Two Keys to a Patriots Victory Against Kansas City


The New England Patriots received a bounce back effort from their defense last Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.  Outside of a horrific ending to the first half, the defense thoroughly dominated the Raiders offense and led the Patriots to victory.  They're going to have their hands full this weekend, in what will be their most difficult challenge of the year.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Though they will need a strong defensive effort on Sunday, I think it's going to fall to the offense to win this game.  That doesn't meant they need to put up 35 points.  If they do the two things below, they'll put themselves in a great position to win. 

Third Down Conversions

In three games against the Mahomes-led Chiefs, New England is 2-1.  There's an overarching theme in those contests; you win by keeping Mahomes off of the field.  In their two victories, New England possessed the ball for a combined 80+ minutes, while Kansas City held it for 44+ minutes.  In the lone loss, the Chiefs owned a time of possession advantage of 34 minutes to 25 minutes. 

It's the same philosophy that teams applied towards Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their primes.  Those guys can still beat you even if they are barely on the field, but their margin for error becomes extremely small. 

Long, sustained drives are going to be paramount on Sunday afternoon.  How do you sustain drives?  By converting on third down.  New England has converted on 45% of their third downs so far this year, good for 11th in the league.  In the two wins against Mahomes, the Pats have converted on 20 of their 32 third downs.  In the one loss, just 2 of 12.

Converting on third downs isn't just about converting on third downs.  You got that?  Success on first and second downs can put you in more favorable third down situations.  Those third and short yardage situations are easier to convert, even more so when you have a guy like Newton.  With a dual-threat quarterback, the playbook really opens up in short yardage situation and makes the defense's job that much harder. 

Newton's known for his ability to throw the ball downfield, I'm not looking for that on Sunday.  Unless they find themselves facing a large deficit, then let it fly.  However, the offense that is going to get it done against Kansas City is the old school Patriot offense; death by a thousand paper cuts.  Five yards here, four yards there.  Run the ball a bunch, hit those underneath throws and screen passes and let the receivers get a few yards at a time.

The Chiefs have one of the worst run defenses through the first three games, while the Patriots are atop the league in rush offense.  They have to lean on that rushing attack on Sunday afternoon to move the chains, sustain drives and keep the Chiefs' offense off of the field.

Red Zone Efficiency

It's not enough to just sustain drives against the Chiefs, you have to finish them off in the endzone.  Field goals aren't going to cut it.  In last year's loss, the Pats had two fourth quarter red zone trips that resulted in just 3 points.  We all know they got screwed on the N'Keal Harry play, but the point remains, red zone field goals won't get it done. 

Again, that's where Newton comes in handy.  He provides a redzone element that the Patriots have never had, and defenses have never had to prepare for.  Josh McDaniels can get creative; maybe not as creative as Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy, but more creative than he could get with Tom Brady. 

The Chiefs' defense is also much improved from the past few times these teams have faced off.  That makes finishing red zone trips in the endzone even more important.  In the AFC Championship victory, the Pats had five red zone trips.  In the regular season victory in that same season, they had six.  I wouldn't anticipate that many trips on Sunday.  When New England has a red zone opportunity, they have to take advantage because they may not get many. 

If New England can sustain drives and finish them in the endzone on Sunday, they'll put themselves in a good position to come away with a win.

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Two Keys to a Patriots Victory Against Kansas City
Two Keys to a Patriots Victory Against Kansas City
Boston Sports Syndicate
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