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JACKIE MACMULLAN

'D' makes grade again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Get in, grab the win, get out.

The New England Patriots are awfully good at that.

You have to be when your secondary is still banged up, and your young guys filling in back there finally look vulnerable. You have to be when there are 78,431 fans wearing blood red, imploring you to mess up, shouting so vociferously "you couldn't even hear the person standing right next you," reported Richard Seymour.

"[Arrowhead] is the loudest outdoor stadium in the league," concurred linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "It's so loud you can't hear yourself think."

But the Patriots did think. They always do. Above all, they resort to their football intelligence when the environment is hostile, the game is close, and air is ripe for an upset. There's a reason New England is 9-1 this morning, and Kansas City is 3-7.

One team made the big plays, and the other didn't.

It wasn't a clean getaway, that's for sure. The Patriots resembled Matt Damon at the end of "The Bourne Identity"; your heroes absorbed their share of hits and suffered a few bumps and bruises, but still were able to escape under their own power.

Don't waste your time applying style points to this critical 27-19 road victory. Fret about some big plays that quarterback Trent Green provided by hooking up with Eddie Kennison and twice burning Earthwind Moreland for touchdown passes if you must, but remember this is the most hair-raising offense in the league -- for everyone, never mind players pressed into service because of injuries to Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. Moreland was hardly alone in his struggles. Randall Gay was burned by Dick Vermeil's arsenal, and so, at times, were veteran Rodney Harrison and Asante Samuel.

"Defensively, we were kind of scrambling around in the secondary, from the second quarter on," said coach Bill Belichick. "That's the way it goes sometimes."

"How many points did they score?" asked Seymour. "Nineteen? That don't sound like no high-powered offense to me."

Consider the waning minutes of the first half, after the Chiefs, down, 17-10, elected to go for it on fourth and 1 from the 23-yard line. Running back Derrick Blaylock got the 1 yard for the first down, then put his team in position to score with a reception for a first and goal from the 9. New England's defense was bending, but would it break?

There is Bruschi breaking up a pass on first down. There is an errant throw from Green on second down. And there is Harrison picking it off in the end zone on third down.

"We've got playmakers on defense," said Bruschi. "We have all sorts of guys that step up in that situation. Are we surprised? No. We've been doing this a long time. Our only concern is how many points are on the board at the end of the game."

The final ledger was still at issue right down to the final ticks of the clock. The Chiefs had the ball with 1:39 to play, and no one had to remind New England that a touchdown and a 2-point conversion could send it into overtime. McGinest put that final rally to rest by slamming Green into the dirt as he faded back for one last pass on fourth down.

"I fell into another one," said McGinest, grinning. "Hey, this was a tough team, and a tough environment. Their offense is so hard to stop. Our best defense tonight was a good offense."

Oh, that's right. The offense. We've come this far without mentioning that Tom Brady threw for 315 yards, and 105 of them went by way of Deion Branch, who finally returned to the lineup after missing nine weeks with a knee injury. We would be remiss if we did not mention that Corey Dillon was the perfect offensive complement, gaining 98 yards on 26 carries, and plowing his way into the end zone twice. They, too, came up with timely plays.

Yet, in the end, it was the defense that bent but did not break that should take home the game ball.

"You've got to commend these guys," said Harrison afterward. "[The Chiefs] are so talented offensively.

"We were fortunate. We had some mental breakdowns. We can say `guys should have done this,' or `guys should have done that,' and that's frustrating. We knew they were going to make plays, but you don't want them to make easy plays.

"They throw a lot of deceptions at you. It's a lot to take in. We'll correct it. If we don't, it will smell trouble in the future." The future is six days from now, when the defensive-minded Baltimore Ravens come to Foxborough. In the meantime, it's awfully nice to have those offensive-minded Kansas City Chiefs in the rear view mirror."Grab a victory, and get back home," Harrison said. "I'm not thinking about these guys anymore." Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is macmullan@globe.com.

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