By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
FOXBORO, Mass. -- The post-Gronk era hasn't been an enjoyable one so far. But Sunday could be the Patriots' best opportunity of the season to get his replacements rolling.
Kansas City's offense still presents plenty of problems for the Patriots, but on defense, tight end coverage has been a relative weak spot. They've surrendered the most receptions to tight ends (82) this season, and the fifth-most yards (791). That does, however, amount to the sixth-fewest yards per reception and they've only allowed four touchdowns. So tight ends haven't necessarily killed the Chiefs - but there's an opportunity here for the Patriots' tight end group to help them move between the 20s like they did on a pair of big plays Houston.
Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse combined for a reception each on three targets last Sunday night, totaling 47 yards in the Patriots' 28-22 loss to the Texans. Perhaps a small step in the right direction. Both catches came at key points of the game with the Pats needing a big play.
LaCosse gave a glimpse of Gronk (however microscopic) when he barreled up the seam and found a soft spot in the Texans' zones for Brady to deliver him the ball, picking up 24 yards on a second-and-17 late in the second quarter with the Patriots down 14-3.
Watson did everything needed of him on his 23-yard catch-and-run, which came on an absolutely-positively-gotta-have-it third-and-17 play in the third quarter. Watson got open in the flat, caught the damn ball, made a guy miss, and scampered past the chains. The catch led to the Patriots' first touchdown of the game, which at the time looked like the Pats' chance to seize momentum late.
It obviously didn't work out. But the two catches at least provided some hope that the Patriots' current tight end crop can make things happen for an offense that is desperate to find something it does well consistently to move the ball down the field. The Chiefs have been susceptible to letting tight ends get the ball in their hands, so we'll see if Tom Brady looks their way more often on Sunday.
Harmon confident in Patriots' gameplan
In Patriots-Chiefs, the matchup of the game is without question going to be the Kansas City pass-catchers vs. the New England secondary. Safety Duron Harmon sounded confident in Bill Belichick's plan for the Chiefs. But of course, as always, a good plan is worthless without good execution.
“Just making their misdirection game - trying to get guys to go sideways, out-leverage- it’s definitely tough," said Harmon. "But like I said, we have a good gameplan on how we want to neutralize the misdirection, neutralize the speed that they have.
"I think if we execute the plan it’ll be a good day for us, and if we don’t it’ll be a tough day for us. So we’re just going to continue to work at it this week, and try to put ourselves in the best position to win the game on Sunday."
Ferentz just 'thankful to have a job'
James Ferentz wasn't home-grown out of the Belichick lab. But it may be time to see whether the Patriots have perfected the mold.
Ferentz checked into Sunday night's loss to the Texans as the center, after starter Ted Karras went down with a knee injury. There were at least no badly botched snaps.
After bouncing from Houston to Denver to New England, Ferentz has progressed from the Patriots' practice squad to the main roster. The Pats released Ferentz then brought him back in the wake of David Andrews' season-ending blood clot issue, and now they may need to turn to him as the starter against the Chiefs.
Sunday would mark just the second start of Ferentz's career. He replaced an injured Shaq Mason at right guard earlier in the season against the Browns. At this point, the versatile Ferentz has been around the league enough to just appreciate the opportunity in front of him.
"I’ve been really fortunate to have a role," Ferentz said Wednesday. "Like I said, it’s been a backup role. Whether it’s left guard, center, right guard - doesn’t really matter to me. My job is to make sure I’m ready to play anything that I’m needed to do. I’m just really thankful to have a job."
Dorsett's 'My Cause, My Cleats'
The NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" program joins up with hundreds of players to support causes that are important to them. Participating players designed custom cleats that will be showcased through this weekend's games.
Patriots receiver Phillip Dorsett is among the players with custom cleats, which he showed to reporters in the Patriots locker room on Thursday. Dorsett is supporting relief efforts in the Bahamas, where his family's roots are deep. Hurricane Dorian ravaged the area in September, killing at least 65 people and causing property damage costing over $7 billion.
Dorsett and James White are both representing and supporting the Bahamas as part of the initiative.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].