By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Chiefs offense embarrassed the Ravens Monday night. You can rest assured that Bill Belichick and the Patriots will not be subject to the same embarrassment.
Kansas City are the defending Super Bowl champions playing at home, while Tom Brady is gone from New England, so it’s no surprise that the Chiefs are 6.5-point favorites when they take on the Patriots on Sunday at a partially packed Arrowhead Stadium. But it would be shocking if the Patriots had the same defensive approach that the Ravens did, and if they are similarly powerless to slow down this freight train.
The Patriots certainly have a better, deeper secondary than the Ravens do, and that’s why you’re likely to see plenty of snaps with seven, perhaps even eight defensive backs on the field. Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger may be your de facto “linebackers” for most of the night. It may be the best way to combat a group of weapons so fast that Bill Belichick had to go back 30 years to find a comparison.
“I mean, those run-and-shoot teams [from the 1990s], they had four receivers on the field – you know, [Darrel] Mouse Davis and that style of offense that Houston [Oilers] ran,” Belichick said in a video conference Wednesday. “I would say we played against them with other teams as well. But, June [Jones] did it in Atlanta and then Mouse did it in Detroit. When you put four receivers out there and a fast back, like a Barry Sanders or somebody like that, and you put four receivers out there than run probably 4.4 or sub-4.4, I mean, that’s a lot of speed.”
One thing you won’t see much of from the Patriots, if at all, is blitzing. Baltimore continually (and inexplicably) blitzed Patrick Mahomes on Monday night, and Mahomes tuned them up, going 17-for-21 for 219 yards and three touchdowns on those plays. It’s more likely the Patriots muddy up the field with their coverage and do their best in man-to-man.
There’s no good way to defend the Chiefs offense. But the Patriots may have the right personnel to get a few key stops and keep the game competitive. And of course, they have the coaching and discipline to stick to their plan without panicking. That’s why the game should be expected to come down to the final minutes, as it usually does between these two teams and these two coaches.
There’s a lot more to unpack about this game. Here are some other important topics to preview before the Patriots take on the Chiefs on Sunday at 4:25 on CBS.
The Patriots got James White, Damien Harris, and Gunner Olszewski back at practice on Wednesday. White will almost certainly go right back into the lineup. Harris and Olszewski are question marks, but their presence would be much-welcomed in a game where the Pats may need to keep pace with the Chiefs.
New England has 21 days to activate Harris or Olszewski, so they may take their time. But even just getting White back in the mix will be a huge help for an offense that’s going to need to be on point and take care of the football.
The Chiefs ran some kind of pre-snap motion on 56 of 75 offensive snaps against the Ravens (74.7 percent). It’s normal for a West Coast offense to send players in motion on about half of their snaps, but clearly, Andy Reid and the Chiefs take it to another level. Communication is key against this kind of offense, as the Patriots will need to make sure they don’t get caught in total mismatches.
“All things that we’ve seen before, but they do cause an adjustment defensively and some type of communication,” Belichick said. “So, we know we’re going to see it, we know we have to be ready for multiple formations and shifts and motions and formation indicators, things like that. They do a good job of that. So, that’s probably an important part of setting the table for the play that they actually run, because what happens before is either a deception or to try to gain some type of advantage by putting a guy in motion to try to out-leverage or put a guy in a difficult position for the defense to handle.”
Don’t Give ‘Em An Inch
Mahomes and the Chiefs offense is of course known for big plays down the field, but they make a lot of short-to-intermediate passes as well, this being a West Coast offense. Teams have done their best to take the big plays away this season, but Mahomes has responded by paper-cutting them to death.
Kansas City went 75 yards to the end zone in 11 plays against the Texans in the season opener. They went 59 yards in 10 plays against the Chargers. They went 68 yards in 13 plays against the Ravens. Though the Chiefs proved capable of grinding their way to pay dirt, making them earn every yard should be the strategy.
“No down and distance is safe,” said Devin McCourty. “You watch the Chargers game, Mahomes scrambles on third-and-21 and gets 21 1/2. You know, he puts his head down, realizes what he needs, and he just falls forward on a tackle. So we know that. We know this offensive is dangerous it’s explosive and it doesn’t really matter. First-and-10, second-and-five, third-and-1. Like none of that matters. They always have big-play capability.
“So we understand that’s not going to really change us. We got to be on point every play and try to not give up the big one. And, you know, just in one chunk play.”
The Mystery Of Time
Ultimately, through all the schematic bloviating and the X’s and O’s, this game may ultimately come down to the final two minutes. And from there, which coach-quarterback duo manages the end of the game better?
It will be interesting to see if Andy Reid starts doing the Andy Reid thing and forgets how clocks work. And Belichick has often shown a willingness to keep his timeouts in his pocket to let his opponent hang himself. Reid is fortunate to have the best quarterback in the world managing plays on the field. But if you’re betting on who manages the clock enough to have the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win, Cam Newton and Belichick are the safer choice.
Podcast: Can The Patriots Upset The Champs?
Alex Barth and I discussed the Chiefs’ performance against the Ravens and what to look for when they face the Patriots. Have a listen below.
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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at firstname.lastname@example.org.