By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots secondary had an excellent game against the Chiefs on Monday, spearheading the defense toward holding Patrick Mahomes to just 19 points offensively. But they also disrupted things up front, and didn’t need to blitz in order to do so.
New England’s complementary defense gave them a real chance to win on Monday at Arrowhead Stadium. If not for some of the team’s worst quarterback play in the past quarter-century, the Patriots may have been able to pull off the upset. And they would’ve done it not just with their coverage, but with good pressure from just three or four guys, which allowed them to drop seven or eight into coverage on almost every play.
The Patriots pressured Mahomes with only three or four on 25 of 29 dropbacks, and generated pressure on 12 plays. Mahomes also made throws with the pocket collapsing on him and occasionally escaped to make throws on the run, as the defending Super Bowl MVP is known to do. But he wasn’t always comfortable back there, as the Patriots’ defensive front generated 18 total pressures.
Here’s how it broke down player-by-player:
Chase Winovich: 1 sack, 3 hurries
John Simon: 1 hit, 3 hurries
Deatrich Wise: 1 hit, 3 hurries
Adam Butler: 2 hurries
Byron Cowart: 1 hurry
Anfernee Jennings: 1 hurry
The Patriots also blitzed on two plays, once with both Devin and Jason McCourty on third-and-5 in the red zone, and again with Adrian Phillips in the second half. But this game was about getting pressure with only three or four, and the unit arguably exceeded expectations. Left tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Mitchell Schwartz had particularly tough times protecting Mahomes.
Winovich’s sack was the now-infamous “in the grasp” play in which the referees invoked that rule to blow the play dead. Mahomes was going to the ground and lost control of the football before he was down, and the ball landed in the hands of Shilique Calhoun. It should have been a fumble recovered by the Pats, which would have set them up deep into Chiefs territory. Instead, Kansas City was able to punt the ball away.
If Winovich keeps playing the way he is overall, or even gets better, then the Patriots defensive front-seven may be better off than believed entering the season. He’s one of only five players in the NFL with at least 2.5 sacks, six QB hits, one forced fumble, and 11 tackles, joining the Rams’ Aaron Donald, the Browns’ Myles Garrett, the Chiefs’ Chris Jones, and the Packers’ Za’Darius Smith.
The front-seven wasn’t without its issues. A handful of hurries could’ve been sacks if Mahomes wasn’t able to escape. The Chiefs’ key scoring drives came with a lack of pressure. Winovich over-pursued his rush lane on a key third-and-8 play in the fourth quarter that allowed Mahomes to scramble for a first down. But overall, it was encouraging to see the front-seven get pressure and make plays against the veteran O-line, without having to scheme it up or send extra rushers.
Some more Patriots notes from the Chiefs game and looking ahead…
Kelce burns them for the big one
The Chiefs had trouble making any kind of play for much of the game, let alone big plays down the field. But tight end Travis Kelce was able to break free from Joejuan Williams for the longest play of the night for the Chiefs, picking up a 45-yard catch-and-run on a drive where the Chiefs capitalized on a Brian Hoyer fumble in the red zone. Kelce got outstanding separation on a double-move to get open for the play, and four snaps later the Chiefs found the end zone to take a 10-point lead.
Williams had a good game against Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, and on Monday night Kelce had just two catches for 25 yards outside of the one big play. It just goes to show how challenging it is to hold down this offense, and the most dynamic receiving tight end in football, for 60 minutes.
Zuber back to practice squad
In one of the more surprising developments of Monday’s game, undrafted rookie wide receiver Isaiah Zuber was active over Jakobi Meyers. Zuber also out-snapped the returning Gunner Olszewski, 9-6. Zuber got one touch, taking a jet sweep for eight yards.
But apparently, Zuber’s usage wasn’t necessarily a sign that he’d passed Meyers or Olszewski on the depth chart. The Patriots moved Zuber back to the practice squad on Tuesday. This is the second time they’ve done it with Zuber, meaning they would have to pass him through waivers next time.
The expectation is that Olszewski will be eased back in and see his workload increase in the weeks ahead. Olszewski impressed in camp, so it’ll be interesting to see if he starts to get more looks in three-receiver sets, and who he would replace when he does.
Patriots-Broncos is still on, for now
In the wake of the news that Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19 and will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the status of Sunday’s scheduled game between the Patriots and Broncos will be worth monitoring. According to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, a source tells him: “It’s on. Will let you know if something changes.”
The second sentence should be more pertinent. This is a fluid situation. If more positive tests come up for the Patriots or Broncos, the plans could very well change. There have also been new positives for the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders, putting the status of their games in question as well.
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 email@example.com.