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Nick Jacobs' game plan: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

New England Patriots v Houston Texans
Posted at 10:33 AM, Dec 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-07 11:33:32-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs play Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts, for what will be billed as an AFC Championship rematch.

Of course, the reality is that these teams are significantly different than that late January meeting at Arrowhead Stadium with a spot in the Super Bowl at stake.

Kansas City has an overhauled defense. New England’s offensive line has suffered significant losses and the key to the Patriots’ offense — Rob Gronkowski — retired.

For Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, this is an opportunity to show that he has taken the next step in his growth. He missed multiple touchdown throws, forced some passes, especially on deep throws, and had some uncharacteristic overthrows last season in two meetings with the Patriots.

Mahomes can show this weekend how much he learned from those previous experiences against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Here are some keys for KC to get its first win of the Mahomes era against New England:

1. Limit power, weather finesse in run game

The Patriots have a one-two punch in Sony Michel and James White. Michel provides the power running between the tackles and White provides the finesse change of pace runs off the edge.

Michel wears down defenses with his bruising style and is at his peak in the fourth quarter during a close game.
The Chiefs will need to make Michael's style ineffective and force the Patriots to rely on another way to win.

2. Double Edelman, put a DB on White

In Houston’s win against New England last week, the Texans tried variations of this approach at times but didn't always keep consistency with this strategy.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman is the new key to the Patriots’ passing game. When Brady loses his presence in the offense, the Patriots sputter.

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo needs to utilize bracket coverage and occasional double teams to disrupt Edelman's releases off the line and frustrate Brady.

White is a dynamic receiver in the flats and can't be covered by the Chiefs’ linebackers consistently. When he runs a route, KC must account for him with a safety or cornerback.

Against that defense, Jakobi Meyers and Muhammad Sanu might make some plays, but limiting Edelman and White are the best way to win the game.

3. Unleash on Tommy

The Patriots struggle in four areas of pass protection.

Right tackle Marcus Cannon can be beat by a quick outside rush from a wide nine or a spin move to the inside if he sets up too wide. The same goes for backup tackle Marshall Newhouse.

Both tackles struggle with speed when their shoulders are fully towards the sidelines.

Left tackle Isaiah Wynn struggles with twist and games along with delayed blitzes to his inside shoulder, if a defender is out wide.

Right guard Shaq Mason has some wide sets and is routinely susceptible the inside rip or swim once he is setup.

Lastly, White struggles to pick up blitzes in pass protection. Teams have been giving him fits with double A gap blitzes and showing a blitz to his side, when it is actually coming off the edge.

Blitzing may also help the Chiefs force White to stay in for pass protection if Brady starts taking some significant hits and is routinely pressured.

Brady starts to rush his throws if Edelman and White are not options and he has felt pressure early. He also tends to get inaccurate after a handful of pressures.

4. Motion Hill, Kelce

The Patriots like to hit and chip tight end Travis Kelce at the line of scrimmage to delay his timing on routes.

Kansas City will have to move Kelce around as well as use the bunch formation to get him involved at times.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill will likely see bracket coverage at times or have Stephon Gilmore covering him for significant portions of the game.

New England is going to force receivers Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle to win the game.

5. Isolate Van Noy, Hightower with backs

Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower struggle in pass coverage. It is a significant mismatch the Chiefs can take advantage of to move the chains.

Kansas City can win many down and distances against this potential matchup and it wouldn't hurt to put Hill, Hardman, Kelce or tight end Blake Bell in the backfield a few times for these matchup opportunities.

6. Avoid third-and-6 or longer

The Patriots appear to like trying twists, stunts and blitzes when it is third-and-6 or longer, so the Chiefs will need to have some hot routes ready in these situations.

Mahomes must also be aware of a potential spy keeping tabs on him when he moves outside of the pocket.

The Lions were one of the few teams to try this in the past year, possibly inspired by past New England schemes, and Belichick may want to make him uncomfortable again.

Both teams come into this game with a unique challenge. A win helps both football teams punch their playoff ticket, but there’s always the possibility of a rematch.

Both coaches will have to determine how much are they willing to reveal in a regular season game that the other coach will have more than a month to study in preparation for a potential postseason matchup down the road.

Belichick is the type who is willing to take the regular season loss to gain the postseason advantage.

The loss to the Texans already put the Patriots in a position where the road the Super Bowl may not run through Foxborough for a second consecutive season.

It will be an intriguing decision for both coaches. Let the gamesmanship begin.

Nick Jacobs can be found on Twitter: @Jacobs71. You can also download the weekly 4th and 1 podcast on Apple, Google Podcast, Spotify and Stitcher.