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The Morning After: New England

Posted Nov 22, 2011

Patriots exploit Chiefs thin margin for error

FOXBOROUGH, MA – Despite their status as heavy underdogs, the Chiefs entered Gillette Stadium with a sound game plan and an underdog mentality. Both showed up quite well for a half. After that, the Patriots exposed Kansas City’s small margin for error.

Of New England’s 34 unanswered points, 17 came during a disastrous third quarter that began with an 85-yard touchdown drive and ended with a 19-yard Stephen Gotskowski field goal. In between the two scores was a 72-yard Julian Edelman punt return for a touchdown and a Tyler Palko interception.

By the time the third quarter was over, Kansas City’s competitive first half was all but a distant memory as the Patriots cruised to a 34-3 victory on Monday Night Football.

“We have to do better,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “The Patriots are a team that leaves you with little room for error. You can play a good game and then just the little mistakes – they don’t even have to be big mistakes – they capitalize on them. That’s what type of team they are and we knew that coming into this.”

The Chiefs showed several new wrinkles Monday night that helped stall the Patriots in the early-goings of the game.

Operating out of a hurry-up offense, Palko out-gunned Tom Brady in the first quarter thanks in large part to a defensive unit that successfully mixed its blitz packages and disguised coverage.  Kansas City churned out more first half yards than New England and sacked Brady three times.

Though the Chiefs still trailed 10-3 at halftime, they were executing a game plan that left next to nothing on the sideline.

Kansas City attempted a surprise onside kick directly after it took an early 3-0 lead and even stole a page from Denver’s playbook with WR Jerheme Urban running the zone-read option as a Wildcat quarterback.

Urban played the role of Tim Tebow last week for the scout team offense when the Chiefs were preparing to face the Broncos.

“We tried to do some different things,” said DL Amon Gordon, who recorded his first career sack in the game. “They have a great quarterback who has seen a lot of things and doesn’t fluster easy.  Coming into the game, we thought it would be advantageous to do some things defensively to put some things on his mind.”

The plan was solid, but the execution wasn’t nearly good enough.

Once again, penalties came at the most inopportune times and assignment breakdowns resulted in explosive plays. Kansas City crossed New England’s 50-yard line eight times, but mustered just three points.

Every offensive drive that went into Patriots territory was stalled by a sack, a penalty or a turnover. In some instances, all three occurred.

That’s a game-changer.

“We did too many things that get you beat in this league, too many times,” Coach Todd Haley said. “Penalties in the red zone, the inability to get the ball into the end zone for scores early when we had opportunities. The surprise onside kick, the illegal touch was just a killer play for us. You know, we just allowed too many big plays on defense, including a punt return on special teams.”

“When we stop ourselves...And I don’t think it – I know it’s not scheme,” Palko added. “It’s the execution of it and we need to find a way to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. This game is hard enough as it is to overcome – hard enough as it is without making mistakes. When you make mistakes, it’s going to show up in inopportune times.”

The Chiefs also lost the turnover battle with Palko throwing three interceptions in his debut as an NFL starter. All three passes were off target, but two were tipped into the air by Chiefs receivers. The third was thrown into triple coverage.

Turnovers spell disaster in a place where the Patriots rarely lose.

“Anytime you turn the ball over in this league, you don’t give yourself the chance to win the football game. And three interceptions are inexcusable,” Palko said. “I don’t care if they were tipped or what not; the ball left my hand and I’m accountable for the passes. You can’t turn the ball over in this league and have a chance to win football games, especially against a good offense like that.”

The same things continue to get Kansas City beat and it caused things to unravel quickly after what looked to be a promising start Monday night.

“We didn’t win the game, so you know whatever we did positively it didn’t count,” RB Thomas Jones said. “We didn’t win the game and that is what we came here to do.”

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