Since Tom Brady assumed the regular duties as starting quarterback in 2001, the assumption was the New England Patriots would rarely have trouble scoring. Now the 2-1 Patriots are actually relying on their defense while Brady tries to get his offense on track against the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Last season, the Patriots were seventh in total offense and third with 27.8 points per game. In 2014 they are ranked 26th in total offense and scoring 22 points per game, and the Pats have instead won two straight thanks to their No. 3-ranked defense allowing 272.7 total yards and 16.3 ppg. New England’s also forced eight turnovers, including six interceptions, tied for first in the NFL. Yet Brady hasn’t made the most of the extra opportunities. He’s yet to throw an interception, but Brady’s on pace for career lows in accuracy (58.8 percent) and yards per pass attempt (5.5).
As a result, or at least in part, New England’s running game as suffered. Even with a talented corps of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, the Pats are No. 22 in the league with 105 rushing yards per game.
In their Week 3 victory over Oakland, one of Brady’s scoring drives resulted in a touchdown, and the Pats were forced to punt on five of their 10 drives. They also went 1-for-4 in the red zone.
Before Week 3, the Chiefs had their own set of offensive woes to solve as well. K.C. is coming off its first victory of the season, a 34-15 road win over Miami thanks to 132 rushing yards and a touchdown from back-up running back Knile Davis, who was filling in for injured All-Pro rusher Jamaal Charles.
After a disappointing 19-yard, seven-carry performance in Week 1, Charles endured an ankle injury in Week 2 against Denver and sat out against the Dolphins. He participated in practice Thursday, and head coach Andy Reid reportedly thinks Charles will suit up against New England.
But before Davis’s outburst, the Chiefs had scored 10 and 17 points in their first two games respectively, with quarterback Alex Smith tossing an uncharacteristically high three interceptions in the Week 1 loss to Tennessee. Smith didn’t throw his third pick of the 2013 season until K.C.’s fifth game.
However Smith has had little time to operate in the pocket. The Chiefs offensive line has given up 11 sacks, the second-highest mark in the NFL. That kind of pocket pressure has dropped K.C.’s passing offense to 26th in the league, with last year’s leading receiver Dwayne Bowe held to six catches for 72 yards. However second-year tight end Travis Kelce has emerged after missing all but one game last season due to a knee injury. Kelce’s totaled 10 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown.
As for injuries, both sides do have some reasonable concerns. Earlier this week it was revealed that K.C. safety Eric Berry is suffering from a high ankle sprain. Berry went down against Denver and missed the Miami game, and he was limited in practice on Thursday. Charles (ankle), linebacker Tamba Hali (ankle/knee), running back Joe McKnight (Achilles), cornerback Sean Smith (groin) and running back and specials teams player De’Anthony Thomas were also limited in practice according to the team’s official site.
The New England defense is also banged up. Defensive end Michael Buchanan (ankle), linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh), cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder), safety Don Jones and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (foot) were limited participants in practice Thursday. Offensive lineman Dan Connolly (foot) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) were also limited.
Start Time: Monday, 8:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: New England -3.5
Over/Under: 45 points
Prediction: New England 27, Kansas City 17