KC RUSHING OFFENSE vs NE RUSH DEFENSE
The Chiefs, like the Patriots, thrive off the play-action passing game. And with how good Mahomes is on any normal passing play, it is almost unfair what happens when the Kansas City running game is in gear: the young gunslinger gets linebackers jumping up near the line of scrimmage, resulting in more space to throw in the middle of field. Big plays are the norm when Mahomes gets his receivers in single coverage down the field, as the safeties cheat to stop the run.
While Damien Williams had a big game on the ground against the Colts, the Chiefs’ rushing attack tailed off down the stretch after Hunt was released. Three times in their last five games, the Chiefs were held to under 100 yards rushing. Williams did lead a rushing attack that piled up 180 yards on the Colts last Saturday though, taking advantage of light fronts featuring extra defensive backs.
New England has found success the past few weeks against the run game by bringing back big-bodied defensive tackle Danny Shelton to team with Malcom Brown in the middle of the defense as anchors on the line. New England also needs their linebackers to shed second-level blocks and get to the running back before they start moving downfield. Look for Elandon Roberts on early downs helping Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower in the run defense.
The Chiefs have a solid offensive line, including high draft pick Eric Fisher at left tackle, left guard Cameron Erving, and center Mitch Morse. At right tackle, Mitchell Schwartz is the best blocker on the ground and in pass protection. The Chiefs get a lift with four-year starter Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff returning to right guard to take over for Andrew Wylie. Duvernay-Tardiff had been on injured reserve and has not played since Week 5.
Setting the edge in the running game is vital for New England to keep these backs from bouncing runs outside, which puts pressure on Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers at defensive end. John Simon and Adrian Clayborn are more likely to be on the field on passing downs, but both played much better against the run last week against the Chargers. In fact, the Patriots allowed just 19 yards on the ground on ten carries.
When the Patriots stop the run, they are hard to beat. New England was 7-0 in the regular season when they held their opponent under 100 yards rushing, and last week made them 1-0 in the playoffs in that scenario. In their five losses (all of them on the road), they allowed 104, 159, 150, 189 and 158 yards rushing. Taking the stat further, the Patriots are 1-4 allowing 150 or more yards on the ground.
The Patriots jumped out to an early 24-9 halftime lead at home against the Chiefs in Week 6. As Kansas City was then in the rare place of playing from behind, they abandoned the running game and had just 17 final rushing attempts (two of them scrambles by Mahomes) and passed the ball 36 times, more than a 2-1 offensive ratio.
The Patriots can give up yards through the air and win (they are 3-1 allowing 300 yards or more net yards passing), although they’ve allowed just one offense to pass for more 250 net yards since Week 9. Stopping the run, though, is a must in the playoffs. Doing so helps the defense get off the field, as the Patriots will need to give their own offense as many opportunities as possible to score and keep up with the potent Kansas City offense.