Patriots

Chiefs force five turnovers, snap losing streak with 29-19 win over Broncos

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Chiefs force five turnovers, snap losing streak with 29-19 win over Broncos

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs proved Monday night they can play a little defense, too.

The same group that struggled to contain the Steelers and Raiders in back-to-back losses shut down Denver, picking off Trevor Siemian three times, picking up two fumbles and taking one of them back for a touchdown in a 29-19 victory over their AFC West rivals.

It was precisely the kind of dominant performance the Chiefs (6-2) needed against the Broncos (3-4), whose own league-leading defense held Alex Smith and Co. in check all night.

"Our defense really stepped up tonight," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They showed a lot of fire."

Harrison Butker kicked five field goals for Kansas City, and Smith threw for 202 yards and a touchdown. Most of it went to Travis Kelce, who hauled in seven balls for 133 yards and the score.

But it was the turnovers that proved to be the difference in the game.

"That's insane," said Broncos coach Vance Joseph, who declined to say whether a quarterback change may be necessary. "You can't win when you turn the ball over five times. The guys worked too hard to have a big game to give it away five times."

Siemian finished 19 of 36 for 198 yards and a touchdown, and has now thrown eight picks and only three TD passes in the past five games. The Broncos have lost all but one of them.

"I just turned it over," he said glumly. "A couple of bad decisions."

It was a crucial bounce-back win for the Chiefs, who had their 12-game AFC West winning streak snapped 10 days ago in Oakland. The Chiefs had won five straight to start the season before losing to the Steelers and then to the Raiders on Derek Carr's last-second touchdown throw.

It started just like old times, too: Jamaal Charles with a run, the Chiefs with a touchdown.

The only difference was Charles, who went to four Pro Bowls with the Chiefs, was back in Kansas City with the Broncos. And the TD came when the opportunistic Marcus Peters stripped him, picked up the loose ball and returned it 45 yards for the opening score.

"That definitely changed the dynamic of the game," Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said.

When the Chiefs were on offense, they went right to Kelce, who also had success against the Broncos in both of their meetings last season. He beat Darian Stewart for a 29-yard TD catch and a 14-0 lead.

"I want the ball every single play. That's just how I grew up playing," he said.

The Chiefs were threatening to put the game out of reach later in the first quarter when Reid got cute with the play-calling. Rather than keep the ball in the hands of Smith, who hasn't thrown a pick all season, he let wide receiver Tyreek Hill throw it - and he was intercepted in the end zone.

"I messed it up myself," he said. "I know coach Reid isn't going to let me throw another one."

Still, Kansas City led 20-3 when the Broncos' offense finally found some rhythm.

They marched 60 yards to set up their second field goal by Brandon McManus, and then capped an 80-yard drive with Booker's touchdown run. It was just the second time Denver had reached the end zone in 13-plus quarters, but it got Joseph's team within 20-13 with a quarter to play.

Butker answered with another field goal, and the Chiefs defense held on fourth-and-4 near midfield to get the ball back. Butker added two more field goals, the last with 4:41 left, giving him 18 straight made attempts and putting the game out of reach.

"It's not what you want offensively," Smith said with a wry grin. "You love having him on the team and making those, but I'd rather have him kicking PATs."

INJURY REPORT

Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) and LB Todd Davis (ankle) were inactive, as was Chiefs RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (knee). Kansas City lost WR Albert Wilson(hamstring) and OLB Dee Ford (back) in the first half and neither returned to the game.

UN-INJURED RESERVE

The Broncos activated LB Shane Ray and the Chiefs activated CB Steven Nelson before the game. Ray returned to the lineup after missing the first six games with a torn ligament in his left wrist, while Nelson had been on injured reserve following core muscle surgery.

HALL OF AN HONOR

The Chiefs renamed the broadcast booths at Arrowhead Stadium for Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Len Dawson before the game. The 82-year-old Dawson led the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV. He is retiring from work as a radio color analyst after the season.

UP NEXT

Broncos: Visit Philadelphia on Sunday.

Chiefs: Visit Dallas on Sunday.

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With Butler's departure inevitable, Patriots' corner search is on

With Butler's departure inevitable, Patriots' corner search is on

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we're looking at the position group that received more attention than any other during Super Bowl 52: Cornerback. 

