|11.22.11 at 9:20 am ET|
No team can overtake the Packers. The undefeated defending champions cruised to 10-0 and once again sit atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Perhaps their biggest test of the season will come on Thanksgiving against the Lions (9) on a short week of rest. The 49ers (2) are not far behind. The only thing preventing the Niners from an undefeated season is a Week 2 overtime loss to the Cowboys (11).
For the second straight week, another playoff contender lost its starting quarterback. Jay Cutler will miss the rest of the regular season, thus putting the Bears’ playoff hopes in jeopardy. Mark Sanchez is putting the Jets’ playoff hopes in jeopardy as well, but for a whole different reason. The lackluster play of Sanchez has resulted in back-to-back losses and drops the Jets three spots to 14.
Week 12 promises to have a major impact on the rankings. Six of the top 10 teams will face each other. The most intriguing matchup will involve the No. 2 and 3 teams, as the 49ers visit the Ravens. The Harbaugh brothers will face off in one of the most anticipated games of the year.
1. (1) Packers (10-0) ‘ Defending the Packers seems like an impossible task. The array of weapons on offense is the reason why the defending champs are undefeated. Dating back to last year, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have won 16 straight games. They’ll have to win 22 straight to finish the regular season undefeated and 25 to win the Super Bowl. That would be an amazing feat, and it looks more possible each week.
2. (2) 49ers (9-1) ‘ The turnover-to-takeaway ratio is always a fine statistic to gauge how good a team actually is. The 49ers lead the league with a plus-17. The Packers are in second place with a plus-12. The Niners’ eight straight wins are a result of protecting the football, causing turnovers, great coaching and a physical defense.
3. (3) Ravens (7-3) ‘ Ray Rice received 20 carries and helped lead the Ravens to a key divisional win. Baltimore wins more times than not when the play-calling on offense involves a strong mix of run and pass. For some reason, the Ravens at times get away from that philosophy. John Harbaugh‘s team is in first place but is playing the 9-1 Niners Thursday. The run-stifling defense of the Niners vs. Ray Rice promises to be a fun matchup to watch.
4. (4) Steelers (7-3) ‘ The 31 times Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked this season has taken a toll on the 6-foot-5 quarterback. Roethlisberger is nursing a fractured thumb, and the Steelers must find a way to limit the amount of hits he takes if they want to go deep into the playoffs. Four of the Steelers’ six remaining games are against teams with a sub-.500 record.
5. (5) Saints (7-3) ‘ Drew Brees and the Saints will get back to work in Week 12 against the Giants. Heading into the game, many are wondering if the Saints are capable of beating the Packers. Their defense must make a statement against Eli Manning and the New York passing attack. Defensively, the Saints have failed to generate much pressure on the quarterback.
6. (7) Falcons (6-4) ‘ Finally, Roddy White dominated a game like he did so many times last year. With Julio Jones sidelined with an injury, White stepped up in a big way during Sunday’s win over the Titans. Matt Ryan and the offense will need White to perform each week as they battle for a playoff spot.
7. (9) Patriots (7-3) ‘ It’s still difficult to determine whether the Patriots are a true Super Bowl-contending team. The next six games will shed little light on that answer. The combined record of the six remaining teams on the schedule is 20-40. Tom Brady and the Pats likely will wrap up the division and secure a high AFC seed. However, the lack of depth in the secondary makes the Pats an extremely beatable team.
8. (6) Bears (7-3) ‘ Jay Cutler‘s injury hurts the Bears in so many ways. This is a team that has lost just one game since October. The Bears have improved dramatically. The offensive line was preventing sacks and opening holes for Matt Forte, while Cutler was finally protecting the football. Now the playoff hopes of Bears fans are in the hands of Caleb Hanie. It’s tough to like their chances of getting one of the two wild card spots in the NFC with the Lions, Falcons, Giants and Cowboys all fighting as well.
9. (10) Lions (7-3) ‘ The resilient Lions have shown they are a team that can come back from any deficit. Once again, Matthew Stafford rallied his team to a win after trailing by double digits. The Lions’ play has been shaky of late, but they can breathe a little easier now that Bears QB Jay Cutler is out for the regular season. However, Detroit’s remaining schedule includes two games against the Packers and one against the Saints.
