Unconventional Preview: Can Bryan Stork Help Patriots Solve Their Line Issues?

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Welcome to Season 3, Episode 4 of the Unconventional Preview, a serious-but-lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup that runs right here every Friday afternoon (or in this case Monday morning). The 2-1 Patriots, coming off a victory over the Raiders of a margin considerably less than most expected, visit the 1-2 Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. Kick it off, Gostkowski, and let’s get this started already …

THREE PLAYERS OTHER THAN TOM BRADY I’LL BE WATCHING
1. Knile Davis: Bill Belichick was effusive of the Chiefs’ second-year back, who ran for 132 yards last week against the Dolphins in the absence of Jamaal Charles, who is battling a high ankle sprain. Belichick noted that Davis is a breakaway threat like Charles but also has a power element to his game. But he also has a flaw the Patriots will surely attempt to expose — he’s careless with the football, having fumbled three times in three games this season. I wonder if Belichick made Stevan Ridley play Davis on the scout team this week. Or would that be typecasting?

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2. Bryan Stork: Seems to me the Patriots are asking the former Florida State All-American and fourth-round pick to do essentially what Dan Koppen did after Damien Woody got hurt in 2003. They need him to play with intelligence and provide stability immediately, which is a fairly high demand of any rookie, let alone a center. I actually don’t think the expectations are unrealistic — had he not missed so much time in camp, it seemed likely that he would have been a starter somewhere on the line from the first snap against Miami. They’re asking a lot of him. They need a lot from him. But I believe they are confident that he is capable in a way Jordan Devey certainly has not been.

3. Andy Reid: No, he’s not going to play, though he probably could fit into his old punt, pass and kick uniform …

… from his childhood, during which he apparently hit puberty at age 6 1/2. But I’m including him here because I’ll definitely be watching for something specific, a staple of the Andy Reid playbook. At some point during this game, if it is close, he is going to botch the clock-management to the point where you wonder whether he actually knows how to tell time. The blunder will either cost the Chiefs points or give three or so to the Patriots, and we’ll all warmly remember his contributions to the Patriots’ last Super Bowl victory with his anti-hurry-up offense on the final drive.

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PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS SAYS DARRELLE REVIS HAS REGRESSED:
And I say that’s a click-bait headline (I’ve become something of an expert in those, thank you) contradicted in the story by the acknowledgment that he’s likely to improve.

Sure, it was surprising to see Derek Carr go at him and have some mild success last Sunday, but that’s in large part because the expectations for Revis are nuts. It’s like he’s never allowed to permit a reception.

From what I’ve seen during this three-game sample, he’s as instinctive and smart as ever, and he can still close the gap on a supposedly open receiver almost casually. He’s the best cornerback they’ve had since Ty Law, and given that Aqib Talib was outstanding when healthy, anyone who has a beef with how he has played has unrealistic expectations.

No man is an island, but he’s still pretty damn close.

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COMPLETELY RANDOM FOOTBALL CARD:
Sure, this 1976 version of Ed Podolak may have looked more like the cowbell player for Three Dog Night than an outstanding football player, what with that quintessential bicentennial haircut and the Burt Reynolds starter-kit mustache.

And it probably would have been nice if his jersey had an actual number, though it’s likely more another case of shoddy airbrushing by Topps than any disrespect by the Chiefs.

But Podolak was an outstanding player for nine seasons with the Chiefs — and on one day in particular.

Podolak was the all-around star of the infamous Longest Game, a 27-24 double-overtime playoff victory by the Dolphins over the Chiefs on Christmas Day, 1971. In defeat, Podolak piled up 350 total yards — 85 rushing, 110 receiving, and another 155 on returns.

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A couple of years ago, he told the New York Times that he never gets tired of talking about that game. Bet he was damn tired after playing it, though.

FROM A TIME WHEN HELMET-TO-HELMET HITS MADE YOU ROAR RATHER THAN CRINGE

Broncos safety Steve Atwater’s legendary hit on 260-pound Chiefs running back Christian Okoye was the only time I’ve ever seen a truck stopped in its tracks. I was in college watching the game with some buddies when it happened live — I believe it was on a Monday Night — and it was one of those pre-DVR moments where you couldn’t believe what you just saw and didn’t have the technology to see it again. I’ve probably watched it 50 times over the years, though I think we’d all admit, as we’ve learned more about what this sport does to the human brain, that any appreciation of such a collision is tempered by the knowledge that the damage done lasts long after we’ve moved on to the next play. That in mind, it’s somewhat reassuring to know that Atwater and Okoye have led fulfilling lives after football.

JUST KEEP MATRICULATIN’ THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD, BOYS!

Steve Sabol talking about Super Bowl IV, legendary Chiefs coach Hank Stram, and his hilarious personal jargon, including referring to himself as The Mentor. These behind-the-scenes explanations and recollections of the early days of NFL Films are always so entertaining. If Roger Goodell had a clue, one small way to stem the backlash against the league would be to emphasize its compelling and often hilarious history by re-emphasizing NFL Films, which has been all but left in a dusty vault and replaced by so much vapid NFL Network filler content. Not that I would expect Goodell to realize this. It’s not like he ever watches any video, right?

PREDICTION, OR CAN MATT LIGHT, DAN KOPPEN AND JOE ANDRUZZI PLEASE REPORT TO ARROWHEAD STADIUM? The pounding the Raiders administered on Brady would have caused Tony Eason to retire at halftime. The Chiefs, despite some attrition due to injury on defense, are capable of getting similar pressure up the middle and forcing Brady to A) throw to his first option most of the time, B) take a ferocious hit, or C) both. This offensive line has to get better, now, or No. 12 isn’t going to get through the season without a performance-altering injury. Dave DeGuglielmo needs to repair this or he needs to call Maryland and ask if that job he was going to take is still open, because he’s not doing the job here. And Josh McDaniels needs to do his part by coaching to his players’ strengths and remembering that it is within the rules to run the ball even when you’re trailing.

I do not believe the Patriots lose this game, because this defense is damn good and only getting better. But we’ll still have questions about the offense even after the third victory of the season. If you told me now that they’ll play inconsistently but win and Brady escapes unscathed, I’ll take that outcome in a heartbeat.
Prediction: Patriots 17, Chiefs 10

Season record: 3-1.

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