Set the tone
You ever watch a Chiefs game and after the first possession you feel like you know how the game is going to go? I’m like that sometimes where you feel like you already know the result after the first drive.
I’d like to feel that way in this game — in a good way, of course. If the Chiefs start with the ball, Andy Reid is going to have a series of scripted plays for the Chiefs to run on their first possession. I love these because there is so much movement pre-snap and the play designs are so smart. They just seem really efficient in those early drives. All that time to prepare, the Chiefs need to capitalize there. It was would be demoralizing to come out to a three and out.
Defensively, I’m kinda scared of the Patriots going down and scoring on the opening drive. I can see that happening with Chiefs, like the 2016 playoff game, playing from a score behind all game. Even holding New England to a field goal on the opening drive would feel like a win with all the momentum they’ll have on their side after their fans just saw them raise another banner.
That’s why the Chiefs need to get on the board first. Slow the crowd down and most importantly slow the Patriots momentum down. Going against an elite team like this, you could let the Patriots score first and then turn around and turn it over and, boom, the game is over. You’re not coming back down two scores in New England.
Out-Patriot the Patriots
The Chiefs and Patriots are not all that different in that they usually do the little things right to win. Win the turnover battle, make key special teams plays, don’t give up the big play and win the time of possession. Those are all things the Patriots do well and they’re things the Chiefs will have to do better on Thursday night.
Stiffen up in the middle
The Chiefs are going to be in nickel and dime most of the game because Tom Brady scares the hell out of everyone. The Chiefs need to keep as many defensive backs out there as they reasonably can to stop Brady in the passing game. That’s the top priority.
With that, however, comes a run defense vulnerability. A defensive lineman comes off the field and the Chiefs suddenly have a weakness up the middle against the run. How well can Bennie Logan, Allen Bailey and Chris Jones stop the run when they’re in there?
Former Chiefs DE Mike DeVito was on a podcast this week and he said that Logan has excellent run stopping technique and he also praised Bailey and Jones, who he says worked on his run defense this offseason. Derrick Johnson will play a major role in stopping the run. There’s a reason Brady said this week that you can really see the change in the Chiefs defense when DJ isn’t out there. Same goes for Justin Houston.
There’s some optimism that the Chiefs can stop the run with their returning pieces.
Show that safety depth
The Chiefs are loaded at safety with Eric Berry, Ron Parker and Daniel Sorensen under long-term deals and the Chiefs really like second-year player Eric Murray. With an injury keeping Steven Nelson out, the Chiefs will need that help from their safeties. Parker and Murray both have experience at cornerback.
Prove you’re the top special teams unit in the NFL
The Patriots are elite on special teams. Can the Chiefs be elite....r? The Chiefs punt and kickoff units are strong and should be strong against the Patriots. I’m not sure who the Patriots will have back there returning punts and kicks but I’m confident in the Chiefs ability to handle that.
On the other side, the Chiefs need a big play from their own return guy. This feels like one of those games where you need a non-offensive touchdown to win. It will be up to Tyreek Hill on punt return and it will be up to De’Anthony Thomas on kick returns. A big play here can be a return to the 45 or 50-yard line too. A touchdown would be nice but even a long return can be a difference maker at the right time.
Hit Tom Brady
I was going to write win the turnover battle but that’s true of every game. And it’s true you want to hit the quarterback every game, too. In this one, the Chiefs don’t stand a chance unless they hit him. Brady was barely touched in the Chiefs last game against the Patriots and sliced them up.
If the Chiefs don’t have a sack or multiple hurries or knockdowns in this game, they won’t win. Go back to 2014 when the Chiefs sacked and hit him. That’s the formula.