As strange as it sounds, one of the New England Patriots' most important games in 2014 was a loss -- a blowout loss, actually. It came in Week 4 when they visited the Kansas City Chiefs and ultimately left with a 2-2 record and several questions about their outlook for the remainder of the season. The Chiefs dominated the Patriots in every facet of the game en route to a 41-14 victory, setting the world record for the loudest NFL stadium in the process. The loss spurned Bill Belichick's famous "We're on to Cincinnati" rant after the game, and the rest is history. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl a few months later and have lost just six games since Week 4 of last season.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, have gone 19-10 and won their last 11 games entering this matchup with New England on Saturday. Surprisingly, it's Kansas City that's the hotter team right now, with the Patriots having lost four of their last six. Both teams look somewhat different than they did on Sept. 29, 2014, with each side missing several key contributors from that game.
Jamaal Charles, for one, won't be on the field on Saturday. He played a huge role in their last meeting with the Patriots despite being a question mark to play, rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown. He also added two receiving touchdowns. He helped spark the rout in the first quarter when he found the end zone for the first time, giving the Chiefs a 7-0 lead early.
One of the biggest plays came right before the end of the first half, though. With eight seconds left before halftime and no timeouts, the Chiefs took a shot at the end zone from the Patriots' 9-yard line. Alex Smith completed the pass to the 1-yard line, but time appeared to expire. Only, the Patriots were flagged for illegal contact, giving the Chiefs an extra play. Cairo Santos made the field goal and gave Kansas City a 17-0 lead at the half.
The Chiefs would go on to force fumbles on consecutive possessions and jump out to a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter following Charles' third touchdown of the game. Husain Abdullah sealed the win by picking off Tom Brady with 10:45 left in the game, returning it 39 yards for a touchdown and a 41-7 advantage. Brady was pulled at that point, essentially conceding defeat to the Chiefs.
As badly as Kansas City would love to dominate New England once again on Saturday, things have changed since that shocking win. Charles suffered yet another torn ACL and won't be on the field for this one, while Dwayne Bowe is no longer a Chief. Jeremy Maclin has been the team's best receiver all season, but he's a question mark to play due to an ankle injury. On the bright side, Eric Berry is once again the leader of the defense after beating cancer. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have done a great job filling in for Charles, while Alex Smith has never played better in his career.
For the Patriots, the changes aren't as glaring, but they're far from the team they were in the last meeting. Malcolm Butler has taken over for Darrelle Revis as the team's No. 1 cornerback. Steven Jackson is now New England's power back, which is quite the change from Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in 2014. Nate Solder, the team's starting left tackle, is out for the year and has been sorely missed on the Patriots' struggling offensive line.
With all that said, two of the most important players on the field have remained consistent from their last meeting: Brady and Smith. The Patriots obviously have the edge at quarterback, and with Julian Edelman seemingly healthy, Brady should get back to the way he played earlier in the season. For as well as the Chiefs have played lately, it won't be enough to beat the Patriots at home where they're 14-3 in the playoffs under Brady.