Sep 29, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell (19) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Ron Parker (38) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots faced-off against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football in a showdown between two AFC playoff teams from 2013. On a humid evening in Kansas City with the Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since 2005, the Chiefs faithful were charged up with the Guinness Book of World Records on hand to measure the decibel level during the game.
Before the game started, there were some surprises as both second-year receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were inactive. With 2013 fourth-round draft pick Josh Boyce on the practice squad, as of game four of this season the Patriots again appear to have completely missed on all three of their young receivers from last year. While Dobson may still be slowed by his recovery from offseason foot surgery, the disappearance of Thompkins who had a solid game one against Miami with five receptions and was inactive in game two and played 38 snaps last week.
The Patriots shuffled their offensive line coming into the game as they demoted starting right guard Jordan Devey and starting left guard Marcus Cannon from the starting lineup. In addition, rookie fourth-round draft picks Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming were starting with Stork at center and Fleming at right guard. At left guard in Logan Mankins’ old spot the Patriots slid over Dan Connolly, who had been at center.
The first half was all about the Patriots allowing the Chiefs to convert third downs and failing on their own offense in converting first downs. There was little pass rush, little aggressive run stopping, and no matching the Chiefs’ energy and enthusiasm in the first half of the game. The offensive line was not terrible, but hardly great as the Patriots were again out-of-sync on offense.
The first drive of the game was again a problem for the Patriots as Chiefs dynamic second-year tight end Travis Kelce almost converted a second-and-eighteen after getting wide open between the linebackers and safeties. Fortunately for New England quarterback Alex Smith sailed his pass over Kelce and the Chiefs could not convert and after a nine play drive punted away.
The first quarter was all Kansas City as the Patriots defense had no answers for the Chiefs’ offense and the New England offense hardly saw the field. New England failed to attempt a single rush on their first drive as a screen pass, a deep shot to Julian Edelman (apparently trying to draw a flag), and an incompletion thrown short of Brandon LaFell saw yet another three-and-out for the Patriots. The Chiefs were bringing extra rushers and playing man defense behind them.
Early on the Chiefs’ offense was setting the edge and getting to the corner in the running game while the Patriots’ linebackers were getting bogged down by Kansas City offensive linemen getting to the second level. Other than a sack by Chandler Jones slowing the Chiefs, the Patriots offense had no answer for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Travis Kelce in the passing game. After two first quarter drives Bowe had three receptions for 39 yards, Kelce had three for 23 yards, and running back Jamaal Charles had seven carries for 38 yards and a touchdown as the Chiefs jumped to an early 7-0 lead on an eleven play, 73 yard drive taking up almost six minutes.
In need of an answering drive after the Chiefs had already held the ball for almost 12 minutes to New England’s just barely one minute three-and-out drive, the Patriots finally ran the ball but Vereen went for just two yards. A big formation and play-action pass found wide receiver Brandon LaFell for the first first down of the game for New England with less than a minute-and-a-half to go in the first quarter.
The first quarter ended with the Chiefs leading 7-0 and Tom Brady with just two completions, none to Rob Gronkowski or Edelman. The Chiefs had 62 yards passing to the Patriots 12; 56 yards rushing to the Patriots’ 8 yards; nine first downs for the Chiefs to just one for New England. and Kansas City having the ball for almost 12 of the first 15 minutes.
Brady found LaFell again to convert a big third-and-four to start the second quarter and extend the drive. The Patriots had third-and-two and could not convert and had to punt again as a run to the right outside saw Kansas City nose tackle Dontari Poe send a pulling Bryan Stork flying backwards into Shane Vereen and disrupting the run. New England needed to answer with some points but poor blocking up front killed the drive again.
It was twice as frustrating for New England as Knile Davis ripped off a 48-yard run and safety Tavon Wilson slipped in coverage and gave up a 33-yard completion to Kelce. Charles finished the three-play, 86 yard drive with a five-yard touchdown reception split wide on a wide receiver screen to give the Chiefs a quick 14-0 lead over the Patriots in a rocking Arrowhead Stadium. Suddenly, the Chiefs had outgained the Patriots 204 yards of offense to the Patriots paltry 42 yards.
With an early lead and a raucous crowd, the Chiefs had pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston ready to tee off on Brady. Brady switched to the three-step drop and quick throws to Edelman to get a first down and quiet the crowd momentarily. Amendola finally got a reception to convert a first-down on a third-and-three, but the illegal use of hands penalty negated the catch but converted the first down.
Rookie running back James White was on the field for a third-and-eight blocking in the backfield as the Patriots had two backs and released Vereen into the pass route. A completion to LaFell failed to convert coming up two yards short. After running out the punt unit, the Patriots ran the offense back out and forced the Chiefs to call time-out. Coming out of the break the Patriots ended up punting away to the Chiefs.
Two drives into Kansas City territory and two punts after failing to convert third downs saw New England’s sputtering offense continue to struggle. This time it was hard to blame the offensive line as the Patriots just failed to convert.
The Chiefs running game continued to shred the Patriots defense with two quick runs by Charles. A big run by Davis was called back for an illegal block in the back by Kelce. The Chiefs continued to pound away taking advantage of the loss of nose tackle Sealver Siliga. A blatant drop by Junior Hemingway on second down after the penalty set-up a third-and-thirteen which they could not convert. More concerning for New England was defensive end Chandler Jones on the sidelines on third down getting his shoulder looked at by the training staff. Punter Dustin Colquitt of the Chiefs pinned the Patriots down inside the ten yard line with a beautiful booming punt making New England have to march the entire length of the field in less than four minutes to try and get on the scoreboard before halftime.
A 19-yard dart to Gronkowski got New England out of the shadows of the end zone. The Patriots moved Sebastian Vollmer to the bench on this drive with Marcus Cannon coming in at right tackle. Another big third-and-three with Brady making a terrible decision trying to force the ball into coverage to Edelman with room to easily run for the first down. It was a bad decision by the Patriots quarterback and gave the ball back to the Chiefs before the two-minute warning.
The Chiefs continued to mix the pass and run on their final first half drive to get down the field in a hurry. The Chiefs got right to the goal line before the clock almost ran out and were able to add a field goal to make it 17-0 after a dominating first half.