run for another week. Let me say this – if you have been watching the Patriots and don’t yet understand that Ty Warren has become a very good defensive end, then there isn’t a damn thing I can do to help you.

Patriots on Special Teams

The most exciting moment of the night came when Tully Banta-Cain ran like a man possessed after receiving one of those stupid squib kickoffs that never work. I say we put him back there with Bethel and call it good.

Vinatieri had two more field goals, and Josh Miller averaged 44 yards a punt. Dexter Reid had a couple of good punt coverages, but the kickoff coverage unit still seems shaky.

Patriots on the Sidelines

Since defensive bellwether Ty Law went down in Pittsburgh, the Patriots offense has scored 32 points a game, undoubtedly making life a little easier for their teammates on the other side of the ball.

Not that they exactly need it – even with the injuries, the Pats defense has held their opponents to just under 16 points a game during this three-game winning streak.

Patriots Next Week

Another conference battle, this one with the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens next Sunday at Gillette. Blissfully, this game will actually begin in the afternoon (a 4:00 PM start), a rarity for aging Pats watchers.