The Chiefs (1-1) and the Patriots (2-0) will do battle Sunday at 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough in a game that is key for both sides. The Patriots have shown early in 2002 that they are an elite NFL team and that they can perform well in big games. The question now remains whether or not they can beat a talented yet realistically inferior Kansas City team? The Patriots have proven they can succeed in the role of the hardworking underdog, but now can they win under the expectations of the overwhelming favorite?
For the Chiefs, Sunday's game represents a different type of challenge. A game on the road against the undefeated Super Bowl champions is a chance to earn a degree of instant legitimacy.
"For my team, it's great to have an opportunity to play against the best," Chiefs second-year Head Coach Dick Vermeil said of New England. "If you want to check a test and find out where you are, if you want to find out how far you've come, play against the best. It will get defined quickly."
"Obviously, now, it's a big week for us and it's a great challenge for us," Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson said. "You want to play the best. We are all professionals. We're the best at what we do and New England's the best team right now. Until someone beats them and someone takes their crown, they're the world champions. So it's a great challenge for us and we are definitely looking forward to it."
And without a doubt, the Chiefs are a talented team on offense. With last year's NFL rushing leader in Priest Holmes, a solid veteran offensive line and arguably the best tight end in football, Tony Gonzalez the Chiefs can move the ball well. Through two games Kansas City leads the NFL averaging 6.7 yards per play and are second in the league averaging 5.7 yards per rush. The explosive unit, led by capable yet sometimes inconsistent Trent Green, is sixth in the league averaging 403 yards per game.
"I think this is a real explosive football team," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said of the Chiefs offense. "This is a team that is averaging over 400 yards an game and they deserve it because they are well balanced. They can run the ball and they can throw it. Holmes is their leading receiver as well as their big time runner, so they really have a pretty well-balanced attack offensively and can move the ball."
The Chiefs downfall to this point in the season has been on the defensive side of the ball. Were it not for a fluke play in a win at Cleveland the team could potentially be 0-2 at no fault of the offense.
Through two games the Kansas City defenders rank 31st in both total defense (430.5 yards per game) and pass defense (336.0 yards per game). The unit is also tied for 20th giving up 31.0 points per game. While they did a respectable job stopping the run against the Browns, they struggled in both games against the pass and gave up 130 yards on the ground against the Jaguars last week.
Although it would be difficult to argue with the Chiefs poor defensive statistics, Belichick did have good things to say about defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and the groups of players on the unit.
"They are a ball-hogging type defense," Belichick said. "They strip the ball well; they take it away from you. They've got a good defensive line; they rotate a lot of people in there. They've got some guys that can be disruptive. It's a defense that's going to blitz you, they are going to pressure you and if you don't have your eyes open and don't know what you are doing, they can make you look bad in a hurry."
While the Chiefs may have the potential to create turnovers, they have yet to force many. They have no interceptions and only two fumble recoveries to date. And with the Patriots lack of turnovers early this season, and even last season, there is nothing that would point to big Chiefs win in the turnover battle.
On paper the Patriots are more talented team. But on paper last season the Patriots were not necessarily the best team in football. As coaches like to say, the games are not played on paper and in the NFL any team can win on a given Sunday. This Sunday the Chiefs will look to be the Patriots of 2001 and pull off a big upset. The Patriots will look to add to their 11-game winning streak and take another step as an elite NFL team.
Backup running back Mike Cloud played in high school at Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island and is a Boston College alum. … Kansas City leads the all time series 15-9-3 between the two franchises. The Patriots won the last meeting in 2000 30-24 at Foxboro Stadium. … Belichick and Vermeil have never faced as head coaches. … The Chiefs have lost 13 straight game on the road to AFC East opponents.