The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots were both battling injuries coming into–and during–the game. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was suffering from a high ankle sprain and was in and out of the lineup during the game and failed to make a significant impact with just two receptions for 23 yards during the game. In his place, young wide receivers Chris Conley and Albert Wilson were targeted 20 times and finished with just 10 receptions for 90 yards (all stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted).
Kansas City was forced to lean on veteran wide receiver Jason Avant who led the Chiefs with 69 yards receiving on four catches. The Patriots safeties and linebackers did a great job of taking away tight end Travis Kelce. Although Kelce led the Chiefs with six receptions, he was limited to just 23 yards. Credit to the banged-up New England safeties, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, for their roles in taking the Chiefs’ top healthy target out of the offensive game plan.
Kelce’s counterpart at tight end for the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, was questionable with knee and back injuries and many wondered what kind of impact he would have during the game. All Gronkowski did was catch seven passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. New England’s other banged-up receivers–Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman–both were healthy enough to play much of the game with Edelman particularly having a big game.
Both teams had injury issues on defense. Kansas City’s top pass rushers, outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, were both banged-up and neither was able to make a significant impact during the game. For New England, the linebackers were banged up as Jamie Collins missed much of the second half, Jerod Mayo was injured and did not return, and Dont’a Hightower and Jonathan Freeny both were already struggling with injuries coming into the game.
New England had special teams players and backup linebackers Darius Fleming and Dekoda Watson on the field with the regular defense in the fourth quarter. They also had defensive end Chandler Jones on the sidelines late in the game with what looked like a knee injury.
One unheralded defensive player who returned from injury and had a strong game was cornerback Justin Coleman. Coleman’s return gave New England three solid cornerbacks in coverage and significantly enhanced their pass defense. The offensive line had rookie Tre Jackson out injured and Sebastian Vollmer returning and lost center Bryan Stork to injury for a stretch before he returned later in the game.
Next: A RETURN TO FORM