10. (8) Giants (6-4) ‘ Sunday night’s monumental loss to the Eagles could really hurt the Giants. The G-Men are tied for first place in the NFC East with games against the Saints and Packers next. The run game has been the Giants’ biggest weakness all year. Ahmad Bradshaw is out with an injury and Brandon Jacobs has been inconsistent. He averaged less than two yards per carry and rushed for just 21 against the Eagles.
11. (12) Cowboys (6-4) ‘ The Cowboys are undefeated in the month of November. Tony Romo and the offense have found a rhythm. The balanced attack of run and pass is making the offense difficult to defend against. Defensively, the Cowboys have shown signs of improvement. The run defense allowed just 2.5 yards per carry to the Redskins after being scorched by Fred Jackson last week for 8.8 yards per carry.
12. (13) Texans (7-3) ‘ The Matt Leinart era will begin in Houston this Sunday when the Texans take on the Jaguars. Leinart will make his first start since 2009. He’ll be hoping Andre Johnson will be alongside. Johnson has been out since Week 4 and is expected to return.
13. (15) Raiders (6-4) ‘ Carson Palmer‘s last two games are making doubters think twice before criticizing the team for giving up a first- and second-round draft pick. Palmer is getting into a rhythm with his receivers and has a high completion percentage. One thing that must be mentioned when talking about the Raiders is the amount of penalties they are flagged for. Hue Jackson has failed all season at getting his team to play more disciplined football. The Raiders had 12 penalties called against them against the Vikings. They’ll need to fix that issue if they want to remain in first place and make a run in the playoffs.
14. (11) Jets (5-5) ‘ Mark Sanchez continues to drag the Jets down week after week. The third-year quarterback has made a habit at making the same mistakes time after time. His poor decisions with the football have resulted in some backbreaking plays over the last few weeks. There are talented players all around him, but Sanchez will prevent Rex Ryan and the Jets from accomplishing their goal if he doesn’t protect the football.
15. (14) Bengals (6-4) ‘ Four of Andy Dalton‘s five interceptions over the last two games have come in the second half. The rookie has exceeded expectations this year, but at the same time he has been responsible for some untimely turnovers. The Bengals certainly are a team that has improved dramatically, but they don’t seem to be talented enough to beat the Ravens and Steelers this year.
16. (19) Eagles (4-6) ‘ The overhyped Eagles finally won a big game. However, it might be a little too late. They’ll have to win their remaining six games against the Patriots, Seahawks, Dolphins, Jets, Cowboys and Redskins to avoid becoming the most disappointing sports team since the 2011 Red Sox.
17. (20) Buccaneers (4-6) ‘ The Bucs proved they can compete with the best in the league when LaGarrette Blount is healthy and leading a strong run game. Blount provides balance to the offense, and that is exactly what the Bucs need to be successful. The carelessness Josh Freeman has shown with the football this year has to be a major concern for coach Raheem Morris. Following his three-interception performance last week, the third-year QB threw two more against the Packers, giving him a total of 15 for the season. Last year he threw just six.
18. (16) Titans (5-5) ‘ Since the Titans’ shocking Week 2 win over the Ravens, they’ve yet to beat a team over .500. Chris Johnson has made Titans owner Bud Adams second-guess his decision to give him a six-year, $56 million deal all year. Johnson averaged just 1.1 yards per carry in Sunday’s loss.
19. (18) Chargers (4-6) ‘ Five straight losses have sent the Chargers spiraling down to last place in one of the worst divisions in football. Philip Rivers and the Chargers haven’t won a game since Oct. 9. Norv Turner‘s days in San Diego are numbered if his underachieving team fails to make the playoffs again.
20. (17) Bills (5-5) ‘ The Bills got off to a fast start because they won the turnover battle. That hasn’t been the case lately. Since Week 6, the Bills are a minus-9 in the takeaway/giveaway category. Defenses are starting to figure out the Bills offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown nine interceptions in the last three games.
21. (21) Broncos (5-5) ‘ With Tim Tebow as the starter, the Broncos have a 4-1 record and are just one game out of first place in the AFC West. Tebow’s fourth-quarter performances have been amazing to watch. It’s clear he gives his team the best chance to win. However, John Elway has also made it clear that he doesn’t believe Tebow is the quarterback of the future in Denver. In a passing league, Tebow’s inability to complete passes eventually will hurt him. It will be interesting to see what role Tebow plays in the offense down the road.
