'Gronk,' Pats Rout Chiefs, 34-3
Rob Gronkowski somersaulted into the end zone, staggered to his feet and still managed to spike the ball.
"I was just fine," the Patriots star tight end said. "I just got the wind knocked out of me a little bit."
New England was more than fine after looking groggy on offense early in the game before finishing big with a 34-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Gronkowski, who has five in his past three games. Julian Edelman returned a punt 72 yards for another score and Kyle Arrington had two of the Patriots three interceptions.
"We try to be a very opportunistic defense," Arrington said, "and when plays like that present themselves, you've got to capitalize on them. And if I can get into the end zone one of these times, that would be good, too."
The Patriots (7-3) didn't need him to do that on Monday when they increased their AFC East lead to two games.
The Chiefs (4-6) weren't expected to do much on offense behind untested quarterback Tyler Palko, who threw three interceptions in his first career start with Matt Cassel injured. And they didn't, managing just a 26-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with 1:30 left in the first quarter for their only lead.
"Three interceptions is inexcusable," Palko said. "The game is hard enough as it is without making mistakes."
With Gronkowski collecting his ninth and 10th TD receptions of the season, the Patriots had their second straight dominant game after beating the New York Jets 37-16. The Chiefs lost their third straight.
The Patriots didn't generate much of an attack during their first four series. There were three punts and a fumble by Brady that was recovered by Kansas City's Allen Bailey on the first play of the second quarter. And on his next series, Brady was sacked twice.
"Obviously, the first half we didn't do anything," Brady said. "I don't think it could have gotten much worse."
But the protection improved and Brady, who had thrown for just 19 yards in the first quarter, took advantage, leading three consecutive scoring drives.
He connected with Gronkowski for a 52-yard score when the tight end caught the ball over the middle and scampered the last 35 yards, barely managing to remain inbounds on the right side as he neared the end zone.
"When I get the ball, you just don't want to go down," he said. "You've got to try and do something with the ball. That's why you get it."
Arrington, who leads the NFL with seven interceptions, got his first of the game on Kansas City's next series and Stephen Gostkowski made it 10-3 at halftime with a 21-yard field goal.
"We were still fighting and we knew it was a close game going into halftime," Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis said. "They got a big play and a big score (Gronkowski's second touchdown) in the second half and that started their rally."
The Patriots got the ball to start the third quarter and went 85 yards on nine plays, scoring on Brady's 19-yard pass to Gronkowski, who went head over heels, landing on his neck in the right corner of the end zone after being hit by Derrick Johnson.
"He's a great football player," Patriots guard Brian Waters said. "It doesn't surprise me for him to be able to bounce up."
Gronkowski has 20 touchdowns in 26 games, surpassing Mike Ditka's mark of 31 for the fewest games needed by a tight end to reach 20 touchdowns. He also pulled within three of the single-season, tight end record of 13 touchdown receptions held by Antonio Gates of San Diego and Vernon Davis of San Francisco.
"Everyone's doing their job and I just happen to be an open guy and Tom hits me in the end zone," Gronkowski said.
Just 1:03 after his second touchdown, Edelman got his second punt return touchdown of his career as the Patriots jumped to a 24-3 lead with 9:24 left in the third quarter.
Edelman, a wide receiver, also played defensive back, a position hit hard by injuries.
"I do whatever I can to help the team," he said.
Arrington picked off another pass on the Chiefs' next possession, leading to a 19-yard field goal by Gostkowski.
And just when it looked as if Palko, who had thrown just 13 passes before Monday night, might direct his team to a touchdown, he threw an interception to Phillip Adams in the end zone with 10:50 left in the game.
"We did too many things that get you beat in this league too many times," Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali said.
The Patriots finished the scoring on rookie Shane Vereen's first NFL touchdown on a 4-yard run with 1:01 left.
In the previous meeting between the teams, Brady went down with a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener and was replaced by Cassel. But he injured his right throwing hand in the Chiefs' last game, a 17-10 loss, and had season-ending surgery on Nov. 14.
Palko completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards and three interceptions. Brady was 15 of 27 for 234 yards and no interceptions.
"All in all, I felt pretty confident," Palko said. "Obviously, there's a few things I'd like to have back."
Notes: Gronkowski's 52-yard reception was the longest of his career.... The Chiefs tried an onside kick after Succop's field goal but were called for touching the ball before it went 10 yards.... Wes Welker extended his streak to 88 games with at least one catch. His first reception didn't come until six minutes remained in the game and he finished with two.
This program aired on November 22, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.