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Patriots overcome slow start to crush Chiefs

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (top) scores a touchdown over Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson in the second half
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (top) scores a touchdown over Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson in the second half

(Reuters) - The New England Patriots overcame a sluggish start before roughing up the Kansas City Chiefs in a 34-3 blowout Monday to earn some breathing space at the top of the AFC East Division.

Tom Brady and the Patriots' (7-3) offense were ineffective for a majority of the first half as they fell 3-0 behind, but the home team proved unstoppable once they started scoring and opened a two-game advantage in the division.

"We couldn't do anything in the first half, we had a hard time moving the ball," Brady told reporters after finishing with 234 yards passing and two scores.

"(In the second half) we executed better, our defense got turnovers and we had a big punt return."

Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes for the second straight game and set New England on their way with a 52-yard score that put the home team 7-3 ahead with 4:25 remaining in the first half.

The bruising second-year Gronkowski took a pass and broke a tackle down the sideline before flipping over a defender and into the endzone for the impressive score.

"I've never had a touchdown where I ran by a guy like that. That was pretty cool to get one," Gronkowski said.

"When you're in the open field and you see space your body naturally goes into another gear."

Up until Gronkowski's touchdown, the Chiefs defense had sacked Brady three times to keep the Patriots quiet but they fell 10-3 behind by halftime before getting outclassed in the second half.

Gronkowski caught a 19-yard pass in the third quarter and Julian Edelman returned a 72-yard punt for a score before New England added a field goal and another touchdown late on to pile on the misery for the visitors.

Inexperienced quarterback Tyler Palko played in place of injured Chiefs starter Matt Cassel and coughed up three interceptions while Kansas City (4-6) slumped to their third straight loss.

The Chiefs were tied for the AFC West lead before their run of poor form dropped them to the bottom of the division.

Palko managed to throw for 236 yards and leading receiver Dwayne Bowe had seven catches for 87 yards but failed to score for the fifth straight game.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)