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After struggling early, Tom Brady recovers

QB stymied in first half by Chiefs’ Crennel

Tom Brady howled in disgust after a first-quarter, third-down misfire, forcing New England to punt.

The Boston Globe

Tom Brady howled in disgust after a first-quarter, third-down misfire, forcing New England to punt.

FOXBOROUGH - For the first half of last night’s 34-3 win against the Chiefs, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found himself up close with the schemes Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel had designed to stop him. The Patriots managed just two first downs on their first three possessions and were trailing, 3-0, after the first quarter. By the end of his team’s third series, Brady was on the ground, sacked by Kansas City’s Wallace Gillberry.

There was, of course, something personal about the Chiefs’ desire - and ability - to get to Brady, stemming from Crennel’s four seasons under Bill Belichick as New England’s defensive coordinator. Asked about Crennel’s defense earlier in the week, Brady laughed and said, “It’s what we do on defense, so there’s a lot of similarity.’’

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Crennel schemed and confused Brady into a frustrating first half, limiting the Patriots quarterback to 133 yards on 8-of-16 passing. Brady was sacked three times in the first half and felt the pressure of eight Kansas City blitzes. A team with only nine sacks all season coming into last night’s game at Gillette Stadium was making it difficult for Brady to get clean looks at his receivers.

“We tried to do some different things,’’ said Chiefs defensive lineman Amon Gordon. “They have a great quarterback who has seen a lot of things and doesn’t fluster easily. Coming into the game, we thought it would be advantageous to do some things defensively and put some things on his mind.’’

The Chiefs were on Brady’s mind from the Patriots’ opening possession, holding New England to two incomplete passes and a 2-yard run. Brady found tight end Aaron Hernandez for 11 yards on the Patriots’ next possession, but he threw two consecutive incomplete passes to tight end Rob Gronkowski to force another punt. On the third Patriots possession that ended early in the second quarter, Brady hit the turf for the first time.

“We just kind of got into a little bit of a funk at the start,’’ said Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who wasn’t targeted in the first half. “We just weren’t out there executing the way we need to.’’

Brady was sacked twice on the Patriots’ next possession, which resulted in another punt. The Patriots finally got on the board on a 52-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski, but it took a superb individual effort by the tight end to find the end zone. The Patriots faltered on another possession to end the half, settling for a field goal and a 10-3 halftime lead after Kyle Arrington’s interception gave them great field position.

“If you can’t complete a pass, you’re not going to move the ball,’’ said Brady. “Can’t run it, can’t complete a pass. We just didn’t do anything.’’

But just as the Patriots’ defense has eventually bent and broken at times this season, Brady was able to bend Kansas City’s defense in the second half when the Chiefs stopped bringing pressure. Brady found time for a nine-play, 85-yard drive after the break, moving his team methodically down the field to set up another acrobatic touchdown catch by Gronkowski to make it 17-3. Brady added scoring drives of 50 yards and 62 yards - sandwiched around a Julian Edelman punt return for a touchdown - to put the game out of reach. And he did it without Welker, who recorded his first catch of the game with 5:36 remaining.

“The skill guys that are out there have opportunities to make plays,’’ Brady said. “I have to find ways to get those guys the ball . . . but I think we came out strong in the second half and took control in the third quarter.’’

With Brady in control of the offense, the Patriots maintained control of the AFC East, pushing their division lead to two games over the Jets.

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