As the New England Patriots prepare to take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, October 14 at Gillette Stadium, the Staff of FPC Patriots sat down to discuss the importance of this game to the Pats season going forward.
This Week’s Roundtable Participants:
- Jared Talbot, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
- Ethan Roy, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
- David Albiani, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
- Hal Bent, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
Aside from the return of Julian Edelman last Thursday, what has been the greatest catalyst for the ‘renaissance’ of the Patriots’ recently resurgent offense?
Talbot: No question about it and Edelman is at the forefront for why but he isn’t the only reason. Much was made over Sony Michel’s bad game against the Lions but since then he has done nothing but impress by rushing for 210 yards and 2 TD’s. When your running game is on point, the rest of the offense follows. Edelman is also opening up the outside by getting open in the middle and bringing in attention while Josh Gordon adds a deep threat. The offense is only going to get better from here and Brady suddenly has a lot of weapons to use.
Roy: While Julian Edelman’s return is undoubtedly a major factor in the turnaround of the Patriots’ offense, I think Josh Gordon’s presence on the field has done wonders for New England’s ability to move the ball. Tom Brady and the Patriots have not had the luxury of a bona fide outside threat since Randy Moss, and just by lining up on offense, Gordon demands attention and coverage from the defense; coverage that would typically go to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Gordon’s presence on the outside really helps the Patriots play between the hash marks, where guys like Edelman, Gronkowski, and James White thrive in the short passing game, and I think it will only open up more as Gordon grows more comfortable with Brady and co.
Albiani: I think there are a few things that are really are being shown here. The first two are more minor in that the Patriots are at home, a place where they usually play well, and two that the pieces are getting more time to gel and come together. Although Gordon hasn’t had a huge role, it has allowed everyone to get a few less snaps which keeps everyone fresh and bumps everyone down the depth chart just a tad. The most important one that cannot be overstated is the improvement in aggressiveness, technique, and execution by the team as a whole and most notably the offensive line. The fact they have gotten the run game going early and often has led to a devastating play-action and really engaged those guys early.
Bent: Very simple answer: Sony Michel. The Patriots–despite talk of the contrary–need to run the ball at some point to preserve quarterback Tom Brady from unnecessary hits. On a game-by-game basis, it usually works best when being set-up by the passing game clicking quickly and often. However, when they have a lead they need to be able to run the ball and set-up big plays in the passing game with play-action. Last year, the Patriots’ offense was 10th in rushing yards; in 2016 they were 7th in rushing yards; in 2015–when they did not make the Super Bowl–they were 30th in rushing yards.
Michel was out for all of the preseason and week one after he injured his knee in training camp. Despite missing so much vital time in the preseason, he has come on strong in the past two games. Against the Dolphins and Colts, Michel had 43 carries for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It is no coincidence that in those two games the offense scored 38 points in each game and kept Brady sack-free in both games.
With Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Kansas City offense coming to town on Sunday, might we see some different defensive schemes from Bill Belichick, Briain Flores and the Pats’ defensive ‘brain trust?’
Talbot: They will have to attempt to contain such an offense. The secondary has impressed a lot since the Lions game but will be fully put to the test. The offense will produce as they will go against a Chiefs defense that is ranked just 31st in the league but the front seven will be looked upon to apply pressure early and often to take pressure off the secondary.
Roy: The Chiefs’ offense is not only the most talented the Patriots’ have faced this season, but could be the most talented in the entire National Football League. Patrick Mahomes is a superstar in the making, and his offense has scored at least 27 points in every single game so far. This offense can move the ball well, and they can move it fast, especially with Tyreek Hill, a threat to find the end zone every time he touches the ball. I think the Patriots’ best bet to hand the Chiefs their first loss is to force them to put the ball on the ground. Kareem Hunt is obviously a dynamic talent, but he has surpassed 100 yards in only one game so far, and if the Patriots can do this, they can limit Hill’s big play ability and allow Tom Brady to have plenty of chances on offense.
Albiani: I think they will definitely try to switch up the coverage facing Mahomes to just continue to give him different looks, but one thing you can guarantee is that the Patriots will never let Tyreek Hill have single coverage on the outside to prevent him from winning deep on anyone with his elite speed (think J. McCourty and Harmon bracket). I also think you will see a concerted effort to keep Mahomes in the pocket and prevent him from extending plays. If they can do that and get a push from the interior it will be tough to not step into his throws accuracy wise, as well as making him more nervous and rushed. It is a huge game for the interior line. They cannot get single blocked and cannot get moved, but also need to provide a pass rush. If they can’t do most of that, it will be a longer game.
Bent: I hate to say it, but rather than get more exotic the defense will likely get simpler: Expect more two-deep safety zone defenses against the Chiefs;Less blitzing and more flooding the passing lanes with defenders; Defensive ends on a controlled pass rush to keep Pat Mahomes in the pocket and not getting outside the pocket and making big plays by extending the play; Extra defensive backs to limit yards after the catch.
New England can limit the formations and motion from being a problem or distraction by simplifying the game plan. Sure, there will be times to go back to man-coverage–they do need mix up the looks–but for the most part, they will try to limit the big plays and force Mahome
Follow Jared on Twitter @JaredTalbot_
Follow Ethan on Twitter @ethan_roy1
Follow David on Twitter @david_albiani
Follow Hal on Twitter @halbent01