Probably the most encouraging sign from the Patriots’ 36-20 win over the Raiders on Sunday was that they ran for 250 yards, and didn’t have to rely on Cam Newton to do a lot of it.
Newton rushed for a modest 27 yards, with running backs Sony Michel (117 yards), Rex Burkhead (49) and J.J. Taylor (43) doing the heavy lifting. As a team, the Patriots averaged 6.6 yards per carry and now lead the league with 178 rushing yards per game through three weeks.
Appearing on The Greg Hill Show Monday morning, CBS analyst and WFAN host Boomer Esiason said that trend bodes well for the Patriots’ chances in a tough Week 4 road game in Kansas City.
“If they run the ball like they did yesterday,” Esiason said when asked if he gives the Patriots a chance against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. “We’ll see this tonight between the Ravens and the Chiefs. The ingredients are you have to run the ball, you have to hold onto the ball, and you cannot turn the ball over. I think we as football fans and analysts all know that those are the key ingredients to winning a football game, especially against a great offense like Kansas City.”
Having success in the run game and controlling the clock was the recipe teams like the Colts, Texans and Titans used to beat the Chiefs last year, and that the underdog Chargers used last week to take Kansas City into overtime before ultimately losing.
On defense, Esiason said the key against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense is taking away the big play, something the Patriots have had some success doing the last couple years, and that more teams have started to do.
After getting torched by Tyreek Hill in the regular season in 2018, the Patriots have limited the speedy receiver to seven catches for 104 yards in the last two meetings combined. They also haven’t allowed tight end Travis Kelce to break free, as he has had a total of 10 catches for 89 yards in those two games.
“Most teams are playing Kansas City back,” Esiason said. “They’re not playing them real aggressive because they don’t want to get beat over the top with the speed that they have at wide receiver, or they don’t want Travis Kelce running down the middle of the field by himself. So it’s been somewhat frustrating for Patrick Mahomes. He’s had to take a lot of short passes, and he’s had to be a better quarterback in that regard, in terms of decision-making.
“They were sleep-walking through LA last week … but this week will be a different story. Everybody’s going to be on high alert. This is going to be a fast game tonight [against Baltimore]. I would think that watching them tonight, you’ll see exactly the ingredients that Baltimore will bring to the game, and that’s exactly what New England will have to bring next week against the Chiefs. It’s going to be a really good test for the New England defense, to see how good they really are going against Patrick Mahomes and that passing game.”