22. (26) Dolphins (3-7) ‘ The Dolphins are just the third team in league history to win three straight games after losing seven straight. Matt Moore has been one of the biggest difference-makers. He’s thrown just one interception over the last three games.
23. (25) Seahawks (4-6) ‘ Ray Rice and Steven Jackson have been the feature backs against the Seahawks the last two weeks and have a combined 69 rushing yards. They’ve stopped the run well all year and now rank eighth in the league in rush defense. Pete Carroll needs a quarterback far better than Tarvaris Jackson to get Seattle back to the playoffs.
24. (23) Chiefs (4-6) ‘ It’s been a nightmare season for the Chiefs. The injury to Matt Cassel was the final straw. Tyler Palko didn’t make a strong case that he should be the starter going forward. It wouldn’t be surprising if we saw fifth-round draft pick Ricky Stanzi get some action behind center. With six games remaining, no team has a more difficult schedule ahead than the Chiefs. All six opponents have a winning percentage of .500 or better.
25. (24) Cardinals (3-7) ‘ It’s time to put an end to the Beanie Wells experiment in Arizona. Dating back to college, durability has always been an issue for Wells. The Cardinals need a strong running game to be successful, and it’s obvious Wells isn’t the answer.
26. (30) Browns (4-6) ‘ The Browns’ 14 points against the Jaguars was their highest total in five weeks. The multiple-touchdown performance from the offense was a rare but welcomed occurrence. Finding more offensive firepower is a must for the Browns when the season concludes.
27. (22) Jaguars (3-7) ‘ It’s clear Blaine Gabbert needs more talent around him for the Jaguars offense to be successful. Gabbert led a solid final drive but his receivers let him down with dropped passes. With Maurice Jones-Drew at running back, it seems like the Jaguars just need an upgrade at the receiver position to get the offense out of the gutter. The Jags are averaging just 12.5 points a game.
28. (27) Vikings (2-8) ‘ Offensive line help should be a major area the Vikings address in the offseason. They know they have a young quarterback with the potential of being one of the best in the league. Now they have to find the protection for him. Christian Ponder was sacked five times during Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. He was constantly chased out of the pocket but proved he can do some damage with his feet, racking up 71 yards on the ground.
29. (28) Redskins (3-7) ‘ It’s been a difficult but promising year for the Redskins. Injuries have beleaguered Mike Shanahan‘s team, but before that rash of injuries the Redskins were playing quality football. The one missing ingredient is a quarterback. If the Redskins can get a top-caliber QB in the offseason, they’ll be in a great position to make the playoffs in 2012.
30. (29) Rams (2-8) ‘ Sam Bradford, last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, has been sacked 31 times in just eight games this season. There aren’t many more damaging ways to stunt your franchise quarterback’s growth. Improving the offensive line will be No. 1 on the priorities list for the Rams.
31. (31) Panthers (2-8) ‘ Cam Newton put it best: “We put on a clinic on how to lose a game.” The young Panthers have done that all year, losing six close games. Newton has proven he could be the best quarterback in the league someday, but he still has a lot to work on. Ball security hasn’t been his strong point. He’s thrown 14 interceptions this year; four of them came against the Lions during Sunday’s loss.
32. (32) Colts (0-10) ‘ The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft is just a couple of weeks away from being wrapped up by the Colts. Indy’s remaining schedule includes games against the Patriots, Ravens and Texans.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.
|11.22.11 at 1:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — No segment of the Patriots defense – or team for that matter – has taken more heat than the secondary.
On Monday night at Gillette, Kyle Arrington continued a recent trend of firing back at the critics with two more interceptions in New England’s 34-3 romp over the hapless and hopeless Kansas City Chiefs.
Arrington’s two interceptions give him seven for the season and that is tops in the entire NFL.
The haters will say that’s because opponents are constantly throwing on the Pats because everyone can see that’s their weakness.
But still, the plays have to made and on Monday night, Arrington, with the help of Sterling Moore and Rob Ninkovich did exactly that.
With Chiefs driving down to the Patriots 34 after three consecutive completions by Tyler Palko, Ninkovich came in on a blindside blitz. Palko not only didn’t see him, he acted as if he couldn’t even feel him as the Patriots linebacker was breathing down his neck.