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


No single position group experienced as many dips, climbs and dives as Patriots corners did during their rollercoaster season. In September alone, the communication was a mess, Malcolm Butler got benched, Stephon Gilmore got benched, and Eric Rowe suffered a serious groin injury that allowed Gilmore to quickly get his job back. Second-year special teams standout Jonathan Jones might've been the team's best cover man at that juncture. Then, as soon as Gilmore started to find his footing, he was diagnosed with a concussion. The group started to put it together in the second half with solid performances against the Raiders in Mexico City and the Bills in Buffalo. Gilmore was particularly strong as the season wore on, showing the man-to-man cover skills and the knack for getting his hands on footballs that made him one of the highest-paid players at his position last offseason. But in the end, in the Super Bowl, with Butler benched again, the group (outside of Gilmore, who played well against Philly) had too many letdowns in what was arguably the team's worst defensive performance of the season.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Gilmore, Rowe, Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz

WHO ISN'T?
Butler, Johnson Bademosi

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?

The Patriots played Rowe in prominent roles in each of the past two Super Bowls and he seems to be first in line to take over No. 2 duties with Butler certainly headed on to a new chapter in his career. Jonathan Jones showed in spurts that he could be an effective slot corner, but he suffered a season-ending injury in the Divisional Round and it's unclear what the Patriots will be expecting from him in 2018. Cyrus Jones is coming off of a torn ACL, and even before his injury, it looked like he may have a hard time cracking the regular rotation. This is one position -  like tackle  - that the Patriots don't want to be left thin. If we had to rank it, the need for another capable body would probably come in at about a 7 out of 10. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There are a handful of relatively big names who will be on the market come March, including Butler. Trumaine Johnson of the Rams figures to be at the top of the class. Vontae Davis of the Colts is 29 and often injured, but in a corner-needy league, he shouldn't have much trouble finding a team. EJ Gains of the Bills could leverage his inside-out versatility to come away with a deal worth almost $10 million per year. Aaron Colvin of the Jaguars, Patrick Robinson of the Eagles, Nickell Robey-Coleman of the Rams and Leonard Johnson of the Bills give teams in need of slot help some options. Kyle Fuller of the Bears and Morris Claiborne of the Jets are two former first-rounders who've had up-and-down careers but showed last season they have still value on the outside. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?

It feels like the best athletes at the high school and college levels are getting smarter. Or their coaches are. Once again, there's a deep group of athletes peppering the incoming draft class at corner, which is, of course, one of the highest-paying positions in football. (Why so many top-tier athletes are still playing running back, on the other hand, is beyond me.) Alabama's hybrid star in the secondary Minkah Fitzpatrick will be long gone by the time the Patriots pick. Same goes for Ohio State's undersized burner Denzel Ward and Iowa's ball-hawking 6-foot-1 cover man Josh Jackson, in all likelihood. At the bottom of the first round, though, players like Auburn's Carlton Davis (who has drawn comparisons to Richard Sherman because of his length and ball skills) and Colorado's Isaiah Oliver (a one-time Pac-12 decathlete with a 6-foot-1 frame) could be available. Would the Patriots want to invest a first-round pick at that spot? If they feel like they have good depth at the position already on the roster but want to take a flier on a mid-round selection, they could hope Louisville's Jaire Alexander (who dealt with injuries in 2017 that will probably hurt his draft stock) lasts into the third round. 

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


One name that's sort of intriguing on the free-agency market is Davis'. You've heard tales similar players ending up in New England before. He's spent the majority of his career without much of a shot at a title - though his Colts made the AFC Championship Game in the 2014 season. He should be low-cost. He had season-ending groin surgery last year, was released in November and went unclaimed. He'll be 30 before the start of next season, but he may be worth a roll of the dice to help a relatively young Patriots secondary. If he doesn't pan out, no harm done. Hard to envision Belichick and Nick Caserio investing big money into this position with Gilmore on the roster, but maybe they'll deem one of the free-agent slot options worth a shot if he's cost-effective. Otherwise, the Patriots may try to take advantage of a draft that seems - at least right now - as if it's deeper at corner than it is at some other spots on the defensive side of the ball, like on the edge.

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

James Harrison was a larger than life figure during his time in Pittsburgh. 

It was as if God molded him to be a member of the Steelers: massive, physical, and an absolute bruiser.

But at the end of the day he is a football player. And athletes in this sport don't particuarly like time on the bench.

Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers organization were reminded of this fact in a very harsh manner.

At the end of the December, Harrison made a late season move to sign with the Patriots. It left his former teammates in Pittsburgh frustrated, and his former fans confused.

But at the end of the day he just wanted to be on the football field again. And that's exactly where Belichick put him.

Harrison had the opportunity to appear in many more situations, and had several sacks at the end of the season.

Now there is a new report from Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal that he could re-sign with the Patriots in 2018.

A source close to Price and Harrison said "there's a reasonable chance" that he could be on the roster next year.

He will be playing this upcoming season at age 40, and has previously stated he'd like to play one or two more seasons.

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