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THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Chiefs' chances in Palko's inexperienced hands

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / November 16, 2011

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So much for reunion weekend.

With former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel out after injuring his throwing hand in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Broncos, the Chiefs will turn to journeyman Tyler Palko as the starter for Monday night’s game at Gillette Stadium.

“We feel good about Tyler or he wouldn’t be here, he wouldn’t be our No. 2,’’ said Chiefs coach Todd Haley. “I have a belief in Tyler.

“There’s not, in his case, a lot of regular-season action to go on, but I feel like he has done a great job while he’s been here of developing and getting better. He’s got a great understanding of how our offense works and what his role within it is.

“I think that showed just in the little opportunity that he got. He did a good job of stepping in and understanding what had to be done and executed. I’m optimistic.’’

Palko, 28, was undrafted in 2007 after being a three-year starter for the University of Pittsburgh. He has spent time with the Saints, Cardinals, and Steelers, and also played in the UFL and CFL.

A lefthander, Palko has an unorthodox delivery. He doesn’t have a strong arm, but he is fairly accurate. Against the Broncos, he completed 5 of 6 passes for 47 yards and ran for 8 yards.

“Well, let’s say Kansas City’s chances are greatly diminished,’’ an AFC personnel executive said of Palko playing for Cassel. “He’s a little bit of a gamer, a little moxie and savvy, but more of a reserve than a true No. 2. He’s never played against first-teamers.’’

In the preseason, Palko completed 37 of 62 passes (59.7 percent) with two touchdowns, two interceptions, and four sacks.

Palko doesn’t have great size (6 feet 1 inch, 215 pounds) but his 4.83 clocking in the 40-yard dash at the combine in ’07 shows that he has some decent speed.

The Chiefs’ offensive line has been borderline atrocious in the past two games.

Jared Gaither replaced Branden Albert at left tackle against the Broncos for three plays, but right tackle Barry Richardson has been the big problem. Second-round pick Rodney Hudson (Florida State) could get a look at right guard for Jon Asamoah, who also has struggled.

A look at the other positions for the Chiefs, who have lost two straight after reeling off four consecutive victories:

■Running back: With Jamaal Charles out for the year, Jackie Battle has emerged as the top back after sharing time with Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster. Battle had nine carries for 61 yards against the Broncos. McCluster has exceptional athletic ability but has proved unreliable.

■Receivers: There are emerging weapons. Dwayne Bown’s 19 touchdowns the past two seasons trail only Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (23). Bowe (6-2, 221) is a tough matchup and will be eager to get the ball against the Patriots secondary after Denver’s Champ Bailey limited him to two catches for 17 yards.

Steve Breaston signed from the Cardinals and has 33 catches for 483 yards. First-round pick Jonathan Baldwin (6-4, 230) is a matchup problem and he has played well of late. The tight ends aren’t much of a factor.

■Defensive line: The Chiefs knew the Broncos were going to run with quarterback Tim Tebow yet the Broncos still gained 244 yards on 55 carries. Former Raven Kelly Gregg is solid, but Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are up and down.

■Linebackers: This is the group the Patriots will have to shut down. Derrick Johnson (inside) and Tamba Hali (outside) have combined for seven sacks and 24 quarterback pressures. Johnson is outstanding in the middle against the run.

■Secondary: Left cornerback Brandon Flowers is top-notch and has four interceptions and 16 passes defensed. Brandon Carr is the other starter. Former Dolphin Travis Daniels is the nickel back. The Chiefs really have missed star safety Eric Berry, who was injured in the first game. Kendrick Lewis (three interceptions) and Reshard Langford are the safeties.

■Special teams: Kicker Ryan Succop got off to a slow start, but he has come on of late. Punter Dustin Colquitt is third in the AFC and sixth in the NFL with a 41.2-yard net average. Both returners, McCluster and Javier Arenas, can be dangerous.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com.

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