FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The New England Patriots lead the AFC East, have their longest winning streak of the season and are sparked by a two-time Super Bowl MVP having an outstanding year at quarterback.

Of course, the division is weak, the streak is just two games and the offense Tom Brady leads is missing so many starters he may know the plays he’s calling better than the players.

“We are just trying to hang on until we get some reinforcements,” he said. “Hopefully, we get some guys back this week.”

They’ll need them more next Sunday at high-scoring Kansas City than they did in their last two games, wins over struggling Miami and New Orleans, the first time they’ve won consecutive games all season. And both opponents had chances to tie the score in the final minute.

But New England’s injury-plagued secondary came through. On Sunday, Eugene Wilson intercepted Aaron Brooks’ pass in the end zone on the final play of the 24-17 win over the Saints. A week earlier, Gus Frerotte’s fourth-down incompletion with 36 seconds remaining sealed a 23-16 win over the Dolphins.

The secondary has been vulnerable and should have a tougher time against Kansas City, which won 45-17 in Houston on Sunday night. The Chiefs gained 226 yards on the ground and 220 through the air. Larry Johnson ran for a franchise-record 211 yards and two touchdowns and Trent Green threw for three scores.

Other numbers add up to trouble for the Patriots. Only one team has allowed more yards than they have, and only six have gained more than the Chiefs.

Kansas City did lose at Buffalo 14-3 in its previous game, but New England can’t count on a repeat and must be more productive on offense. Brady hit Andre’ Davis for a 60-yard touchdown completion, but other attempts to go deep against the Saints failed.

“If we hit one or two more of those, I would love to see what the outcome of the game would have been,” Brady said. “I’m glad we’re throwing them. I mean, Kansas City is going to watch the film and go, “All right, these guys throw deep.’ “

The Patriots’ preparations changed when coach Bill Belichick left the team after Sunday’s win. His father, Steve Belichick, died of heart failure Saturday night at age 86 and funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where his father was an assistant football coach for 33 years. Assistant head coach Dante Scarnecchia is in charge until Belichick returns.

Brady leads the NFL in yards passing, but is playing with fewer regulars each week. Losing him could be insurmountable with 43-year-old Doug Flutie and seventh-round draft pick Matt Cassel as his backups.

Missing the Miami game were wide receiver David Givens, tight end Daniel Graham, linemen Matt Light and Tom Ashworth, and running backs Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass. Running back Corey Dillon didn’t return after injuring his calf on the first play and center Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending shoulder separation in the third quarter.

Only Pass and Graham returned against the Saints, both playing less than they normally do, while wide receivers Troy Brown and Bethel Johnson sat out with injuries.

Fullback Heath Evans, signed Nov. 1, rushed for 74 yards one week after picking up 84.

“I fit in here right now,” said Evans, who had been released by Miami.

Benjamin Watson played more with Graham limited and had four catches for 66 yards.

“We did a good job moving the ball, but we definitely still have those lows where we are going three-and-out,” Watson said.

With three of the top five wide receivers out, Davis made his first impact since the Patriots acquired him from Cleveland on Aug. 22, released him on Sept. 28 and re-signed him on Oct. 18.

“I had to make sure I was prepared,” Davis said.

The Patriots have a soft remaining schedule: two games against the New York Jets and one each against Buffalo, Miami, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

Brady hopes they have enough remaining players to become a playoff threat.

“We are so far away compared to a Super Bowl team,” he said. “When we start getting some guys back, we’ll see what kind of team we’ve got.”


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