Palko got hit just as he released the ball. The ball was intended for Steve Breaston but Sterling Moore came over and hit the Chiefs receiver as hard as he hit Devin McCourty in the second quarter of the Jets game. The ball was jarred loose and fell into the hands of the attentive and opportunistic Arrington.
“It’s just being around the ball,” said Arrington, who added his second of the game on Kansas City’s second possession of the third quarter. “We try to be a very opportunistic defense. Plays like that present themselves, you just have to capitalize on them.”
Both of Arrington’s interceptions came as KC was driving in Patriots territory. The NFL lead in picks is great but there’s something that would make it even sweeter.
“If I can get into the end zone one of these times, that’d be good, too,” he said with a smile.
Bill Belichick has always made that a priority, going all the way back to the days of Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy. Make the interception and then take it to the house. Still, Belichick has to be pleased with what’s he’s seen from a secondary that had given up the most passing yards in the NFL heading into November. Two interceptions from Arrington and Phillip Adams with his first career interception.
“It looked like two of them were on tipped balls,” Belichick said. “Kyle has been very opportunistic this year being around the ball a lot. When you’re around it and close to it, those are the kind of plays you make. And then it looked like it was a throw there into coverage that Phil got. I thought that Kyle and our safeties there ‘ it looked like Sterling got a good hit on that first slim post route and batted it up in the air. Look, the more times you have guys around the ball, the better your chances are coming up with it, so we’re just trying to get close.” Read the rest of this entry »
|11.22.11 at 1:41 am ET|
FOXBORO — Julian Edelman is part of the small group of players who can identify themselves as quarterbacks-turned receivers. These days, he can consider himself a quarterback-turned linebacker.
The third-year receiver/return man/part-time defender found himself on the defensive side of the ball for the second straight week on Monday, and in addition to defensive back duties saw snaps as a nickel linebacker. While his most memorable play of the game came in the form of a 72-yard punt return in the third quarter, it was equally as impressive to see the former Kent State quarterback draw a holding penalty on Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope and make a tackle on receiver Jeremy Horne on consecutive plays.
Prior to this season, Edelman had never played on the defensive side of the ball before, except for playing a bit of safety in his freshman year at Woodside High School in California.
“It’s all pretty different,” Edelman said following the Patriots’ 34-3 victory over Kansas City. “Coaches are out there helping me out, and guys are out there lining me up. They’ve been helping me out, and that’s how I’ve been getting by.”
Edelman had 37 receptions as a rookie in 2009, but saw his offensive opportunities and production decrease last season, as he had just seven receptions for 86 yards. This season, he’s caught only three balls, so when coaches approached him about helping out on a Patriots’ defense that has been bit by the injury bug, he was ready to take on a new challenge.
“My first reaction was, ‘It’s an opportunity to get on the field. I love it,'” Edelman said, adding, “I just kind of said, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s ride.”
Edelman has been through a lot this year, both from a football standpoint and otherwise. On the field, he’s become a swiss-army knife (his words) a la Troy Brown, playing offense, special teams and defense. Off the field, he’s less than a month removed from being arrested for indecent assault and battery after he allegedly groped a woman at a bar on Halloween.
His meeting with the media following Monday’s game was his first availability since the arrest, and when asked for comment on the incident, could only offer, “I’ve been advised not to talk about it.”
What he could talk about was the versatility he’s been able to bring the Patriots in his third season. The former seventh-round pick had already made the transition from quarterback to special teamer/receiver, but moving to the other side of the ball is a different animal.
“It’s tough, because you’ve got to do stuff going backwards,” Edelman said. “You’ve got to be fluid. Those guys are good, and it’s tough. It’s just a totally different experience.”
Edelman did not have a reception Monday night, but with more than one way of being able to contribute, the Pats were glad to see him prove he can have a big night without factoring into the offensive picture.
“I’m not surprised with him. He’s a great player. He’s athletic,” Andre Carter said of Edelman following the game. “I know in general that he specializes in kickoff returns and punt returns, but we needed his help, and he did his due diligence as far as learning the scheme.”
Just how many meetings went into that due diligence remains to be seen. Edelman wouldn’t say how much extra time he’s had to put into being defensively learned, but whatever he’s doing hasn’t hurt them yet.
|11.22.11 at 1:31 am ET|
Well, are you impressed?
