Second down a focal point as Patriots prepare for Chiefs

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, center, watches during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

FOXBOROUGH, MA – Patriots coach Bill Belichick had much to lament about his team’s loss to the Texans last week. But one thing that stuck out was how his defense struggled to defend the pass on second down.

It will again be a focal point this week as New England (10-2) crafts a game plan it hopes can slow down reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' multifaceted offense.

The Patriots narrowly held off the Chiefs (8-4) in two meetings last season, earning a 43-40 victory during the regular season and 37-31 overtime win in the AFC championship game.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid said he expects an even tougher matchup this time around opposite a defense that entered the week ranked second in the NFL against the pass, allowing just 163.5 yards per game.

“They've got a pretty good defensive coordinator (Belichick) right now,” Reid joked. “You talk about the best in the business. He’s done a heck of job. I’m sure he’s enjoying it. You get our age, man, it’s one of the fun things you get to do.”

That wasn’t the case in New England’s two losses this season when the Patriots struggled to contain quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson on second down.

In their 37-20 loss to the Ravens last month, Jackson threw the ball nine times on second down, completing first-down passes on four of those attempts.

Watson had similar success during Houston’s 28-22 win over New England last week, throwing the ball 15 times on second down and converting first downs six times, including a 13-yard touchdown.