This won't be remembered as Tom Brady's finest game and protection issues worked against him. Still, he completed 15-of-27 passes for 234 yards with two TDs (both to Rob Gronkowski, the star of the attack). The team's top three WRs -- Wes Welker (just 2 late-game catches), Deion Branch (2 catches, 19 yards) and Chad Ochocinco (no targets) -- were quiet, leaving second-year tight ends Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (4 catches, 44 yards) to shoulder the load.
Sluggish out of the gates, the running game picked up steam in the second half. New England backs combined to rush 35 times for 157 yards (4.5 yards per trot) -- 23 carries and 102 yards coming after intermission. BenJarvus Green-Ellis piled up a team-high 81 yards on 20 carries, while rookie Shane Vereen highlighted mop-up time with eight carries for 39 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
Most of the troubles endured by Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko in his first NFL start were self-inflicted, most notably three interceptions (Kyle Arrington had two, bringing his league-leading total to seven, while Phillip Adams registered his first career INT). Palko finished 25-of-38 passing for 236 yards, but was sacked three times and had a cringe-worthy QB rating of 49.9.
Kansas City put up some decent numbers with 119 yards on 26 carries (4.6 yards per trot), but the majority of that came in the first half (87 yards on 20 carries) as New England forced the Chiefs to put the ball in the air after opening a big second-half lead. Take away a couple of big runs (a 26-yard jaunt by Thomas Jones and a 19-yard romp by Jackie Battle) and the Patriots did a nice job containing the Chiefs' ground attack.
This unit has been maligned for its lack of big plays, but Julian Edelman's 72-yard punt return in the third quarter broke this one open. Just a minute after Rob Gronkowski's second TD, Edelman got key blocks from Antwaun Molden and Ross Ventrone for the score that put New England up 24-3. In a game in which the Chiefs owned the field position battle early, special teams (including Zoltan Mesko's early punting) helped turn things around.
Starting the downhill portion of the schedule, the Patriots easily could have gotten caught looking past a struggling opponent with an untested quarterback. But after Kanas City put the first points on the board, New England took over in all three phases. Players stressed how Bill Belichick and his one-game-at-a-time philosophy prevent them from looking too far ahead, even when it would be easy to do so.