The last time the Patriots faced the Chiefs it changed the direction of New England's season. And it was a change few could have predicted after Kansas City's 41-14 victory on "Monday Night Football'' on Sept. 29, 2014.
In the days following that game, coach Bill Belichick was asked if he was going to evaluate the quarterback position after Tom Brady was 14 of 23 for 159 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Belichick scoffed at the question — and in essence, so did the rest of the team.
The Patriots used that loss as motivation, went "on to Cincinnati,'' and embarked on a seven-game winning streak en route to winning 10 of their final 12 regular-season games and Super Bowl XLIX.
Belichick said Sunday he'll "definitely'' be looking at the film of what he called "a pretty dominant performance by Kansas City'' as he continues preparation for Saturday's divisional-round game at 4:35 p.m.
"I'm sure that there are things from that game that they might try to do or feel like they can still do or want to do that they did in that game,'' said Belichick. "We definitely have to take that into consideration, but a lot of time has passed there, so there are a lot of things to look at too, not just that game by any means . . . We've got to prepare the team a lot better than we did that night.''
The Chiefs will arrive at Gillette Stadium riding an 11-game winning streak and Belichick said that wave of momentum makes them an even harder team to prepare for.
"Well, the fact that they haven't lost in so long, it's not like you can go to a game and say, 'OK, well here is how this team defeated them.' That just doesn't exist,'' said Belichick. "We've got to figure out a way and there is not a great example on film. There are different things we can point to and different ideas or concepts or a certain part of the game that went well for one of Kansas City's opponents but overall nothing really that you could say, 'OK, well this team found a way to do it,' because they didn't.''
The Chiefs look a lot different than they did the last time the teams met as several of their key players are injured or have found new homes.
Top receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery left town after last season and starting running back Jamaal Charles, one of the best in the business, suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 5.
Kansas City has benefited from consistency at the quarterback position as Alex Smith has started 46 games over the last three seasons. He's a very athletic quarterback with a decent arm and good mobility. Most importantly, he takes care of the ball. He threw 20 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions this season.
"I think it starts No. 1 with Alex's execution, his decision-making,'' said Belichick. "He can extend plays and throw on the run and buys time in the pocket in the passing game or he can scramble or he can have an option to run the ball or there are some plays that are designed runs for him, and he does a good job running with the ball.''
The Chiefs announced Sunday that an MRI revealed receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered an ankle sprain Saturday and that his status is day to day.
A teary Maclin left the field on a cart after the third-quarter injury against Houston and the initial fear was he had suffered a third ACL tear.
Maclin is far and away the Chiefs' top receiver, hauling in 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight TDs. Other KC wideouts combined for 84 receptions, 909 yards, and four touchdowns.
"Maclin is very good after the catch. He's hard to bring down,'' said Belichick. "He's an excellent runner with speed and elusiveness and he has good playing strength, so he's challenging to cover and he's challenging to tackle, whether it's kind of conventional run-after-catch plays or whether it's some element of a protective play — slip screens and things like that — speed sweeps or reverses or other ways they get the ball to him.''
According to script
Belichick said the Chiefs' dominant 30-0 win over the Texans in the wild-card round pretty much followed the script of how Kansas City has been playing. "I'd say yesterday's was a typical Kansas City game this season — or the last three-quarters of the season,'' he said. "Lot of turnovers on defense, no turnovers on offense, and capitalized on their opponents' mistakes and [they] didn't make many.'' . . . The coach also said he didn't see all of the wild, penalty-filled Steelers-Bengals game from Saturday night but that he talks to his players often about keeping their cool in the heat of battle. "We talk to our team quite a bit about things like that, so it's always important,'' Belichick said.
The Globe's Jim McBride previews the matchup on 90.9 WBUR: