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Monday, November 21, 2011

Patriots Open Up Two-Game Lead In The AFC East With Easy 34-3 Win Vs. Chiefs On MNF

It's rare that an NFL game follows a script that everybody expects, that's what makes the league the best of the four major American sports and so exciting. It is usually so unpredictable from week to week.

Well once Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a hand injury last week and it was announced that he'd sit out, with backup Tyler Palko taking his place (for his first career start), the stars began to align for the rare 2011 New England Patriots blowout. That's exactly what happened as the Pats (7-3) took advantage on Monday Night Football with a 34-3 win that didn't even seem that close.

The poor Chiefs (4-6) have seen their season slip away due to major injuries to some key players: tight end Tony Moeaki, safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles, etc. Yes I know that every team in the NFL has injuries but it's impossible to top that list (Cassel was placed on IR today).

The MNF crew tried to sell the audience on Palko's (25 of 38, 236 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs) limited abilities and for a spell, it kind of worked as Kansas City led 3-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 26-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

It took a while for Tom Brady (15 of 27, 234 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) to get going but once New England's offense was in gear and Palko started to give the ball away like it was on fire, this one was over quick.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis had his best game in weeks as New England racked up 157 yards rushing as a team. He had 20 carries for 81 yards and added a 25-yard catch.

Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 96 yards, 2 TDs) woke up his team and the Gillette Stadium crowd from their collective slumber with a 52-yard catch and run touchdown with 4:18 left in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski's PAT made it 7-3 and he added a 21-yard kick with 10 seconds left in the half after Brady and Co. couldn't punch it in.

Things started to get silly in third quarter as Gronk scored a 19-yard touchdown which ended with him hurdling a guy and then falling right on his neck. No worries though, the cyborg was fine. I'd worry about a concussion with him but could you really tell if he had one or not?

Gronk set a record by getting to 20 career touchdowns (in 26 games) faster than any tight end in NFL history. Also, Bill Belichick jumped ahead of former Patriots head coach Bill Parcells for ninth all-time on the NFL win list with 118 career victories.

It was time for nearly every player on the roster to make a contribution as Kyle Arrington picked off two passes (he leads the NFL with 7); along with extensive time on defense in the secondary, Julian Edelman returned a punt 72 yards for a score (his second career punt return TD); Philip Adams had his first career interception while Mark Anderson (1.5 sacks) and Andre Carter (.5 sack) continued to wreak havoc on mediocre quarterbacks (hi Sanchez!).

Gostkowski's 19-yard field goal closed out the third quarter and then even rookie running back Shane Vereen (8 carries, 39 yards) made a cameo appearance in the fourth. Vereen scored his first career touchdown with a four-yard jaunt. Those were the first carries of the regular season for the mysterious 2011 second-round draft pick out of Cal.

It kind of felt like 2008 (old times) as no doubt the national media will be whining about the Patriots running up the score.

New England started off slow tonight but nobody will remember that since they woke up in time to pummel an awful team. With the Jets and Bills tied at 5-5 and meeting next Sunday, the Patriots are sitting pretty with their two-game advantage. In addition, New England is tied with Houston and Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC.

The Pats will travel to Philadelphia (4-6) on Sunday to meet the desperate Eagles. Philly pretty much has to win out to have a shot at the playoffs and we shall see if Vince Young or Mike Vick gets the start at quarterback for a team which is loaded with talent but has really struggled to find consistency and/or close out wins in the fourth.

Matt Light left late in the game after getting rolled up on by Tamba Hali. Rookie Marcus Cannon got his first snaps as a pro at right tackle. That situation will be something to monitor as this short week goes on.

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