Patriots pull away from Chiefs

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Patriots pull away from Chiefs

FOXBORO -- Last Sunday nights thrashing of the Jets put the Patriots on a clear path to the AFC East title and, perhaps, one of the top two seeds in the conference. With a less-than-imposing schedule the rest of the way, the Pats challenge is simple: Take care of business.

Which is as good a description of their 34-3 victory over the Chiefs Monday night as anything else you might want to say about it.

Scoring, summary, statistics

Facing a beat-up opponent with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, there seemed little chance the Patriots would lose or even be seriously challenged Monday night, and they werent. The Pats sacked Tyler Palko three times, picked off three of his passes, and generally coasted to a victory that increased their record to 7-3 and moved them into a tie with Baltimore and Houston for the best record in the conference.

"We got good contributions from our offense, our defense, our special teams," said coach Bill Belichick. "It was a good, solid team victory."

And yet, impossible as it may seem judging by the final score, the Chiefs not only kept it close, but actually had the edge in play for most of the first half.

A 26-yard field goal by Ryan Succup with 1:34 to play in the first quarter put Kansas City ahead, 3-0, and the Chiefs protected the lead with an aggressive, blitzing defense that had Tom Brady and the Patriots offense stopped in its tracks. A strip-sack of Brady by Wallace Gilberry forced a fumble that ended New Englands only successful drive in the first 22 minutes of the game, and one particularly fruitless three-and-out included two sacks of Brady that resulted in a fourth-and-21.

"We couldn't do anything in the first half," said Brady. "We had a hard time moving the ball; at every position, we didn't really execute well."

But the Pats found their rhythm at last on their fifth possession, which started on their own 15-yard line with 7:36 left in the half.

Passes of 13 and 9 yards to Aaron Hernandez helped get New England out from the shadow of its goalposts, and Brady moved the Pats to their own 48 in five plays. The Chiefs then blew a coverage and left Rob Gronkowski wide open in the middle of the field. He caught the ball at the 35-yard line, broke to the right sideline, avoided a tackle attempt by Lewis Kendrick at the 10, and scampered into the end zone to put the Patriots ahead, 7-3.

Kyle Arrington, the NFLs interception leader, stopped the next Kansas City drive with the first of his two picks on the night and returned it 28 yards to the New England 46 with 2:01 remaining. Brady efficiently drove the Pats to the K.C. 3 before missing on a short pass to Danny Woodhead on a third-and-goal, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 21-yard field goal that gave New England a 10-3 halftime lead.

The Pats increased their lead to 17-3 with a nine-play, 85-yard drive after the second-half kickoff that culminated in another Brady-to-Gronkowski touchdown pass, this one of 19 yards and featuring a) another Gronkowski broken tackle this one against Donald Washington at the 20 and b) a Gronk somersault into the end zone.

"He's tough, he runs hard, obviously he's great with the ball after he catches it," Brady said of his second-year tight end. "He's a tough matchup, and he made some big plays for us tonight."

From there, it was just a question of how big the margin of victory was going to be. The answer was 31 points, thanks to a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Julian Edelman that made it 24-3, a 19-yard field goal by Gostkowski that pushed it to 27-3, and a four-yard TD run in the final minute by Shane Vereen for the 34-3 final.

One other interesting sidenote: A leg injury to starting left tackle Matt Light late in the fourth quarter sent him to the sideline and, in Lights absence, cancer survivor Marcus Cannon made his NFL debut. He played right tackle, with Sebastian Vollmer moving over to the left side.

With the victory, the Pats now hold a two-game lead over their two closest division rivals, the Jets and Bills. The odds of them relinquishing first place seem as long as the odds of an upset loss Monday night; after all, their remaining games are against the Eagles (4-6), Colts (0-10), Broncos (5-5), Redskins (3-7), Dolphins (3-7) and Bills (5-5). That 20-40, .333, combined record of their opponents gives them the easiest schedule in the NFL the rest of the way.

But these are the Patriots. You can imagine how they respond to such talk.

"I don't think we're really where we hope to be at this point," said Brady. "But we have our whole season ahead of us. And hopefully we can come out, have a good week of practice and move forward."

Kraft OK with the idea of a Raiders move to Las Vegas

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Kraft OK with the idea of a Raiders move to Las Vegas

Robert Kraft doesn't seem all that concerned about the potential pitfalls of having an NFL franchise in Las Vegas.

The temptations found in that city, he says, can now be found around any dark corner of the Internet. That's part of the reason why he would be supportive of the Raiders if owner Mark Davis chose to move the team to Vegas from Oakland. 

He explained his reasoning to NFL Media's Judy Battista at the league's annual spring meetings on Tuesday. 

"I think we can put the discipline and controls in [for] whatever anyone might be worried about," Kraft said. "With the Internet and the age of the Internet and what's going on in today's world, it's so much different than when I came in 20 odd years ago. If you'd like to move there and they're supportive and Oakland doesn't do what they should do, I'm behind them."

The comments echoed what Kraft told USA Today earlier this week.

"I came into the league in ’94," Kraft said. "Back then, any exploration of that market was dismissed out of hand. I’m looking where we are today and thinking of the last 10 to 15 years, and the emergence of new media, with Google and Facebook and the like. We’re just living in a different world, technology-wise. The [sports gambling] risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas. Whatever the risks, they are no greater [in Las Vegas] than playing a game in New Jersey."

Davis' hope to move the Raiders stems from an inability to get a deal done for a new stadium in Oakland.

"I have given my commitment to Las Vegas," Davis said this week, "and if they can get done what they're talking about doing, then we will go to Las Vegas."

Curran: Roger The Dodger continues his evasive maneuvers

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Curran: Roger The Dodger continues his evasive maneuvers

Roger Goodell is doing that damn thing again down in North Carolina this afternoon.

The NFL commissioner -- who once could carry off a press conference with a breezy, in-command air -- came off like a carrot-topped armadillo talking to reporters at the end of the May owner’s meetings in Charlotte.

Defensive, clipped and disingenuous, a monotone-speaking Goodell was asked about Deflategate and Monday’s Congressional report that alleged the NFL had lobbyists trying to pressure concussion researchers into using NFL-approved doctors.

Asked about the appeal for a rehearing of Tom Brady’s case on Monday, Goodell said, “I respect the NFLPA’s ability to appeal if they choose to do that . . . I’m not really focused on that at all.”

Goodell did not answer the second part of the question, whether or not he’d keep Tom Brady off the field if the court case was unresolved.

The answer, one can only presume would be, “Abso-friggin-lutely.”

As for the Congressional report, Goodell had the gall to answer that he “didn’t see the report.”

He then went on to disagree with what was in the report -- meaning his initial response was less than candid.

A few more minutes of short answers and the show was over with nobody much the wiser than when he began. 

Kraft on Deflategate: 'The whole thing has been mishandled'

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Kraft on Deflategate: 'The whole thing has been mishandled'

At the NFL's brief annual spring meeting, which typically lasts about 24 hours, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft provided some equally brief remarks about his quarterback. 

Asked for some comment on Tom Brady's legal situation, Kraft told NFL Media's Judy Battista a version of what he has been saying for the last few months as it relates to Deflategate.

"We've been behind him," Kraft said, "and the whole thing has been mishandled, in my opinion. It's unfortunate, and we hope he prevails."

The NFLPA and Brady's legal team filed a petition to the Second Circuit on Monday requesting that he be granted a rehearing. The Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension upon appeal earlier this offseason.