November 21, 2011 by staff
Chiefs Patriots, From general manager Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to injured quarterback Matt Cassel, the Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of connections to the New England Patriots. On-field success isn’t currently one of them.
Coming off a critical road victory that left them alone atop the AFC East, the Patriots return to Foxborough on Monday night to face a reeling Chiefs team that will have unproven Tyler Palko under center.
As Bill Belichick’s czar of player personnel, Pioli helped build the Patriots (6-3) into a powerhouse last decade before coming to Kansas City in 2009.
Pioli traded for Cassel, who emerged in 2008 with New England after then-Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard ended Tom Brady’s season with a hit to his knee in the season opener, and, prior to 2010, hired Crennel, New England’s defensive coordinator during its run of three Super Bowl victories in four seasons.
Cassel had a Pro Bowl season in 2010 and Kansas City rode an improved defence under Crennel to a surprising AFC West title, but a repeat playoff berth is looking unlikely. After bouncing back from an 0-3 start with four straight wins, the Chiefs were outscored 48-13 in consecutive home losses to Miami and Denver.
To make matters worse, Cassel suffered what Chiefs head coach Todd Haley called a “significant” hand injury in last Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Broncos and could miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery Monday.
Palko, who’s thrown 13 NFL passes — 26 fewer than Cassel had when he took over for Brady in 2008 — will be under centre for the foreseeable future.
“Tyler is the next in line and he’s done a terrific job, like I said, of keeping himself ready,” Haley said. “That’s what the No. 2 quarterback has to do because you don’t know.
“At a moment’s notice, you could be in there playing, just like any other position.”
Despite having been outscored 157-40 in their losses, the Chiefs (4-5) are still just a game out in the West.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have first place in the East all to themselves — a reality that was tough to imagine after back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and the New York Giants left them tied with Buffalo and the New York Jets.
Facing the possibility of the franchise’s first three-game skid in a decade, New England responded last Sunday night as Brady threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-16 victory over the Jets.
“No matter what happened last week, whether we won, lost, at home or on the road or in London, it doesn’t matter,” Belichick said. “Once that game is over, we have to put it behind us.
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