It didn't take long for Bill Belichick to quickly get into midweek mode after learning his opponent in the Patriots upcoming divisional round game Saturday evening. Saturday's win by Kansas City, coupled with the Bengals late meltdown in a loss to Pittsburgh, has the Chiefs on the way to Foxborough – and they'll bring an 11-game winning streak with them
Belichick was asked about the relevance of such a long streak, and as usual the coach was prepared.
"Well the fact that they haven't lost in so long, it's not like you can go to a game and say OK well here is how this team defeated them," Belichick said during a Sunday afternoon conference call. "That just doesn't exist. We've got to figure out a way and there is not a great example on film. There are different things we can point to and different ideas or concepts or a certain part of the game that went well for one of Kansas City's opponents but overall nothing really that you could say OK well this team found a way to do it because they didn't.
"That certainly wasn't the case yesterday. They pretty much dominated that game from the opening kickoff all the way through the fourth quarter. Kansas City is a good football team. They're well coached. I'd say yesterday's game was a typical Kansas City game this season or over the last three quarters of the season – a lot of turnovers on defense, no turnovers on offense, capitalized on opponents' mistakes and didn't make any. They've won a lot of games pretty much doing that."
Belichick was especially complimentary of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who typically avoids mistakes while putting his team in position to win. That's something he's done quite well over the last two-thirds of the season as Kansas City went from dead at 1-5 to the hottest team in football with an impressive 11-game winning streak.
"I think it starts number one with Alex's execution, his decision making. He does a good job – they do a good job of throwing the ball. They do a good job running the ball. They do a good job with their play actions," Belichick explained. "A lot of those plays are married together, whether it's the quarterback keeping or play action off run plays or bubble screens off run looks or things like that. There are a lot of checks or decision-making that is placed on the quarterback either before or immediately after the snap, so I think it starts there. He does a great job with that, gets his team into the right play, gets them into a good situation and then lets the players execute them from there.
"He's got a good group of guys that he'll spread it around to and really they're pretty well balanced offensively between who gets the ball and where they get it and run-pass, all those things. They do enough of everything. They have enough variety in their offense to make it hard to defend."
Smith has done a great job of extending plays with his feet, and even making some big plays while on the run. He had a 50-plus-yard effort wiped out by a holding call in the shutout win over Houston, but that's another area where Smith has made plays for the Chiefs.
One area where the Patriots could benefit is through an injury suffered by Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs top wideout hurt his knee in the second half of the win over the Texans. Early indications had Kansas City concerned it was a significant injury involving his ACL.
As is his normal course of action, Belichick focused only on Maclin the player, not the injured player.
"Maclin has done a good job for them. Obviously Andy [Reid] had him in Philadelphia and probably knows him better than anybody – knows how to use him, knows the things he's good at," Belichick said.
"He's been very productive for them, gets the ball to him. Maclin is very good after the catch. He's hard to bring down. He's an excellent runner with speed and elusiveness and he has good playing strength, so he's challenging to cover and he's challenging to tackle, whether it's kind of conventional run after catch plays or whether it's some element of a protective play – slip screens and things like that – speed sweeps or reverses or other ways they get the ball to him. He's been productive and he's got a lot of good skills and Andy does an excellent job of getting him the ball."
Patriots fans won't have to look too far back to remember how devastating the Chiefs can be when they're playing well. It was a dismal 41-14 loss at Kansas City during a Week 4 Monday night beatdown that turned around the Patriots 2014 season.
It's safe to assume Belichick and the Patriots will be looking at that game as they prepare to begin their title defense.
"Again, there has been whatever 25 games played since then, and it's definitely a game to look at, but there are a couple thousand plays on either side of the ball," Belichick said. "I think you look at it, there are things we can take from it, there are some things that I'd say are somewhat outdated just based on the players and personnel, the situation and that kind of thing. So, it has relevance, but we're certainly going to have to prepare and coach the team a lot better than we did that night, so that's what we'll try to do."