8:30 PM ET, November 21, 2011
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
On-field success isn't currently one of them.
Coming off a critical road victory that left them alone atop the AFC East, the Patriots return to Foxborough on Monday night to face a reeling Chiefs team that will have unproven Tyler Palko under center.
As Bill Belichick's czar of player personnel, Pioli helped build the Patriots (6-3) into a powerhouse last decade before coming to Kansas City in 2009.
Pioli traded for Cassel -- who emerged in 2008 with New England after then-Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard ended Tom Brady's season with a hit to his knee in the season opener -- and prior to 2010, hired Crennel, New England's defensive coordinator during its run of three Super Bowl victories in four seasons.
Cassel had a Pro Bowl season in 2010 and Kansas City rode an improved defense under Crennel to a surprising AFC West title, but a repeat playoff berth is looking unlikely. After bouncing back from an 0-3 start with four straight wins, the Chiefs were outscored 48-13 in consecutive home losses to Miami and Denver.
To make matters worse, Cassel suffered what coach Todd Haley called a "significant" hand injury in last Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Broncos and could miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery Monday.
Palko, who's thrown 13 NFL passes -- 26 fewer than Cassel had when he took over for Brady in 2008 -- will be under center for the foreseeable future.
"Tyler is the next in line, and he's done a terrific job, like I said, of keeping himself ready," Haley said. "That's what the No. 2 quarterback has to do, because you don't know. At a moment's notice, you could be in there playing, just like any other position."
Despite having been outscored 157-40 in their losses, the Chiefs (4-5) are still just a game out in the West.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have first place in the East all to themselves -- a reality that was tough to imagine after back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and the New York Giants left them tied with Buffalo and the New York Jets.
Facing the possibility of the franchise's first three-game skid in a decade, New England responded last Sunday night as Brady threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-16 victory over the Jets.
"No matter what happened last week, whether we won, lost, at home or on the road or in London, it doesn't matter. Once that game is over we have to put it behind us," Belichick said. "Now it's about preparing for Kansas City, what they do, what their schemes are, what their players are, what their tendencies are in certain coaching decision situations that we'll have to make."
This will be the first time Brady has faced the Chiefs since the 2008 opener, and only his second meeting against Crennel. Brady threw for 265 yards and three TDs in a 34-17 win over Cleveland in 2007, when Crennel was the Browns head coach.
"It's a very good group and because they're very well coached they're rarely in a bad position," Brady said of a Chiefs team that ranks 22nd in total defense allowing 364.3 yards per game. "In order to make plays, you have to run good routes, you have to make good throws, you have to pass protect against one of the best pass rushers that we face in (Tamba) Hali."
Hali has six of Kansas City's league-low nine sacks, but even if the Chiefs can get outside pressure, Brady should be able to find his tight ends. Rob Gronkowski has 16 catches for 214 yards and three TDs the past two weeks, while Aaron Hernandez remains another of Brady's favorite targets.
While the ability of the Patriots' offense to score has rarely been in question, the NFL's lowest-ranked defense's chances of stopping anyone certainly were before facing the Jets.
That unit, however, will likely be without its top player for a few games. Cornerback Devin McCourty suffered a right shoulder injury against the Jets and could miss a few weeks, while safety Patrick Chung is questionable after sitting out last Sunday with a foot injury.
Bowe, however, has gone four games without finding the end zone, a drought that could continue with the inexperienced Palko taking the snaps.
That's not something Belichick is counting on.
"I think that Palko can do everything that he needs to do from what Matt has done," he said. "I wouldn't expect them to deviate too far from what they like to do."
The Patriots, who have won four straight against the Chiefs in Foxborough, are trying to avoid their first consecutive home losses with Brady under center since November 2006.
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|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||KC|
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With one game remaining in the week, no former Miami Hurricane has scored a touchdown, jeopardizing the school's 149-week streak with at least one NFL TD, by far the longest active streak in the league. If New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork or Kansas City rookie defensive end Allen Bailey does not get a TD tonight, the longest current streak will belong to Pittsburgh, which had its run extended by Larry Fitzgerald this week. The last week Miami did NOT have a former player score a TD was Week 14 of 2002. (Note that Kellen Winslow Jr. had a TD called back for offensive pass interference in the 3rd quarter yesterday.)[+]
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