Sunday 7: Clues on how Patriots will defend Chiefs could come from AFC title game

Ryan Hannable
December 08, 2019 - 6:00 am

1. How will the Patriots defend all the Chiefs’ weapons on offense? That is one of the biggest questions going into Sunday’s AFC title game rematch at Gillette Stadium. As for the answer, it may be worth looking at how the Patriots matched up late in the AFC championship with the game and season on the line. Stephon Gilmore came off of Sammy Watkins to take Travis Kelce, and then Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty continued to double Tyreek Hill. “He’s explosive,” Jones said of Hill this week. “I think we had a good gameplan last year in the AFC championship and we came out between Devin and myself and executed. I think it is going to be the same this year. Whatever we decide to do and how we’re going to do it, that is going to be key. Stick to the gameplan and get it done.” This would then leave J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty (questionable, groin) to deal with Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. McCourty may be best on Watkins because he’s the slowest of the three and then take chances with Jackson on the other receiver on the field. Ultimately, the game may come down to how the Patriots limit Kansas City’s third, fourth and fifth options. But, when it comes to how things will be defended, look to how things went late last January. “Everyone has speed, that is the thing they are built off of,” said Jones of the Kansas City offense. “We’re going to bring physicality and it is going to be a good one.”

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2. Tom Brady’s future was again in the news this week beginning with Tom E. Curran’s piece indicating this could very well be his last season with the Patriots, and then Tom Brady Sr. speaking to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald where he said ultimately what happens after this year will be up to Bill Belichick. No matter what happens, from a PR perspective, it appears Krafts have distanced themselves and are positioned to not get much backlash if Brady in fact departs. They can point to Brady taking the franchise tag off the table in his last contract and then point to Brady Sr.’s words. It is interesting though -- haven’t all of Brady’s past contracts been done with Robert and Tom? Perhaps something has changed.

3. Gilmore is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and he’s also shown he’s not afraid to talk a little trash, although he picks his spots carefully. Gilmore’s words never come before games, as he waits until afterwards. We saw it this past week with him going at DeAndre Hopkins on social media about double teams and earlier in the year when he said Eagles tight end Zach Ertz cries on the field following the win in Philadelphia. It sort of goes along the same lines as Belichick where he too picks his spots and they are very subtle — like his “fun” line after the win over the Eagles, likely taking a jab at Lane Johnson’s comments following the Super Bowl a few years ago. It’s clear why Belichick is such a big fan of Gilmore, and it goes beyond just how he plays on the field.

4. With a lot of college rivalry games taking place the last several weeks, there have been a few friendly wagers inside the Patriots locker room. One of them was between Tom Brady and Chase Winovich (Michigan), and Nate Ebner and John Simon (Ohio State). Obviously, Michigan lost and the result of the bet was shown on social media Saturday with the Michigan men wearing OSU gear. Damien Harris (Alabama) wanted to make a friendly wager last week with Jarrett Stidham (Auburn), but the rookie QB wasn’t up for it. Good thing, considering Auburn won.

5. There was a lot of discussion about the Patriots kicking situation for Sunday against the Chiefs, but it really wasn’t all that complicated. If Nick Folk (appendectomy last week) didn’t make it through his workout Friday OK, then it would have been Kai Forbath, who remained in the area after being released Monday. The theories of the team not having a kicker and just going for two, or having Ebner drop kick were never really in play.

6. Saturday was a big day at Gillette Stadium with six Massachusetts high school Super Bowl games being played, which came after two were played on Friday night. Hats off to the Kraft family for making it all possible. It really is a treat for all players to play on the same field and stadium as the team they all look up to. This is the 13th straight year Gillette Stadium has played host to the Super Bowl games.

7. The Patriots can breathe a little this week following their toughest stretch of the season. While every game is important the rest of the way, the Bengals are one of the worst teams in the league. Obviously Belichick isn’t going to take it easy on the team by any means, but life is a whole lot easier preparing for Andy Dalton opposed to Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, etc.

Related: Patriots vs. Chiefs: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction