Something isn’t working for the New England Patriots on offense, ranked near the bottom of the NFL in most offensive categories. Yet they’re still mostly winning, and heading into their Arrowhead visit against the Kansas City Chiefs, trying to create some sort of momentum, as slight favorites.
Why not? The Patriots are regularly one off the best offensive teams in the NFL with Tom Brady at quarterback, they’ve won four of their last five against the Chiefs who are 1-2 so far this season, and their defense of all parts is suddenly very difficult to score against, allowing the Oakland Raiders just nine points and just 16 points overall in their last two wins. They lead the NFL in defending the pass (168.7 per game), something that’s been a big problem in recent years.
But the offense? They finished with less than 300 yards in two of their three games, while Brady has been sacked seven times. The future hall of fame inductee is 30th with 5.54 yards per attempt, and his 82.9 passer rating is 23rd and is finding it almost impossible to complete long passes: He is just 1-of-13 on throws that target someone more than 21 yards downfield. He’s relying on Julian Edelman, while his former favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, has caught just 11 passes of the 23 targeted at him.
As Bill Belichick said: We can do just really pretty much everything better offensively. Everything. Blocking, throwing, catching, running, run reads, routes, distribution, you name it. I’m not sure Belichick is humble enough to feel something like regret, but trading Logan Mankins before the beginning of the season looks like a worse decision with every day that goes by.
The Chiefs haven’t been doing much better, although they have won their last game. They have Jamaal Charles back after carrying the ball only nine times in the first two games of the season and then missing their win over the Dolphins. Knile Davis gives them an excellent second option out of the backfield, rushing for 214 yards on 55 carries so far, but the return of Charles, who was also the leading receiver for the Chiefs last season, makes things so much easier for Alex Smith.
Smith has been sacked 11 times this season, second in the NFL through the first three games. Andy Reid has taken the blame for some of those, saying his play calling, especially when it comes to three-and-longs, has been less than ideal. It’s hard to say if the win in Miami, who look great one day and awful the next, is more indicative of their actual ability.
The key to this game will be putting pressure on the quarterback, especially for the Chiefs. Brady isn’t the same guy he was in years past, and the Dolphins proved just how rattled he can get if you get to him early. A solid defensive game and a careful offensive plan instead of leaving Alex Smith completely exposed might be a good way to turn this Monday Night Football game into a little less predictable than most of these two teams’ encounters.