FOXBOROUGH – And so it begins. The Patriots’ march to the AFC East title and postseason began nearly exactly as we thought it would, with a 34-3 victory over the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.
Let’s take a quick look back:
WHY DID THE PATRIOTS WIN?
The defense held a first-time starting quarterback in check and gave him enough plays to hang himself (killer interceptions after six, nine and 10 plays). The offense finally figured out the Chiefs’ defense in the second half. Rob Gronkowski is a beast. Julian Edelman showed there’s actual life in the Patriots’ return game. And the Chiefs’ didn’t execute their gimmicks well enough.
- CB Kyle Arrington (right arm) returned to the game.
- C Dan Connolly (groin) returned but didn’t look great.
- S James Ihedigbo (shoulder) returned to the game
- LT Matt Light (right ankle) did not return and was last seen leaving in a walking boot.
- WR Deion Branch (hamstring) returned.
- TE Rob Gronkowski (neck) returned.
- Scoring defense: The Patriots gave up three points. Yeah, it was against Tyler Palko. But no touchdowns is still no touchdowns.
- Special teams: The coverage units were OK, but the much maligned return units got a boost with Julian Edelman’s 72-yard punt return. Punter Zoltan Mesko continued his strong season with a 50.8 average on four punts.
- Debuts: Great to see OL Marcus Cannon get playing time after starting chemotherapy around the time of the draft. And there was a sighting of second-round pick Shane Vereen, who had 39 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
THREE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT
- Slow-starting offense: The Patriots haven’t scored more than 13 points in the first half since the Oakland game on Oct. 2 – when they did it four-straight times to open the season. Shoddy execution was again the culprit. An error here. Another error there. It just needs to be cleaner to start.
- Pass protection:We’ll have to check out the film on Tuesday, but it sure looked shoddy, especially in the first half. Sebastian Vollmer had a rough go against Pro Bowler Tamba Hali.
- Tackling: It didn’t appear to be great at first blush, but it was good enough. Will need to be better against more talented teams, like the Eagles on Sunday.
- CB Kyle Arrington: Man or zone, he gets it now. With two interceptions he leads the NFL with seven interceptions.
- TE Rob Gronkowski: Two TDs, one end zone dented with his flying, flipping leap. The guys is unstoppable.
- RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: We think this 20-carry, 81-yard performance will look better after viewing the film. There were a lot of tough yards, especially after first contact.
At Philadelphia Eagles (4-6), 4:15 p.m.
Result: Beat Giants, 17-10. QB Vince Young passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns, LeSean McCoy rushed for 113 in a hard-fought victory over their NFC East rivals.