Snap counts: Chiefs featured bevy of new faces in starting roles against the Patriots

Andy Reid hopes team can learn from loss to Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is expecting the young guys can learn from Sunday's October 14, 2018 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
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Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is expecting the young guys can learn from Sunday's October 14, 2018 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Regardless of how much faith Chiefs fans or pundits have in the Breeland Speaks experiment, the coaching staff left no doubt on Sunday night that it had an abundance of confidence in the rookie defensive lineman-turned-outside linebacker.

Speaks, who’d played in each of the first five games, made the first start of his career on Sunday Night Football at New England. Speaks stepped in for the injured Justin Houston and played all but two of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps (76 of 78) in their 43-40 loss to the Patriots.

Speaks actually played more snaps than starting outside linebacker Dee Ford (72), the team’s top edge rusher so far this season. Ford entered the weekend leading all NFL edge rushers in quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

“It felt good. It felt like I did what I was supposed to do,” Speaks said after the game. “It felt like I did my job. It felt like I contributed.”

Speaks registered six tackles, his first professional sack and a forced fumble when he swatted the ball away from Tom Brady. He was also part of another heavily dissected play when he had Brady in his grasp, but let go assuming Brady had thrown the ball and wanting to avoid a roughing the passer penalty.

“Everything that happens is going to make him better,” Ford said of Speaks getting thrown into the fire. “... Experience is your best teacher. He’s going to move on. He’s going to move forward. I’m happy for him, and he’s going to keep the ball rolling.”

The Chiefs signed veteran linebackers Frank Zombo, who was cut by the team in training camp, and Nate Orchard this past week to provide depth at the outside linebacker position because of Houston’s injury and the uncertain status of second-year man Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Kpassagnon participated in the light workout on Friday, but he was inactive on Sunday night. Meanwhile, Zombo played just eight defensive snaps and Orchard did not play.

Mix and match: The offensive line already had a hole to fill going into the game with starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif having a leg fracture and torn ligaments. Jordan Devey filled in for LDT, but that stint soon turned into another fill-in assignment when starting center Mitch Morse left the game because of a concussion.

Devey played every offensive snap, but he moved from guard to center after Morse left the game. Andrew Wylie entered the lineup at right guard when Devery slid over to center. Wylie had played one offensive snap all season prior to Sunday night. He played 32 of 54 offensive snaps (59 percent) against the Patriots, and he could be in line to make a start this coming week depending upon Morse’s status.

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Sink or swim: Safety Jordan Lucas, one of two defensive players making their first professional start, played every defensive snap as well as nine on special teams as the Chiefs’ safety position has been decimated by injuries dating back to training camp, including Daniel Sorensen (knee), Eric Murray (ankle), Armani Watts (core muscle/groin) and Eric Berry (heel).

Lucas narrowly missed coming up with an interception for the second consecutive week, but he couldn’t hold onto the ball.

“I thought Jordan (Lucas) came in and played a pretty solid game,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Are there some things that he has to get better at? Yeah, he has to get better at a couple things. I thought he did some real nice things. He is moving fast. He has good energy about him. He had an opportunity for an interception. That is one that you would like to have back and come down with. He did a good job covering, I thought, and filling and all that.”

Keep away: It didn’t seem as though the Patriots were keeping the ball away from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense on Sunday night. The Chiefs scored 31 second-half points. Both teams scored at least 40 points and passed for more than 300 yards. Mahomes threw four second-half touchdowns.

However, the offensive struggles in the first half, including a pair of turnovers, helped the Patriots control the ball as much as any Chiefs’ opponent this season. The Patriots went on five drives that covered 65 yards or more, including one aided by 38 yards in penalties.

The Patriots held the edge in time of possession 36:09 to 23:51. The long drives for the Patriots coupled with the Chiefs quick-strike plays in the second half also meant the Chiefs logged their fewest offensive snaps (54) in a game this season. Previously, their 54 snaps against the Los Angeles Chargers in the season opener had been their season low.

Backed against a wall: The Patriots saw a vulnerability in the Chiefs run defense that they wanted to attack. They successfully rushed at the interior of the Chiefs defense and averaged 4.6 yards per carry for the game. While it’s not clear if the Patriots relied on the fullback as a lead blocker out of necessity or comfort, it certainly assured that inside linebackers Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens were on the field for most of the game.

Ragland has seen his playing time fluctuate based upon personnel and situations this season. Against teams who spread the field regularly or getting into passing-oriented situations such as having to come back from a big deficit, Ragland has given way to Terrance Smith. The Chiefs prefer Smith in coverage situations. Hitchens plays the vast majority of defensive snaps, whether in base defense or sub packages, every week.

Hitchens played every snap on Sunday and made a team-high 14 tackles, including two tackles for a loss. Ragland played 49 defensive snaps — one more than nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick — or 63 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive plays. The Patriots used fullback James Develin on 33 offensive plays (42 percent) and used the 6-foot-3, 255-pound bruiser to help pave the way for Sony Michel (24 carries, 106 yards) and James White (six carries, 39 yards).

“We’ve got to do a better job solidifying some things there,” Reid said on Monday. “That’s everybody, it’s the whole front and including safeties if they’re in the position, there. We had a couple overloads right there where we had people in position and you just got to make the play. We’ve got tighten that up a little bit.

“We did a decent job in the pass game, I thought, by numbers it was even better than what I thought going into the tape. Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) had the one catch, he had that one catch, and really one catch to that point to that 7:20. Then he had the catch at the end. We kind of held him intact.”

Lynn Worthy

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.

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