GAME SNAPSHOT: Patriots vs. Chiefs

This will be the 30th meeting between the two teams. The Chiefs lead the series 15-11-3, but the Patriots have won three straight and four of last five, including a 27-19 victory at Arrowhead Stadium last season. That was the Patriots' first win in Kansas City in 40 years - since a 31-24 decision at old Municipal Stadium in 1964.

The Patriots had lost seven straight road games to the Chiefs since then. Both teams were charter members of the American Football League in 1960.

2005 RANKINGS:
PATRIOTS:
Offense 9th (27th rush, 4th pass)
Defense 31st (23rd rush, 31st pass)
CHIEFS:
Offense 7th (4th rush, 11th pass)
Defense 25th (5th rush, 29th pass)

PREDICTION: Patriots 30-27

KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Chiefs have to find a way to contain Patriots QB Tom Brady, and they likely have to do it without their best cover man as CB Patrick Surtain (ankle) appears unlikely to play. In two career games against Kansas City, Brady has completed 70 percent of his passes for 725 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. The good news for the Chiefs, however, is the Patriots' running game is sputtering this season and Kansas City should be able to focus more on pressuring Brady.

The Chiefs also have the ability to dominate time of possession with their strong ground game. They would get an extra boost if LT Willie Roaf is able to return from a hamstring injury. And will New England's secondary a constant game of musical chairs due to injuries, Kansas City TE Tony Gonzalez should have room to work -- especially if Roaf plays and free Gonzalez of some of his pass-blocking responsibilities.

FAST FACTS:
Patriots: K Adam Vinatieri needs 10 points to past K/WR Gino Cappelletti (1,130) for the most points in franchise history.

Remaining opponents have a combined 24-36 record.

Chiefs: All six remaining opponents currently have winning records and are a combined 37-23.

RB Larry Johnson seeks a career-best fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game.

PERSONNEL NEWS:
PATRIOTS: QB Tom Brady remains on pace to set a franchise record for passer rating. Brady is at 96.2, good for fourth place in the NFL behind Carson Palmer (105.6), Peyton Manning (104.6) and Drew Brees (100.0). Tony Eason holds the Patriots record with a 93.4 mark in 1984.

RB Corey Dillon, who hasn't had a carry the last two games, has slipped to 31st in the league in rushing. Hampered by ankle and calf injuries, he remains stuck at 441 yards.

K Adam Vinatieri is tied for 21st in the league in scoring with 63 points. He led the NFL with a career-high 141 points in 2004.

P Josh Miller is ranked second in the NFL in gross average (46.5 yards) and fourth in net average (39.4 yards).

CB Artrell Hawkins saw plenty of action in his first appearance with the team last week. Hawkins, who signed five days before the game, started out as the nickel back but moved up the depth chart in the fourth quarter when starter Asante Samuel was injured. Hawkins also played on multiple special teams units.

LB Don Davis a former Kansas University standout, leads the team with 17 special teams tackles.

TE Christian Fauria narrowly missed catching his first TD pass of the season last week as Brady overthrew him in the end zone in the first quarter of last week's win over New Orleans.

Chiefs: CB Patrick Surtain took some snaps in the team portion of Thursday's workout and was looking more like a candidate to play against New England than he was after the Houston game, when he was on crutches with a sprained ankle. Surtain did not practice Wednesday. How he does Friday could determine his playing status.

CB Alphonso Hodge, the second of Kansas City's two fifth-round draft picks last spring, has been signed off the practice squad to the 53-man active roster. Hodge, who started 35 of the 46 games he played at the University of Miami, finished his collegiate career without an interception. He's frequently around the ball, but has trouble catching it.

DE Khari Long, a sixth-round draft pick last spring who played on special teams in one of the 10 games for which he was on the Chiefs active roster, was released and re-signed to the practice squad.

T Willie Roaf, who missed the last three games and six of 10 in total with a hamstring injury, took nearly a full turn of practice reps Thursday and appears ready to return to action Sunday against New England.

RB/FB Ronnie Cruz missed a second day of practice Thursday and appears very doubtful to play Sunday against New England. Cruz's absence would leave the Chiefs with only three healthy running backs - RB Larry Johnson, FB Tony Richardson and backup RB Dee Brown - for the Patriots. The Chiefs could use TE Kris Wilson as a backup fullback if needed.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:
PATRIOTS: The best way for the Patriots to protect their patchwork secondary is to get after opposing quarterbacks. Last week outside linebacker Willie McGinest was the defensive backs' best friend in that regard.

Showing a spark that has been missing for much of the season, McGinest led a sustained pass rush that had Saints QB Aaron Brooks on the move from New Orleans' very first offensive play. The Patriots managed just one sack - by McGinest, giving him a team-high 3 1/2 for the season - but the pressure kept Brooks from getting into a rhythm until the fourth quarter.

That was a welcome switch for the Patriots, whose 14 sacks have them tied for 31st in the league and far off the pace of their three recent Super Bowl championship seasons. New England had 41 sacks in both 2001 and 2003, and 45 last year.

"I thought he had a pretty good game," defensive end Richard Seymour said of McGinest, who turns 34 next month. "He was beating his man off the edge. Anytime we can get pressure on the quarterback and make him get the ball out of there quick, it's an advantage for us."

McGinest, the fourth overall pick of the 1994 draft, missed 19 games over a five-year span from 1997-2001 as he battled a variety of injuries. He has sat out only twice since then, and his current streak of 32 consecutive starts is the longest on the Patriots' defense.

"When I came here (as a rookie in 2001), a lot of guys were writing him off, saying that he should retire and on and on and on," Seymour said. "But he just kept working hard and he's been one of the cornerstones of this team ever since I've been here. I think just his hard work and his attitude are what have (given him) his longevity."

Recently, McGinest has played with a wrap on his right hand to protect an injured finger.

"I kind of don't think about (the pain)," he said. "It is what it is. You can't cry over it. That's the sport we play. Every guy out here has something banged up or messed up about him. You have to fight through it and keep playing."

CHIEFS: His is one of the most underappreciated jobs in football, but at least his coach always slept easier at night knowing Kendall Gammon was handling Kansas City's deep-snapping duties.

But now the Chiefs go into the critical final six weeks of the season without the player who did nothing but throw strikes on every punt or placement kick.

Gammon, who never missed a game in 13 1/2 seasons, had his string of 218 broken along with his left fibula during the first half of last week's win over Houston.

Gammon, a local favorite after playing for an NCAA Division II national champion at nearby Pittsburg (Kan.) State, was placed on injured reserve. To replace him, the Chiefs signed former Miami long snapper Ed Perry.

Gammon was so durable that he continued playing on one other punt coverage play after sustaining what he initially thought was a lower leg contusion. It was only at halftime that X-rays confirmed a non-displaced break.

"I tried to suck it up and get down the field, but I knew it was going to hurt," Gammon said. "Really, I think I've been fortunate to have played 13 years and 10 games without being hurt."

Starting defensive end Jared Allen, Kansas City's best pass rusher who long snapped in college at Idaho State, handled three snapping chances - two on PATs - in Gammon's absence. But the Chiefs wanted a specialist for the job rather than add on to Allen's duties.

"Jared did a nice job, but it's hard to ask a starter to do that when he's had injured fingers that have to be taped up," Gammon said. "That's why you bring in a specialist."

The 37-year-old Gammon, who will not need surgery, hopes to continue his career next year.

"That's my plan," he said. "I just hope it's also someone else's plan."

Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil has long said he would like to have a position player double as a deep snapper. But with nothing but turnover in his kicking game over the last couple of years, he rather enjoyed having Gammon as the one aspect he never had to worry about.

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