FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots begin preparations to face the Kansas City Chiefs on ESPN's "Monday Night Football", one of the first things they will notice is the impressive trio of players who notched sacks in the Chiefs' victory over the Dolphins two days ago -- nose tackle Dontari Poe (1.5) and outside linebackers Tamba Hali (1) and Justin Houston (1).
They are some of the NFL's best at creating havoc for opposing quarterbacks, and given the hard-to-miss struggles the Patriots have had on their offensive line, this represents one of the primary concerns for Bill Belichick's club.
The Chiefs bounced back after an 0-2 start -- losses at home to the Titans and on the road against the Broncos -- with a strong effort against the Dolphins despite being without three dynamic players in running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and returner De'Anthony Thomas. All three players are expected to return to practice this week.
"This was a must game,” Hali said, according to the Kansas City Star. “The sense of urgency was high around our locker room. The guys understood that if were 0-3, trying to make the postseason is very hard in this league."
For more on the Chiefs, below is our weekly primer.
Head coach: Andy Reid(2nd season)
Offensive coordinator: Doug Pederson
Defensive coordinator: Bob Sutton
Special teams: Dave Toub
General manager: John Dorsey
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Alex Smith. The recipient of a lucrative four-year contract extension prior to the start of the regular season, the 6-foot-4, 217-pound Smith is in his 10th season after entering the NFL with the 49ers in 2005 as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. He is the type of quarterback who will beat you with his legs as much as his arm, but is more than just a "game manager".
2. LT Eric Fisher. The top overall pick in the 2013 draft, he played right tackle as a rookie and flipped to the left side this year after Branden Albert signed with the Dolphins as a free agent. The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Fisher played at Central Michigan, so it's been a bigger jump for him in the NFL than most No. 1 selections, which he's acknowledged. His matchup against Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones bears watching.
3. RB Jamaal Charles. A third-round draft choice out of Texas in 2008, the 5-foot-11, 199-pound Charles is one of the marquee players at his position in the NFL. This had us going back to the '08 draft to learn why Charles wasn't picked until the No. 73 overall pick, and this is what we learned: Some concerns with ankle injuries, ball security and strength/bulk might have contributed to knocking his stock down a bit. Those concerns are long, long gone.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. OLB Tamba Hali. A first-round draft choice of the Chiefs in 2006, the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Hali is one of the NFL's most explosive pass-rushers, similar to what the Patriots faced in Week 1 against Miami's Cameron Wake. His first step is remarkable and he has a wide array of pass-rush moves, as evidenced by his 75.5 career sacks.
2. DT Dontari Poe. The 6-foot-3, 346-pound Poe amazed at the 2012 NFL combine and was selected by the Chiefs in the first round that year, a fine pick by then-general manager Scott Pioli. The 24-year-old Poe has been durable (playing every game but one) and disruptive at a premium position, and is a rare athlete for his size.
3. OLB Justin Houston. A four-year veteran out of Georgia, the 6-foot-3, 258-pound Houston has 29.5 career sacks and teams with Hali to form one of the NFL's most threatening 1-2 pass-rushing combinations. He slipped to the third round in the 2011 draft (he came out as a junior) as there were some questions about his work ethic. Those questions are no longer being asked.
OTHER NOTES: The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL to have not forced a turnover in the first three weeks of the season. ... Left-footed punter Dustin Colquitt, the longest tenured Chief as a third-round draft choice in 2005, holds several franchise records and tied for the NFL lead with 35 punts inside the 20 last year. ... They've already placed three starters on season-ending injured reserve -- linebacker Derrick Johnson, defensive lineman Mike DeVito and right tackle Jeff Allen. ... Knile Davis, a third-round draft choice out of Arkansas in 2013, leads the team with 214 yards on 55 carries (3.9 avg.) and three touchdowns. ... They went 9-0 to open the Andy Reid regime and are 3-8 since (including playoffs).