KC-NE grades: Pats win with passing game, defense

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Patriots' 27-20 divisional-round win over the Chiefs.

| 1 year ago
(Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

(Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

KC-NE grades: Pats win with passing game, defense

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from New England’s 27-20 divisional-round win over Kansas City on Saturday:

Kansas City Chiefs

-Quarterback Alex Smith (+1.4 PFF game grade) took more shots downfield than usual, but struggled with accuracy as he completed just two of his seven attempts of 20-plus yards. Otherwise, he played the short game decently, taking care of the ball for the most part and making several impressive plays on the ground when the pocket broke down (44 yards rushing). Part of the problem was that the team settled for field goals early, while the Patriots scored touchdowns. Four drops by his receivers didn’t help, and neither did the team’s struggling rushing attack; apart from a 17-yard run, Charcandrick West (-1.2) averaged just 2.75 yards on his other 16 carries.

–While the Chiefs managed to get 33 snaps from a hobbled Jeremy Maclin (+0.3), the main beneficiary of his injury was Jason Avant, who logged a season-high 59 snaps and in that time compiled a +2.2 receiving grade. He moved the chains on three of his four catches, each of them coming on either third or fourth down, and he had a fourth conversion that was nullified by penalty. This was a vintage performance from the veteran, who showed an impressive ability to extend away from his body and make difficult hands catches to keep Chiefs drives alive.

–An injury that turned out to be more crucial was the one that kept LB Justin Houston (+0.1) out for the majority of the game. He played just eight snaps, none of them in the second half, and without him the Chiefs only managed to pressure Patriots QB Tom Brady seven times. Last week the defensive line picked up the slack a bit with big games from Allen Bailey (-1.0) and Dontari Poe (-0.4), but the pair totaled just two pressures in 69 combined rushes on Saturday. It was similarly bad on the outside with Dee Ford (-1.6) and Tamba Hali (-0.8) shut down by New England’s tackles and a quick release from Brady — he spent an average of just 2.19 seconds in the pocket.

Top performers:

CB Sean Smith (+2.5)

QB Alex Smith (+1.9)

LT Eric Fisher (+1.8)

CB Marcus Peters (+1.4)

WR Jason Avant (+1.3)


New England Patriots

–Overall, this was a solid performance from QB Tom Brady (+2.6). His ball location was shaky on his first couple of throws, but he recovered and led the Patriots’ initial touchdown drive, capping it off with a back-shoulder touchdown pass to star TE Rob Gronkowski (+1.2 receiving). And outside of two fourth-quarter passes that could have been picked, Brady avoided risk and mostly stayed within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage — only nine of his 41 aimed passes traveled over 10 yards in the air. He targeted Julian Edelman (-0.3) early and often in the receiver’s first action since Week 10. The two connected on 10 of 16 targets for 100 yards, though Edelman did show signs of rust with two dropped passes.

–Even though it lost Darrelle Revis to the Jets in free agency this offseason, New England’s secondary didn’t miss a beat during the regular season, and that success continued against the Chiefs Saturday. Safety Patrick Chung (+3.1) led the group with five defensive stops and limited TE Travis Kelce to 12 yards on six targets against him. Devin McCourty (+1.3) picked up a stop in run defense and impressively forced a third-down incompletion with 7:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, getting a helmet on the ball on an intended pass to WR Chris Conley. Cornerback Malcolm Butler (+0.6 coverage grade) and safety Duron Harmon (+0.8) also chipped in positive coverage grades, but unfortunately that success didn’t extend to CB Logan Ryan (-1.6), who yielded eight catches for 101 yards and a 142.1 passer rating in 10 targets.

–Another standout on New England’s defense was DT Alan Branch (+4.2), who only played 40 snaps but made a constant impact in run defense and added a pair of pressures to go with his five tackles and four defensive stops. Neither Kansas City RG Jah Reid (-2.0) nor center Zach Fulton (-1.3) had any success keeping Branch from squeezing the point of attack and shedding to the running back, which he did often.

Top performers

DT Alan Branch (+4.2)

LT Sebastian Vollmer (+3.8)

LB Dont’a Hightower (+3.6)

S Patrick Chung (+3.1)

RT Marcus Cannon (+2.3)

  • Michael Sullivan

    Gronk had 8 targets caught six for 83 yards and two TDs and Brady had 302 yards two tds ran one in for a Td and had six drops. Both got negative grades??? Really?

    • snoth cambin

      Edelman had 10 catches for 100 yards and has a negative grade also

      • Eric

        Didn’t Edelman drop at least three passes?

        • snoth cambin

          4 passes but he caught 10 for 100 that’s crazy.

          • rogue

            Drops are serious. One of Edelman’s nearly lead to a pick-6.

          • Brian

            Well 4 drops is pretty huge lol and 100 yards on 10 catches is just 10 yds a catch, which ya know is fine but it’s really not anything amazing. Sounds like an average game but with 4 drops. Maybe a negative grade is harsh but not exactly a great game either

      • jake

        Brady’s grade is low because he played conservative (9 passes out of 41 thrown more than 10 yards) and didn’t accumulate a high grade because of it. Add the 2 late passes that could have been picked off and it brought him into the negative. You don’t get more points on your grade because the play resulted in a TD so that doesn’t help him out. Cant speak on Gronk or Edelman though.

        • snoth cambin

          They just changed the grades Brady is now a 2.5+ and gronk is 1.3+ so they saw something

    • Kason Edell

      Brady got a +2.6 and Gronk got a +1.2! What are you reading?

      • Richard

        The grades were different when this was first posted.

  • skwirrl

    Does Gronk’s score go up for that push-off in the endzone?

    • rogue

      Troll much?

      • bossmanham

        Troll? He clearly pushed off. Not that I think it should have been called. But he did.

    • Jared Rosen

      nice to see a fellow bitter chiefs fan :)

    • WICKED

      Yep he pushed off on that 1st TD. It was plain as day.

  • jajabanks banks

    charlie casserly actually tweeted that peyton manning had a better game than Tom Brady’..im not kidding! i just herd him em on the D&C radio show in Boston defend that analogy!’..if hes not a hater i dont know what is’..unbelievable


    Gronk pushed off on his first TD. No call as usual.