FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots, who might have gone away from the running game too quickly in Sunday's disappointing 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans, figure to be asking themselves an important question in the coming days as they prepare for Sunday's home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Is it ground-and-pound time again?
In last season's AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the greatest wins of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, the Patriots ran the ball 48 times for 176 yards (3.7 YPC) and four touchdowns.
In the 2018 Week 6 matchup between the teams, the Patriots did similar damage: 38 carries for 173 yards (4.6 YPC) and three touchdowns.
It's a different season with different schemes, but the Chiefs still look vulnerable at times against the run (122 yards allowed Sunday in a win against the Raiders). As for the Patriots, how they approached the running game against the Texans led to some second-guessing that is timely to revisit.
The Brady-led offense came out churning with the running game Sunday night on a solid opening drive. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels used multiple tight ends on seven of 13 offensive plays. He had two running backs on the field for one play. Bruising linebacker-turned-fullback Elandon Roberts was tapped for two snaps as a lead blocker.
Nine rushes. Four pass attempts. Although the result was a field goal, not the desired touchdown, an initial statement was made.
The Patriots, having chewed up seven minutes on the clock, were going to run the ball (38 yards on the ground on the first drive). An added benefit was that it would help protect the team's flu-stricken defense.
Then the Patriots decisively went away from that.
It was three straight passes to open the next drive, the final one intercepted for what turned out to be a game-changing play. Then it was five dropbacks and one designed rush on the next drive.
What happened? Can there be a lesson to carry into planning against the Chiefs?
"They played a lot of man coverage, put an extra guy on the line of scrimmage," coach Bill Belichick said. "So we ran it and threw it."
Whether the Patriots ran enough is the question as they look ahead to an Andy Reid-coached Kansas City team -- with veteran defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in his first season with the Chiefs -- that seems to be rounding into form.
Brady knows the Patriots' offense must be better than it showed for long stretches Sunday, especially with quarterback Patrick Mahomes leading the opposing offense.
"He's pretty spectacular. They have a very good team and a very good offense," Brady said Monday in his weekly interview on "The Greg Hill Show" on sports radio WEEI. "They have very dynamic receivers, one of the best groups in the league. They have one of the best tight ends [Travis Kelce] in the league. They have some great running backs. And Patrick distributes the ball to all of them. It makes it very hard to defend when you have a lot of players that you can get the ball to.
"It's a big challenge for our defense, and offensively we're going to have to play a great game and going to have to take advantage of our scoring opportunities and keep from turning the ball over and see if we can go out there and beat a very good team at home."
How they plan to do so is a hot-button topic. It might be time to revisit the ground-and-pound approach of 2018.