Cliff Notes: Chiefs vs Patriots

When you're rooting for a team going through a rebuilding process, you have to take the good with the bad. While Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards said there would be no such thing as a moral victory for his team Sunday against the Patriots, that doesn't apply to the fans.

By running stride for stride with the defending AFC Champions, the Chiefs proved they'll be a competitive team in 2008. Sure, many pessimists will say the Pats didn't have quarterback Tom Brady, and that wide receiver Randy Moss committed an unforced turnover, but the Chiefs looked decent despite those variables.

Kansas City's defense held the Pats to just 338 total yards and 17 points. Brady was knocked out in the first quarter, but backup Matt Cassel played well in his absence, and was still surrounded by loads of talent: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, and a decorated offensive line. The Chiefs defense came up big in clutch situations, giving their offense a chance to tie the game on their final drive, and showed a vast improvement in defending the run.

There was a lot of speculation about the Patriots picking on KC's rookie cornerbacks, Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers, but that didn't happen. The Chiefs only gave up one big play to the best big-play receiver of all time, Randy Moss. One reason for that was Gunther Cunningham's decision to play a lot of Cover Two. New England exploited the soft coverage and took advantage of underneath routes left open, but good run defense on early downs allowed the Chiefs to play this kind of defense and still force punts.

One area that has had Chiefs fans worrying since the trade of Jared Allen was the pass rush, and the defensive line confirmed those worries Sunday. There wasn't a whole lot of pressure put on New England quarterbacks by the Kansas City front four, and that's something that's going to have to improve if KC's defense is going to continue to develop.

The good things that happened on the offensive side of the ball - the play of Jamaal Charles, Brodie Croyle, and Branden Albert - were counterbalanced by the negatives of Croyle's injury and the right side of the offensive line.

Let's start with the quarterback play. Croyle was solid against one of the best defenses in the NFL. He didn't chuck the ball all over the field, but he did what was asked of him, completing 11 of 19 passes for 88 yards while his most dangerous weapon, Dwayne Bowe, was dropping passes. Croyle's solid play was tainted by the shoulder injury he suffered in the third quarter.

One of Croyle's biggest criticisms has been his knack for getting injured. He was oft-injured during his time at Alabama, and if he is going to be KC's quarterback of the future, he needs to prove he can stay healthy as well as move the offense.

Another bright spot for Kansas City was the play of rookie running back Jamaal Charles, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry on five carries. Charles' ability to get to the line of scrimmage quickly will be valuable behind a suspect offensive line, but his unwillingness to block Adalius Thomas led to Croyle's injury.

Speaking of a suspect offensive line, the right side of KC's unit continued the poor play exemplified in the preseason. Tackle Damion McIntosh was vulnerable in pass protection, showing a complete inability to defend against the speed rush, and neither he nor guard Adrian Jones could open up holes for Johnson and Charles to run through. The play of the right side of the line was a good reminder that this team's biggest need, while building for the future, is still up front.

While Jones and McIntosh were busy having sub-par games, rookie left tackle Branden Albert played well. He looked good in pass protection, and the majority of KC's rushing yards came on the left side.

The Chiefs lost a tough one in Foxboro to the defending AFC champs, but all was not lost. Kansas City's rookie starters and building blocks for the future played well, and they were in the game till the bitter end. In order to preserve their sanity during the 2008 season, Chiefs fans will have to find moral victories and silver linings in losses like Sunday's.

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