The New England Patriots are set to kick off another season in the afterglow of a Super Bowl title.
Seven months after completing the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, the Patriots will raise the franchise’s fifth championship banner prior to Thursday night’s season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Trying to spoil this latest party will be a Kansas City team that has been chasing its own post-championship commemoration since the franchise won its lone Super Bowl in 1970.
The Chiefs were the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs last season before having their postseason run truncated by an 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh in the divisional round.
The Patriots are 4-0 in season openers following a Super Bowl win but have vast respect for a Kansas City team that has been responsible for some sour Patriots memories during the Belichick-Brady era.
The previous time Brady opened a season at home against the Chiefs in 2008, it ended with him limping off the field with a season-ending knee injury. Then in 2014, Kansas City flatly embarrassed New England 41-14 in Arrowhead Stadium.
“I respect the way they play. They’re always tough. We’ve always had great battles with them,” Belichick said. “I can’t think of too many teams that have handled us better than the way they handled us in 2014.”
But that win was Reid’s lone head-to-head victory against Belichick.
“He does a heck of a job with his team,” Reid said. “To be able to sustain as long as he’s sustained is really something. That’s a phenomenal thing in this profession.”
Professional respect aside, the matchup will be an early glimpse of how formidable the Patriots are after only losing a few pieces off last season’s roster. They will reveal a new-look running game after not re-signing LeGarrette Blount, last season’s rushing touchdowns leader. In addition, receiving stalwart Julian Edelman is out for the season following a preseason knee injury.
And on defense they’re without a dedicated edge rusher with Chris Long leaving in free agency and Rob Ninkovich retiring. But several familiar and important contributors remain.
“When the schedule comes out, you’ve got this first game that is the only one you’re really looking at and all the preparation, everything’s building for this week,” Brady said. “It goes for both sides. I’m sure they’re looking forward to it, too.”
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