Nobody could miss him Monday night.
The unassuming quarterback threw for 315 yards, including a touchdown pass to Deion Branch, and the Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-19 for their 24th victory in 25 games. New England won its third straight since its NFL-record 21-game winning streak was snapped last month in Pittsburgh.
Typically, the Patriots (9-1) didn’t seem satisfied as they pursue their third NFL title in four seasons.
“We’re still trying to improve,” Brady said. “We left some points out on the field tonight. I think everyone’s just glad we won this game.”
The Chiefs think Brady, as usual, was understating his team’s excellence.
“He just carries himself so well,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “He sees defenses real well. I could feel the confidence coming from their sideline. It was impressive.”
The Patriots’ defense also contributed by shutting down a Kansas City running game missing Priest Holmes, out with a knee injury. The Chiefs gained just 64 yards rushing, exactly 100 yards less than their average coming into the game.
But Trent Green took advantage of injuries in the New England secondary, throwing for 381 yards, including TD passes of 65 and 26 yards to Eddie Kennison. The Patriots played without starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole.
The second score to Kennison came after Corey Dillon, who had two short touchdown runs, fumbled at the Kansas City 3 as the Patriots seemed set to take a 31-13 lead. Instead, Green drove the Chiefs the length of the field to cut their deficit to 24-19 with 6:13 left—a 2-point conversion attempt failed.
The Chiefs, however, couldn’t stop the Patriots, who used up nearly 4 1/2 minutes on a drive that ended with Adam Vinatieri’s 28-yard field goal. That almost guaranteed that the Chiefs (3-7) will miss the playoffs after going 13-3 last season.
“They’re an excellent team. They showed why they are champions,” Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said. “All I can tell our players is shake their hands, say good job and move on.”
Dillon, who carried 26 times for 98 yards, had two runs for one first down to start that last drive. Then Brady, who completed 17 of 26 passes, hit Christian Fauria for 14 yards and Branch for 9 yards more. Branch finished with six catches for 105 yards.
He was one of many Patriots to make big plays.
Rodney Harrison stopped a Kansas City threat with an end zone interception in the last minute of the first half; Tedy Bruschi forced a field goal by stuffing Derrick Blaylock on third-and-1 after a long Chiefs drive in the third quarter; tight end Daniel Graham had two big catches; and David Patten’s only reception was a 46-yarder that set up a touchdown.
“We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We don’t aim for one particular person. We just hope that somebody steps up and makes a play.”
Harrison was a perfect example. His interception came because he anticipated a pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez and jumped in front of the All-Pro.
“Gonzalez is their No. 1 target in the red zone,” Harrison said. “He is 6-foot-5 and athletic. Why wouldn’t they throw to him?”
This game was strictly football, unlike last Monday night’s game between Philadelphia and Dallas, which began with an introduction on ABC featuring actress Nicollette Sheridan and Terrell Owens that caused a furor. This week, the opening featured Brady and Green among others saying, in effect, “let’s play football.”
Dillon’s touchdown runs of 5 yards and 1 yard, and Vinatieri’s 37-yard field goal gave the Patriots a 17-10 halftime lead. It was preserved by Harrison’s interception in the end zone.
Dillon’s 5-yard score came at the end of a 71-yard, 10-play drive on the opening series of the game. It featured a 27-yard third-down pass to Daniel Graham on a short flip by Brady over a blitzing linebacker.
Dillon’s second score came at the end of a 75-yard drive that featured passes of 22 yards to Troy Brown and 14 to Branch.
Tynes’ 24-yard field goal on the first drive of the third quarter cut it to 17-13 after Bruschi stopped Blaylock on third down.
But it took less than two minutes for the Patriots to score on Brady’s 26-yard TD pass, a short dump over the middle that Branch took to the end zone by weaving through the Chiefs’ secondary. It came a play after Patten’s 46-yard catch.
The Chiefs set a team record by gaining more than 400 yards for the fifth consecutive game. They won just two of those. … Brady has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the league. … New England tied an NFL record by scoring first in 15 straight games.