It’s almost an unfair question to ask after Patriots 34, Chiefs 3. It was a win in a game that they couldn’t possibly win in a Big Picture sense. Think about it: If this game was even quasi-competitive for 60 minutes you would spend the two days before Thanksgiving (and probably the two after) reading and listening to 50,000 cover bands taking a shot at the “This team isn’t winning a Super Bowl, folks” classic. The football sky would be falling and falling fast.
And when the Patriots do exactly what they are supposed to do against a sub-.500 team (in the worst division in the conference) with plenty of injuries and a starting quarterback who was released by the California Redwoods of the UFL it’s awfully tough to file it as evidence when trying to build a case for a trip to Indianapolis in February. If this was a group that had your trust this would have been viewed as one of those games good teams win.
But it’s hard to shake the idea that what happened on Monday night meant nothing, was simply another parenthesis before the playoffs, the only games that matter for Belichick and Brady. What do we now know that we didn’t five minutes before kickoff on Monday night? Was there any doubt about the greatness of Rob Gronkowski? Shouldn’t have been, and let’s be clear about this: Gronkowkski is on pace to have the greatest season by any tight end in history — 90 catches, 1,288 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sure, Tom Brady was so-so for the first half, but didn’t he finish with the kind of numbers — 15-of-27, 234 yards, two TDs, 109.2 passer rating — you expected? Andre Carter, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mark Anderson, Kyle Arrington all had standout performances, but will any of those efforts against this Kansas City team translate when it really matters?
Look, I think it’s absolutely fair to believe that this is a defense that is improving every week. They were terrific for 55 minutes against the Giants, made things miserable for Mark Sanchez last Sunday and held Palko (not exactly Joe Montana — or even Matt Cassel — but what can you do?) to a 49.9 passer rating. Carter is having an All-Pro season, Arrington leads the NFL in interceptions, Jerod Mayo looks really healthy for the first time since his October MCL injury, all positive stuff.
And I think it’s possible that a team can figure it out against mediocre opponents — maybe a light went off for this defense tonight that will spark a run of superior football for the rest of the season. Who knows?
But reality is reality (yup, I get paid for that kind of cutting insight). You and I will not trust this team — particularly this defense — until they put up these kind of numbers in a postseason game, or at least do so against an elite quarterback. Let’s be fair, for all the warm and fuzzies that will be handed out over the next few days the truth is this: The image of Ben Roethlisberger shredding the Patriots three weeks ago will last longer than the image of Tyler Palko lobbing a pass into triple coverage on a fourth-quarter Philip Adams interception (one of the five worst passes in history — he looked like a guy doing a sensational impression of Johnny Damon throwing a football).
And the doubt will linger all the way to the postseason. Why? Take a look at the quarterbacks the Patriots face the rest of the season:
Injured Micheal Vick/Vince Young
Tim Tebow (and if the Broncos keep winning this game will be flexed to Sunday night)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (November passer rating of 47.7)
No Brees or Rodgers or Roethlisberger. Again, that’s not the fault of the Patriots. But is there a quarterback on that list that scares you, that is (remember, Vick is injured) anywhere close to that elite class? Nope. And that’s the test this defense ultimately will have to pass.
And there are other questions (the offensive line — Matt Light left Gillette with a boot on his right foot Monday — was terrible again vs. a pathetic Kansas City pass rush), but come on — you still believe that this offense can win a Super Bowl, right? OK, there needs to be a more consistent rushing attack, and Brady has to be protected (raise your hand if you had Bernard Pollard flashbacks with Brady still in the game — throwing — with a 27-3 lead and under two minutes left), but there an established track record with the offense that doesn’t exist with the defense.
The AFC East race is over. A three-game (sweep of Jets) lead with this schedule? Forget it. The one or two seed is almost a certainty as well. This team is going to host a postseason game for the third straight season. It’s a lock.
And so is this: We will have no idea what will happen when that playoff game starts, no confidence that a corner has been turned. The stink of the losses to Baltimore and the Jets plus the lack of production (early in the season) and star power on the defense will guarantee suspicion.
