Patriots’ McDaniels Wary of Chiefs’ Defense
By Rich Thompson
FOXBORO -- New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels addressed the personnel and schematic challenges the
Kansas City Chiefs defense will present in Sunday’s AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Patriots rolled up 500 yards of total offense on 75 plays with 31 first downs in a 43-40 victory over the Chiefs on Oct. 14 at Gillette Stadium. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 24-of-35 passes for 340-yards and a touchdown.
“We got an opportunity to play against them earlier and they are a different group now than what we played against,” McDaniels said McDaniels during Monday’s conference call.
“Playing there on the road is a different element and a lot has changed since we played them in Week 6. This is the best team we’ve played all year. There are a lot of changes that have taken place here. This will be a huge challenge for us on the road.”
McDaniels cited outside linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford, and safeties Eric Berry and Daniel Sorenson as potential difference makers. Houston missed three games with hamstring issues that included the match at Gillette. The others also lost time to injuries this season and Berry (heel) is uncertain for Sunday.
“Houston we didn’t see earlier in the year and we know how good he is on the edge and the things he does and how much of an impact he makes on their team not only in the pass rush but in the running game,” McDaniels said.
The Chiefs finished the regular season tied with the Steelers for the league lead in sacks (52) and they planted Colts quarterback Andrew Luck three times in last Saturday’s 31-13 victory. McDaniels singled out Ford and defensive end Chris Jones for their ability to disrupt the passer.
“They led the league in sacks and are really conscious of the ball and do a great job of creating turnover opportunities for their team,” McDaniels said.
“Jones is as good a player as we’ve played up front all year. This guy is tremendously disruptive not only in the running game but as a pass rusher inside. (Ford) is a very disruptive player on the edge and their secondary plays a lot of tight coverage. They create a lot of opportunities for themselves because they are near the ball a lot and they can take the ball away.”
The Chiefs finished the regular season with 27 forced turnovers that included 15 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.
Over the Hill
Patriots safeties coach Steve Belichick revisited the damage done by Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the teams’ earlier meeting. Hill caught seven passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 23 of 36 passes for 352 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Hill, split end Sammy Watkins and tight end Travis Kelce will be a focus of the Pats secondary.
“We have to do a great job with (Hill) and everyone else on their offense,” Belichick said. “They scored 40 on us last time so we have our work cut out for us.
“With Hill, explosiveness is an understatement.”
Timing right for Michel
Rookie tailback Sony Michel ran for 129 yards on 24 carries and equaled a postseason club record with three rushing touchdowns in the Pats’ win Sunday against the Chargers. Patriots coach Bill Belichick credited Michel’s timing and patience in coordination with the offensive line for eluding the Chargers vaunted front seven.
“I think Sony has real good run instincts,” Belichick said.