It’s natural, especially in challenging times, to use a system that has worked and is familiar. Pioli hired an outsider, Todd Haley, as his first head coach but then surrounded Haley with Patriots retreads. Quarterback Matt Cassel, linebacker Mike Vrabel, coordinators Weis and Crennel and as many former New England players — 14 of Pioli’s 39 acquisitions in 2009, including six of his first seven, had played for the Patriots — as he could scour the earth for. Pioli’s assistant GM is Joel Collier, a former New England assistant coach. And when Pioli and Haley had the falling out heard ’round the NFL in 2011, Pioli promoted Crennel as Haley’s replacement, renewed his commitment to Cassel, and signed off on offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, a former Patriots position coach.
Whether it’s Allen or Lilja at left guard for the Chiefs, they’re looking for better offensive line play than they received last week in Buffalo. Quarterback Matt Cassel was sacked five times and the Chiefs had five running plays for zero or negative yardage as they were frequently beaten up front by the Bills.
“They were coming off the ball well,” right tackle Eric Winston said. “They were playing their gaps well. I thought we had to go out there and put out their fire. We never quite did that.
“The same kind of applies to New Orleans. We’re going in to another tough place to play. We’ve got to try to get ahead early in the game. We’ve got to try to move the ball on the first drive and get some points and play from ahead and kind of dictate the pace rather than have the pace dictated to us.”
“We have to do our job, whatever that may be – whether it’s run it or throw it. Yards, getting yards with the football is great but we have to make sure that when we have the opportunity to capitalize and score those points that we have to do that.”
Thomas on the defense’s communication:
“We’re a defense that’s been together now for three or four years. The communication is very important to us. We lost Kendrick [Lewis], who is our real leader back there, but we just haven’t been playing well. We need to play better, change our looks up and be more competitive.”
The gameplan for Cassel and the Chiefs could be heavy on running plays. Kansas City is averaging 151.0 yards on the ground, fifth in the league, and seems likely to try to take advantage of New Orleans’ problems with stopping the run.
The Chiefs averaged 6.3 yards per carry in Week 2 – tops in the league – in last Sunday’s 35-17 defeat to Buffalo. Jamaal Charles dinged up his reconstructed left knee and had only six carries for three yards, but he’s expected to play Sunday.
The Saints offense, meanwhile, will surely continue to rely on Drew Brees and the passing game. They’ve had 101 pass attempts compared to 37 rushing, though Pierre Thomas did run for 110 yards on nine carries last week.