The Kansas City Chiefs will play the first of back-to-back nationally-televised Sunday Night Football games on Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. They’ll face the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. The Chiefs will try to improve to 6-0 with a win.
Here are the keys to victory for the Chiefs on Sunday night.
Keys to victory
1. Disrupt Tom’s timing.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The Chiefs’ defense must find ways to keep Patriots quarterback Tom Brady out of a rhythm. Whether by being physical with receivers or through pressuring Brady with the pass rush — particularly up the middle, they’ve got to stop him from coming to the line of scrimmage, diagnosing and then picking the defense apart after the snap. Allowing the Patriots receivers to operate unimpeded and Brady to be comfortable in the pocket will be disastrous.
2. Win the special teams battle.
The Patriots value special teams as much as, or more, than any contending team in the NFL. Head coach Bill Belichick is a former special teams coordinator. He’s seen small margins prove the difference in winning championships for the Patriots. With De’Anthony Thomas out, it’s even more important that the Chiefs avoid miscues and come up with positive plays out of the special teams. Field position could be a critical factor with both defenses facing stiff challenges.
3. Protect the football.
The Patriots have put together many games similar to the one the Chiefs had last week against the Jaguars. They’ve created turnovers with a bend-but-don’t-break defense in order to give Brady and Co. more opportunities. They’ve had the sixth-most takeaways in the league this season (10). Patrick Mahomes tossed his first two interceptions of the season last week. The Patriots don’t appear to have personnel to match-up with the Chiefs offense for a full game, but turnovers could be the equalizer.
4. Convert in the red zone.
The Chiefs settled for a pair of field goals from inside the red zone last week against the Jaguars. Against an offense that has added weapons in recent weeks and includes arguably the best tight end and best quarterback in football, settling for field goals could be the difference between a win and a loss. Patriots opponents have converted 53 percent of red-zone possessions into touchdowns. The Chiefs can’t afford to leave points on the field.
Head coach Bill Belichick
Belichick is in his 19th season as Patriots head coach, and his 43rd season as a coach in the NFL. He leads all active coaches in wins, and he’s captured five Super Bowl championships to go with 15 division championships. His career began as a special assistant to Baltimore Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975. Aside from one season as a wide receivers coach with the Detroit Lions, Belichick has spent his entire career as assistant on defense and/or special teams if not as a head coach. He had a five-year stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 1991 through 1995.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels
McDaniels is in his 15th season with the Patriots, which has spanned two different stints. Similarly to how Andy Reid operates the Chiefs’ offense, McDaniels will use a combination of formations and personnel groups to create matchup advantages. Last season, the Patriots ranked first in offensive DVOA. While the tight end Rob Gronkowski has lead the team in receiving this season, McDaniels’ offenses have historically utilized the slot receivers like Julian Edelman on bubble screens, quick outs and crossing routes. They’ve also had running backs as perimeter receiving threats depending on their personnel. Spread formations often allow quarterback Tom Brady to get pre-snap reads that allow him to make quick decisions with the football.
Defensive coordinator Bill Belichick
Belichick doesn’t have an assistant designated as defensive coordinator after Matt Patricia took over as Detroit’s head coach this season. Belichick has coached defenses with different fronts and different styles during his career as a coordinator and as a head coach. While working as a coordinator under Bill Parcells, Belichick featured 3-4 two-gap base defenses with dynamic edge rushers, but he’s also featured 4-3 base defenses like with the current group. Belichick modifies his defensive scheme and game plans from week to week. Last season, the Patriots brought just two to three pass rushers more frequently than any other defense in the NFL.