After slow start, Patriots rout Chiefs
Gronkowski had two touchdowns in 34-3 victory
FOXBOROUGH It took them a while to get rolling against the Chiefs, but once the Patriots did, there was no stopping them.
Keyed by tight end Rob Gronkowskis two-touchdown night and two right-place, right-time interceptions by Kyle Arrington, New England rolled over Kansas City, 34-3, and moved into a tie with Baltimore and Houston for the best record in the AFC at 7-3.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was battered in the first half and hit only 8 of 16 passes for 133 yards, was sacked three times and hit on a few other occasions. Not coincidentally, the Patriots were 0-for-5 on third downs in the opening 30 minutes.
"Obviously the first half we didn't do anything, I don't think it could have gotten much worse than what we did in the first half," Brady said. "But we came out strong in the second half and took control in the third quarter."
Brady finished 15-for-27 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Gronkowski had four receptions for 94 yards, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 20 times for 81 yards.
Julian Edelman returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown.
Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko, making his first NFL start, hit 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards, but was intercepted three times.
The Patriots went into halftime with a 10-3 lead following a play-action pass to Gronkowski, who found himself open in the middle of the field. Safety Kendrick Lewis was the only player he had to beat, and Lewis dove low at Gronkowskis legs. Gronkowski was knocked off stride, but not out of bounds, and he ran the final 10 yards to the goal line, bending at the waist as though he were a racer crossing the finish line at the end of the 52-yard touchdown.
Arrington, who now has a league-leading seven interceptions, set up the Pats second score, his interception and 28-yard return giving New England the ball near midfield. The Pats got to the Chiefs three, but were unable to convert on third down, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski came on for a 21-yard field goal.
"We try to be a very opportunistic defense. when plays like that present themselves, people just capitalize on them, and if I can get in the end zone one of these times, that would be good, too," Arrington said.
Kansas City actually held the lead at the end of the first quarter. Aided by a big punt return from Javier Arenas that gave them the ball at their own 47, the Chiefs rode their three running backs Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster, into the red zone. But the Pats shut them down, with Andre Carter dropping Palko for a six-yard loss on second down; two plays later, Ryan Succop converted a 26-yard field goal.
The Patriots pitched a shutout the rest of the way.
The New England defense, already dealing with its share of injuries, looked to be in dire straits just minutes into the game when safety James Ihedigbo left the field with a shoulder injury. Ihedigbo has been dealing with a shoulder injury for several weeks, and left the field with team trainers.
However, just after an announcement was made that he was questionable to return to the game, Ihedigbo came back on the field and re-entered the Patriots huddle.
When Ihedigbo went out, Ross Ventrone who was elevated off the practice squad yet again before the game - replaced him, a sign that Sergio Brown is deep in the doghouse.
Edelman played a number of snaps as the teams dime back on defense, showing that his late-game cameo against the Jets was more than a one-time thing.
The Pats got the ball to start the third quarter, and thats when they began to pull away from the Chiefs, who have been incredibly streaky this season. Kansas City began the year with three straight losses, then won four straight, and now have three consecutive losses again, falling to 4-6 in the AFC West.
A screen pass to Green-Ellis on the first snap of the second half went for 25 yards; Green-Ellis also gained 32 rushing yards on the drive, which ended with Gronkowskis second touchdown. He again took a hard shot to his legs and kept going, but this time he was knocked for a loop, landing hard on his neck/upper back.
He looked woozy for a moment, but again had to finish the play with his now-customary spike. The Patriots medical staff took a look at him on the sideline, but deemed Gronkowski to be ok, and he returned to the game.
Edelman gave the Pats a 24-3 cushion after the defense forced the Chiefs to go three-and-out, taking Dustin Colquitts punt back for a 72-yard touchdown.
A field goal on the final play of the third quarter after Aaron Hernandez dropped an end-zone pass on third-and-1 increased the lead further.
Kansas City did threaten in the fourth quarter, but Phillip Adams picked off Palko in the end zone to stop the threat.
"We're 7-3, I don't think we're really where we had hoped to be at this point, but we've got our whole season ahead of us, and hopefully we can come out and have a good week of practice and move forward," Brady said.