It’s fine to be impressed with Patriots 34, Chiefs 3. It’s another thing to be convinced.
|11.22.11 at 12:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — The key play of the Patriots’ 34-3 win over the Chiefs on Monday came midway through the third quarter. With New England holding a 17-3 lead and 9:43 remaining in the quarter, Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt punted the ball away from the Chiefs’ 16-yard line. Julian Edelman gathered the ball in at the New England 28, and it was off to the races.
The former collegiate quarterback — who also saw time at defensive back on several occasions Monday night — took the ball back 72 yards for the touchdown. It was the first return for a touchdown all season for the Patriots.
‘We held the gunners,’ Edelman said. ‘We got those guys, internal guys did a good job blocking their guys. As a punt returner, you’ve got to make one miss, get back to your return side and we executed the play pretty well. I thought it was good to get one.’
He got several big blocks, including one from fellow receiver Wes Welker.
‘I really didn’t see it. I’ll have to see it, but I saw that we had our gunners,’ Edelman said. ‘That’s what you’ve got to do. (The) internal guys held their guys, and we executed the play.’
‘Our punt return team has been doing a good job,’ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘Those guys work hard and Julian’s worked hard trying to make it happen. Sometimes, you get frustrated because you’re just a step away, or you get a bad kick when you get good blocking, or you get a good kick and miss a block or whatever it is.
‘But (tonight) it game together. He broke a couple tackles, and we kind of had them sealed off there. So it was a big play in the game and I think it really, I don’t want to say it put it out of reach, but it certainly put a big gap in the game.’
|11.21.11 at 11:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Though it took some time before the rout was on, the Patriots overcame a bit of early scoreboard confusion and dropped the Chiefs, 34-3, Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
Led by Tyler Palko, who was making his first career start, the Chiefs jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Pats hit their offensive stride and got a big night out of Rob Gronkowski, who had two touchdowns in the win. The Pats both intercepted and sacked Palko three times, while Tom Brady completed 15-of-27 passes for 234 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The 7-3 Pats will head to Philadelphia next week to face the Eagles.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Gronkowski had his fourth two-touchdown game this season, and the sixth of his career. Brady found the second-year tight end wide open over the middle in the second quarter, hitting Gronkowski for a 52-yard touchdown, the longest of No. 87’s career. The play was reviewed to determine whether he stayed in bounds when he made Kendrick Lewis miss along the sideline, and was confirmed upon the review.
Early in the third quarter, Brady hit Gronkowski behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-2 for a 19-yard touchdown. Gronkowski now has 20 career touchdowns after racking up 10 as a rookie. The second-year player is just the sixth tight end in NFL history with 10 or more touchdowns in two seasons.
– What didn’t Julian Edelman do Monday night? With the Pats thin on defense, the quarterback-turned-receiver saw time as both a defensive back and even linebacker. He drew a holding penalty on Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope in the second quarter, and on the following play recorded a tackle.
The highlight of Edelman’s night came when he shifted his way to a 72-yard punt return in the third quarter. It was his second career punt return touchdown, and he joined Troy Brown (three), Irving Fryar (three) and Mike Haynes (two) as the only Patriots to return multiple punts for touchdowns.
– Sure, the Pats probably weren’t expecting to allow the first points of the game, but give their red zone defense credit for tightening up when the Chiefs were on the doorstep in the first quarter. After Thomas Jones bounced it to the outside for a 26-yard scamper to set the Chiefs up for a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, the Pats took advantage of an illegal shift penalty and stopped the Chiefs’ rushing bids to set up a 26-yard field goal from Ryan Succop. The first-quarter field goal provided the only three points the Chiefs would get on the night.
– Though he didn’t throw for a ton of yards on the night, Brady did pass Boomer Esiason for 15th on the all-time passing yards list.
– Kyle Arrington added two more interceptions to his total, and now leads the league with seven picks on the season. Both of his interceptions came off tipped balls. He was beaten in the second quarter by Steve Breaston for a 19-yard Chiefs completion, but on the following play, Rob Ninkovich hit Palko as he was throwing, and the result was a semi-catchable ball that Breaston essentially tipped into the hands of Arrington. The cornerback picked up his seventh pick when he secured a ball off the hands of Jonathan Baldwin. Arrington’s seven interceptions are two more than any other player in the league.
