By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After a one-day delay, we’ll be getting our Patriots-Chiefs matchup on Monday night. However, it will not be the Cam Newton-Patrick Mahomes-led battle that we were all hoping for.
With Newton testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, forcing the NFL to move the much anticipated tilt from Sunday afternoon to Monday evening, it will be Brian Hoyer getting the start for New England. That obviously takes the matchup down a notch or two, putting the Patriots in an extremely difficult spot against the defending Super Bowl champs.
Mix in Sony Michel being ruled out Monday morning with a quad injury, plus the fact that the Patriots flew out to Kansas City Monday morning, and New England has quite the uphill battle later this evening. So good luck with all of that.
But we will have Patriots football on CBS/WBZ-TV, a rare Monday night broadcast on the network. And when the newer new-look Patriots kick off against the Chiefs, here are a few things that we’ll be watching for.
The Brian Hoyer Show
The Cam Newton-led Patriots offense has been an extremely fun unit to watch, one that can adapt to whatever kind of attack they need depending on their opponent. Alas, that will not be the offense that takes the field for the Patriots on Monday night.
Instead, it will be a Brian Hoyer-led offense for New England, which obviously limits what the team can do with the football. Hoyer, who will turn 35 next week, started one game for the Indianapolis Colts last season, and it did not go very well, with the QB tossing three interceptions in a 16-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins. He completed just 18 of his 39 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown pass.
Overall, Hoyer is 0-10 in his last 10 starts. His last win was back in 2016 as a member of the Chicago Bears.
Making Monday night all the more difficult is the fact that Hoyer hasn’t been able to practice the team’s game plan against KC with the rest of New England’s starters. That is not ideal when hitting the road to take on a 3-0 team that also happens to be the NFL’s defending champs. But Hoyer is getting the start over Jarrett Stidham after beating the second-year QB out as Newton’s backup in training camp, in addition to the fact that Hoyer is pretty familiar with the New England offense. This is Hoyer’s third stint with the Patriots, and that familiarity is one of the few things going in the offense’s favor hearing into Monday night’s matchup.
And his teammates seem to have all the confidence in the world that Hoyer will be able to handle his duties on Monday night.
I spoke to some New England Patriots players about Brian Hoyer getting the start tonight.
It’s pretty clear they all feel confident that Hoyer knows this playbook like the back of his hand. One player shared the big stage of playing against the Chiefs won’t scare him at all.
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) October 5, 2020
But if things get out of hand, which is possible given KC’s high-flying offense, we may see Stidham get some run at some point.
Run Run RUN
With Cam Newton, the Patriots were one of the NFL’s best running teams. Without Cam Newton… well we’re about to find out.
Kansas City has been abysmal against the run this season, so it would be in New England’s best interest to keep it on the ground as much as possible Monday night. That approach takes a big hit with Sony Michel being ruled out with a quad injury, but the Patriots should still be able to exploit a porous Chiefs run defense.
The Ravens rushed for 7.5 yards per carry against the Chiefs defense last Monday night, amassing 158 rushing yards. Two weeks ago, the Chargers ran wild for 183 yards in their overtime loss to KC, though their yards per carry was a much more modest 4.2. Even the Texans had a successful day on the ground on opening night, rushing for 5.4 yards per carry and a pair of touchdowns, led by 77 yards on 11 carries by David Johnson.
It’s unfortunate that the Pats won’t have Michel, who was coming off his best game of the season with 117 yards on just nine carries — averaging 13 yards per carry — against the Raiders. But his absence leaves the run attack to Rex Burkhead, James White, JJ Taylor and potentially Damien Harris (who will likely be activated off IR on Monday) on Monday night. Burkhead found the end zone nearly every way possible last Sunday, whether it was by way of crowd surfing or pretending to be a bowling ball, and the return of White should give Hoyer a decent security blanket out of the back field.
Running on offense keeps the ball out of Mahomes’ hands, which is a big part of keeping pace with the Chiefs. But it will only work if the Patriots keep it close, which is no guarantee against Kanas City’s absurd offense.
Struggling Pats Secondary Vs. The Mahomes Air Show
Disclaimer: If you read Saturday’s What To Watch For — which was published before Newton’s diagnosis — these next two sections may seem a bit unoriginal (but still amazing).
It’s really kind of silly how many weapons the Chiefs have on offense. They’re led by Mahomes, the best quarterback in the game today, whose rocket arm has no issues finding the likes of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman or Sammy Watkins downfield. All three are burners who are fluid and fast with the stride of a gazelle. For good measure, Mahomes has an All Pro tight end in Travis Kelce who can barrel his way for first downs and into the end zone. And we won’t mention Kansas City’s new running back just yet, because that gentleman has been so good he’s getting his own section in this post.
Andy Reid didn’t spend his offseason bathing in a tub of BBQ sauce like many expected. Well maybe he did, but as he soaked he also came up with plenty of new plays for his already dangerous offense. On Monday night, Mahomes threw a touchdown to left tackle Eric Fisher in a goal line situation, which is just unfair. But it was also welcomed here in New England, because we all know how much Ravens head coach John Harbaugh loves it when offensive linemen are eligible receivers.
That’s a long way of saying that the New England secondary is going to have its hands full on Monday night, and for a unit that hasn’t been as pristine as they were the past few years, it’s going to be a challenge. The seven passing touchdowns allowed by the New England D was the fifth-most heading into Week 4. Stephon Gilmore hasn’t looked like the game’s best corner just yet, and he’s already been whistled for three DPIs on the season.
One thing the Patriots defense has done well is limiting big plays, but that will likely change against the league’s most dangerous offense.
KC’s Do-Everything Back
The reward for winning the Super Bowl includes a giant parade, some fancy rings, and the final pick in the first round. Teams don’t usually find such a game-changing talent at No. 32, or at least one that can make an immediate impact, but the Chiefs struck gold with Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Kansas City added to its embarrassment of offensive riches in late April, taking the LSU running back with the final pick on Day 1. It helps that the rookie is surrounded with loads of talent, but Edwards-Helaire has made the most out of his 66 touches (55 catches, 11 receptions) in his first three NFL games, racking up 342 total yards. That’s at least five yards for the every time the rookie has gotten his mitts on the ball. He’s averaging over nine yards for his 11 catches.
Edwards-Helaire was a great security net for Mahomes last Monday night against Baltimore’s pass rush, with the QB hitting his new weapon with quick routes when the Ravens sent a blitz. The rookie had five receptions for 70 yards in the KC win.
If a healthy stable of talented receivers wasn’t enough, now the Chiefs have a talented running back that can catch passes out of the backfield. Look out.
Tune in to Monday night’s Patriots-Chiefs game on WBZ-TV, with kickoff set for shortly after 7 p.m.! After the game, switch over to TV38 for all the reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!