Chiefs' defense makes statement in Week 14 win vs. Tom Brady, Patriots

Chiefs' defense makes statement in Week 14 win vs. Tom Brady, Patriots

FOXBORO -- The message on the Kansas City Chiefs' celebratory t-shirts after Sunday's 23-16 road win over the New England Patriots said it best: "The West Is Not Enough."

The Chiefs clinched a playoff berth in Week 14 by winning the AFC West title, but this team is capable of accomplishing much bigger goals, and the reason they're equipped to do that was on full display at Gillette Stadium.

Kansas City's defense was bad last season. There's no mistake about it.

The Chiefs nearly reached Super Bowl LIII but couldn't stop Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his offense late in the fourth quarter and in overtime of the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Brady picked apart a lackluster Chiefs pass defense en route to a 37-31 victory. The Patriots scored 80 points combined in two games versus the Chiefs in 2018 (both wins), but Kansas City's defense showed Sunday that it's much better equipped to slow down New England's offense (or any offense with a quality quarterback) in 2019.

Why were the Chiefs able to close out this game after failing to do so with a Super Bowl berth at stake last January.

"We got some stops in this game to (close it) out and get that win in the end," Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "We scored the first drive after we came out for the second half and didn't score again. It felt like we didn't get a first down again, and the defense stood tall. So for them, with all the different stuff that happened in the game, for them to only give up 16 points or whatever it was, it shows that they have the mentality that they're going to come back versus adversity every single time."

The Patriots held the Chiefs offense to just three points and 97 total yards in the second half Sunday. Kansas City's defense wasn't going to be bailed out by Mahomes -- the unit had to take care of business itself.

The two most important stops for the Chiefs defense came in the fourth quarter. The Patriots got the ball back trailing 23-16 with 10:06 remaining in regulation. New England picked up two first downs and reached midfield before being forced to punt. The Patriots again got the ball back trailing by seven points with 5:04 left on the clock. Brady drove his team into the red zone and faced a 4th-and-3 from the 5-yard line. Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland broke up Brady's pass intended for Julian Edelman in the end zone to seal the win for Kansas City.

"We never focus on the offense. If the offense scores, that's a plus for us," Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. "As a defense, (our mentality is) we don't need the offense to win games for us. I feel like last year we kinda (leaned on) the offense scoring a lot of points to win games, we don't need that (right now). We, as a defense, can stand up to anyone, or any team in this league, So, when (Mahomes) throws an interception, it's OK, we'll get the ball back for you, Pat. We're going to go out there and play our ball."

The Chiefs are a top-tier Super Bowl contender. They're the only team in the NFL that's beaten both the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. Mahomes is able to make plays no other quarterback in the league can pull off, and the offense as a whole is loaded with elite speed and playmakers at the skill positions.

The only element missing was a strong defense, and after a brutal 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10, the coaching staff made the necessary adjustments. The improvements Kansas City's defense has made of late -- it's allowed an average of just 14 points over the last three games -- are quite encouraging for the franchise as the playoffs near.

"I can tell you that every week, we've gotten better," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "We had a little hiccup in Tennessee, but other than that, it's been consistent progress forward. I think (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) and the coaches have done a heck of a job. Most of all, the players have bought in. I mean, they were flying around making plays. They were able to get to Tom Brady and do some nice things, do some things in the run game. And ended up putting it down right there at the end and made some plays."

Chris Jones reveals why he trash talked with Tom Brady>>>

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

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The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.


That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.