There was an injury scare for the corner, as Arrington remained down in the fourth quarter following a 25-yard reception by Dwayne Bowe in which Arrington tackled the Kansas City receiver. Luckily for the Pats, he was back in the game in short order. With Devin McCourty inactive due to a shoulder injury he suffered last week, the Pats can ill-afford more injuries in their secondary.
– Arrington wasn’t the only one to pick off Palko, who was making his first career start. Palko showed his inexperience when he threw into triple coverage looking for Breaston in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Phillip Adams came up with the easy interception, the first of his career.
– Cancer survivor Marcus Cannon was active for the first time as a member of the Patriots, and he got into the game late in the fourth quarter. Cannon was one of the top guard prospects in the draft, but fell to the fifth round after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma during the combine. It was certainly a feel-good moment for the rookie lineman and the Patriots.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Wes Welker, who entered the night leading the NFL in both receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,006), was not targeted once in the first half. Aside from an eight-yard completion to Deion Branch in the second quarter, Brady’s focus was almost exclusively on the tight ends early on, and he found success in connecting with Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Welker was targeted more in the second half, and had a pair of fourth-quarter receptions.
– Sebastian Vollmer was little more than a miniature traffic cone for Tamba Hali. He barely deterred the pass-rushing Penn State product on his second-quarter sack of Brady, which brought the Pats back to their own 6-yard line and forced them to punt on fourth-and-21. There were more instances in which Vollmer was beaten with ease, but none as glaring as Hali’s sack.
– Speaking of sacks, the Patriots allowed more than they would have liked. The Chiefs entered the game with just nine sacks on the season, but they were able to pick up three on the night. In addition to Hali’s second-quarter sack, both Amon Gordon and Wallace Gilberry were able to get to Brady behind the line of scrimmage. Brady fumbled on Gilberry’s sack, with Allen Bailey recovering at the Kansas City 27 in the second quarter. The play was the Pats’ lone turnover of the night.
|11.21.11 at 10:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 7-3 lead on the Chiefs. Here are a couple of quick notes on the first half:
‘¢Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished the first half 8-for-16 for 133 and one touchdown, while Rob Gronkowski had three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s Tyler Palko was 10-for-14 for 111 yards and one pick, while Thomas Jones had seven carries for47 yards.
‘¢The Patriots opened with some interesting wrinkles on defense, including the presence of wide receiver Julian Edelman as a defensive back on several snaps in the first half. (Edelman played four snaps at the position a week ago in the win over the Jets.) The Patriots also utilized Jermaine Cunningham as more of an outside linebacker (he had spent more time at defensive end) throughout portions of the first half, a surprise for someone who had been buried on the depth chart as of late. Edelman was a bit of a mixed bag, making a couple of nice tackles but getting steamrolled on a couple of other plays. (He did a nice job drawing a hold on a running play, getting Kansas City tight end Leonard Pope flagged, which negated a big run for the Chiefs.)
‘¢The defensive highlight of the first half came with just over two minutes left in the second quarter and Kansas City driving. New England cornerback Kyle Arrington stepped into front of a Palko pass for Steve Breaston and returned the ball to the New England 46-yard line. It was Arrington’s sixth pick of the season, which leads the league. (On the play, Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich flattened Palko, which may have affected the throw.) That set the stage for New England’s last drive of the half, an eight-play, 51-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard field goal from Gostkowski to make it 10-3 at halftime.
‘¢Overall, the Patriots were able to hold the Chiefs to just three first-half points, yielding a 26-yard field goal with 1:30 left in the first to make it 3-0. Tyler Palko and the rest of the Kansas City offense wasn’t afraid to take some shots, going downfield on occasion, and even shaking things up with a modified Wildcat on one play. That daring extended to special teams, where the Chiefs tried a surprise onside kick after taking a 3-0 lead. (Of course, that sense of daring was certainly debatable, as Kansas City coach Todd Haley decided not to go for in on fourth and one in New England territory earlier in the half.)
‘¢Meanwhile, the New England offense was sluggish early, as the Patriots first two series ended with punts and the third was halted when Brady was sacked and fumbled the football, giving the Chiefs the ball at their own 27-yard line. The Patriots finally got on the board with 4:18 left in the first half on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Gronkowski where Gronkowski was able to beat linebacker Derrick Johnson and stay inbounds down the Kansas City sideline for the score. (It was the longest touchdown catch of Gronkowski’s career.)