Three takeaways from Chiefs vs. Patriots: Red-hot Kansas City makes Tom Brady, New England go cold in playoff picture

first_imgThe Chiefs’ defense turned in the performance it needed to take the Patriots further down in the AFC playoff picture. Kansas City (9-4), as a field-goal underdog, held on to beat New England (10-3) in Gillette Stadium, 23-16.While the Chiefs won their third consecutive game to move within a game of the Patriots for the No. 2 seed and maintained the No. 3 seed over the Texans (8-5), the Ravens (11-2) now have a full-game lead, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker, on the Patriots for the top seed and home-field advantage in the AFC. The good news is the Patriots’ final three games are at home against the Bengals, at home against the Bills and on the road against the Dolphins. The Buffalo game will be tough as New England tries to stay ahead of the Bills in the AFC East with their lead cut down to one game. But the bottom line is, the Patriots won’t need to be all that explosive to win those games.In the bigger picture, however, with their 21-game home winning streak having ended, the Pats are not playing like the same, daunting team that should be the AFC’s No. 2 seed. Their best win came all the way back in Week 1 against a Steelers team that’s very different than the 8-5 version it is now.It’s premature as usual to write off the Patriots because of their ability to adjust and evolve when the stakes are raised, and they will learn from their mistake-filled games. But the evidence we’ve been given in November and December tells us it’s easier to trust the field over New England. Here are the most important takeaways from the Chiefs’ Week 14 win over the Patriots.MORE: Updated NFL playoff pictureThe Chiefs can win with big-time defense, too.The Patriots needed to rush effectively against the Chiefs to win, but they were able to muster only 94 yards on 22 carries after falling behind. Kansas City’s strength has been its pass rush and secondary coverage all season, and those units came through with three sacks and an interception of Brady, giving up only 4.3 yards per pass attempt against a limited wide receiver corps beyond Julian Edelman.The Chiefs blitzed at the right times and did a great job containing Edelman, down to the final incomplete pass in the end zone with Bashaud Breeland doing the honors. They clearly frustrated Brady by getting in his face (literally) up front and not worrying about big plays downfield, and they compressed the field and closed on his receivers. The Patriots were only 2-for-12 on third downs and 1-for-3 on fourth downs.BREEZY CALLED GAME ✊@Bree2Land6 | #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/tF9BcaWWtF— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 9, 2019Defense was the Chiefs’ biggest question mark going into the season under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. They’ve been bad against the run and have had trouble with running backs in the passing game because of their linebacker issues, but their change to a 4-3 scheme has worked. They now are able to win when their offense gets into a bit of a grinding game, which was the case for Patrick Mahomes and Co. on Sunday.The Chiefs carried momentum from their dominance of the Raiders last week, as their defense continues to improve in different areas at the most important time of the season. The repeat AFC West champions can finish strong against the Broncos, Bears and Chargers for the ideal playoff tune-up through the rest of the regular season.The Patriots’ offensive woes are still (mostly) not about Tom Brady.Brady needs considerable help now as a more dependent quarterback at age 42. But his pass protection is poor, and the running game can be non-existent, especially when the Patriots get behind on the scoreboard and the receivers (away from Edelman and running back James White) don’t deliver.Brady (19-of-36 passing, 169 yards, TD, INT, 4.3 yards per attempt, 74.9 passer rating) is trying to force the issue with his arm, and it’s not working against teams that can mix up looks as well as the Chiefs can. His biggest play in the game, one that gave the Patriots a last-gasp chance, was a 17-yard scramble for a first down.And now @TomBrady RUNS it 17 yards for the first down.ON FOURTH DOWN. pic.twitter.com/gfBkYzHl0H— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 9, 2019Early in the season, the Patriots won games with big plays from their defense and special teams — which they are still getting. The only difference: The degree of difficulty of the opponents has been significantly raised.The Chiefs didn’t too much offensively, but they clearly had more speed and reliable playmakers around Mahomes, led by Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and a solid offensive line that’s now fully healthy.Brady is on an island, and he’s being marooned more times than not.MORE: Full Week 14 NFL scoreboardThe Patriots are not close to AFC favorites.The evidence is there. The Patriots have lost to the Ravens, Texans and now Chiefs in their toughest five-game stretch of the season, with their only wins coming against the Cowboys and Eagles. (Which, in retrospect, aren’t big accomplishments.)last_img read more