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The New England Patriots (7-3) may have once again struggled in the opening half, but a strong final 30 minutes propelled the team to a 34-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (4-6) on Monday Night Football at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The Patriots defense that consists of many unknowns continues to develop into a stable, functional unit. Coach Bill Belichick’s schemes flummoxed Chiefs’ QB Tyler Palko, who was making his first career start.
New England allowed just 334 yards of total offense in the rout. Palko was 25-38 with 236 yards and three interceptions, while the Kansas City rushing attack totaled 119 yards on the ground. Kyle Arrington registered two picks, while Phillip Adams had the first of his career.
The Patriots have allowed just 19 points in their previous two contests, and now average 20.3 points-allowed per game, ranking 10th in the NFL. This stems from their improving pass rush that sacked Palko three times, including 1.5 from Mark Anderson.
Quarterback Tom Brady struggled to develop an early rhythm with the offense, going scoreless on the offense’s first three possessions. As usual, Brady improved as the game went on, leading to scores on five of his last six drives.
Brady finished the game with pedestrian numbers, going 15-27 for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The two-time MVP connected with emerging star Rob Gronkowski for two scores; a 52-yard second-quarter strike to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead, and a 19-yard score to up the New England advantage to 17-3.
Shan Vereen capped the Patriots scoring with a 4-yard fourth-quarter scamper for his first career touchdown.
The undrafted, fourth-year cornerback continued his impressive 2011 campaign, intercepting two Tyler Palko passes. While both interceptions occurred on tipped passes. Arrington’s ability to be in the right place at the right time has contributed to his NFL leading seven interceptions.
The second-year tight end and emerging cult hero shredded the Chiefs’ pass defense to the tune of four catches for 96 yards. Gronkowski now has 52 catches for 709 yards and eight touchdowns, including four in the last two games.
The third-year utility man contributed on both offense and defense throughout. Edelman finished the Chiefs’ massacre with a solo tackle after receiving early playing time on the defensive side of the ball, but broke the game wide open with a 72-yard punt return to give New England a 24-3 lead. It was Edelman’s second career return.
Ochocinco’s disappearing act continued unabated last night, as the offseason acquisition had zero catches on zero targets. This was the fourth game this year that Ochocinco has been held without a catch.
The Patriots appeared sluggish to start the game, punting on their first two possessions before a Brady fumble on the third series stopped a drive in Chiefs’ territory.
Kansas City’s porous defense may have masked some of the Patriots’ deficiencies on Monday Night. New England finished the game just 4-13 on third down, but a perfect 2-2 on fourth-down extended drives. The Patriots are just 16-53 (30.2 percent) on third down over their last four games.
The Patriots are once again on the road next week, traveling to Philadelphia to take on the inconsistent Eagles (4-6) at 4:15 at Lincoln Financial Field. New England now has a two game lead in the AFC East, and would have the No. 1 seed if the season ended today due to a “strength of victory” edge over Houston (7-3 and better conference record than Baltimore (7-3).