The last time these teams met, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered a left knee injury that sent him to the operating table.
On Monday night, Brady was far from surgical but he did throw a pair of touchdown passes to standout tight end Rob Gronkowski in a 34-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in their first meeting since the 2008 season opener.
Brady finished with a season-low 15 completions (on 27 attempts) and 234 yards for New England, which sits atop the AFC East with a 7-3 record, two games ahead of both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
“We got great contributions from our offense, our defense, our special teams. It was a solid team victory,” said New England head coach Bill Belichick.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 81 yards on 20 carries in the win.
At the time, Brady’s season-ending injury created an opportunity for little- used backup Matt Cassel to prove to the league he could be a capable starter. The former Patriot was unable to face his old team because of an injured throwing hand that required surgery to repair the damage. Kansas City placed its signal-caller, who was hurt in a Week 10 loss to Denver, on injured reserve hours before Monday’s game.
Unproven Tyler Palko, a 28-year-old who had thrown just 13 NFL passes, made his first career start in place of Cassel. Palko finished with 236 yards on 25-of-38 passing with three interceptions, including a pair by Kyle Arrington.
“We did too many things that get you beat in this league too many times,” said Kansas City head coach Todd Haley.
Dwayne Bowe had 87 yards on seven receptions for the Chiefs (4-6), losers of three straight.
A relentless pass rush by Kansas City slowed Brady in the first quarter, which ended with the Chiefs leading 3-0 on a 26-yard Ryan Succop field goal.
Following Succop’s field goal, the Chiefs tried to catch the Patriots by surprise with an onside kick, but to no avail.
During the ensuing New England drive — and on the first play of the second quarter — a scrambling Brady fumbled the ball away after being hit from behind by Wallace Gilberry.
The Chiefs failed to produce points off the turnover, and a holding penalty derailed Kansas City on its next possession.
New England finally got on track when Brady found Gronkowski over the middle for a 52-yard touchdown. Arrington then hauled in a deflected ball, returning it to the New England 46, and the interception led to Stephen Gostkowski drilling a 21-yard field goal to put the Patriots up 10-3 at halftime.
Brady opened the second half by guiding his team on a nine-play, 85-yard drive, capping it with a 19-yard scoring strike to Gronkowski.
Kansas City went three-and-out on its first drive of the third quarter and Julian Edelman returned the ensuing punt 72 yards for a touchdown.
Arrington picked off Palko again and Gostkowski nailed a 19-yarder to end the third.
The Chiefs drove to the New England 13, but Phillip Adams ended the scoring threat by intercepting Palko in the end zone.
Shane Vereen added a four-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter for the Patriots.