Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Brady, Gronkowski lead Patriots to victory
At the end of the first quarter Monday night, the New England Patriots trailed the Kansas City Chiefs, 3-0, and were on upset alert.
But behind Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots righted the ship and scored 34 unanswered points the rest of the way for the easy victory.
The scoreless first quarter was nothing unusual for the Patriots, who have now been held scoreless in three of their last four games. The Patriots put up at least 30 points for the seventh time in 10 games this season, and improved to 7-3 on the season, tying them with three other teams for the best record in the AFC.
Brady, making his first start against the Chiefs since Week 1 of the 2008 season, when he suffered a knee injury and was forced to miss the rest of the season, threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns, both to Gronkowski.
It was the 118th regular season win for Brady as a starting quarterback, breaking a tie with his boyhood idol Joe Montana for seventh all-time and leaving him one behind Johnny Unitas for sixth.
Brady did the bulk of his damage on play-action passes, going 7-9 on those passes for 135 yards with both of his touchdown passes. On non-play action passes, Brady was just 8-18 for 99 yards.
Brady has 3,266 passing yards through 10 games this season, the second-highest total through 10 games in NFL history. However, it’s only the second-highest total this season, as he trails Aaron Rodgers by 60 yards.
Brady also threw 51.9 percent of his passes to his tight ends, the highest percentage of a quarterback’s passes to go to a tight end over the last three seasons, with a minimum of 20 pass attempts.
Gronkowski was the beneficiary of those tight end targets, with four receptions and two touchdowns.
The two touchdowns gave Gronkowski 20 for his young NFL career, just 26 games in. That’s the fewest games a tight end has needed to reach 20 career touchdowns in NFL history, breaking the record of 31 set by Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.
Seventeen of Gronkowski’s touchdowns have come in the red zone over the last two seasons, five more than any other player in the NFL in that time.
On the other side was Kansas City’s Tyler Palko, who threw three interceptions in his first NFL start.
He’s the fourth quarterback to make his first career NFL start against a Bill Belichick-coached team. All four have lost their debts, as Palko joined Matt Flynn, Luke McCown and Peter Tom Willis.
The Chiefs’ up-and-down season continues with their third straight loss. The Chiefs lost their first three games of the season before going on a four-game win streak. But this three-game slide drops them to 4-6 on the season and two games behind the first-place Oakland Raiders.