A night that started with smiles, fireworks, and Lombardi trophies ended with a silent Gillette Stadium and an eerie sense of deja vu as the Kansas City Chiefs put the defending champion New England Patriots to the sword in the second half to run out comfortable winners.
What did we learn from this surprising result?
Alex Smith can get it done
All the preseason talk of Patrick Mahomes and the QB of the future was put on ice by a strong two-minute drill by the veteran Alex Smith to close the first half.
After getting a 1st & 14 on their own four-yard line with a shade over two minutes to go to the half, Smith showed great poise and determination to get the Chiefs into the endzone just before the end of the half, escaping pressure, sitting in against a three-man rush and allowing receivers to come open, it was a wonderful piece of quarterbacking.
Come the second half Smith started airing it out, putting a perfect ball onto a wide open Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard touchdown, and then at the start of the fourth quarter he made a superb pass to rookie running back Kareem Hunt for another long score.
It was a masterful display from Smith all night, and while Mahomes may be next for KC, right now he’s glued to that bench.
When you think about the New England Patriots, you always think of solidity, of a team that never really implodes. However, they certainly imploded against the Chiefs.
The first half was close, though Hunt proved to be a tough customer, but in the second half things went downhill fast and exposed some issues with the Patriots defense. Outside of Trey Flowers there was a serious lack of pass rush, and after a pile collapsed on Dont’a Hightower’s knee there was a disgusting lack of organization and fire in the middle. The linebacking corps fell apart without him, as Kyle Van Noy, Cassius Marsh, and safety Jordan Richards saw extended time at the position and could not make any plays.
The inexperience and lesser talent crumbled as the Chiefs offense began moving with far more ease than it had done, and with Alex Smith on form there was no way the Patriots defense could stop the Chiefs train once it got rolling. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was a picture of frustration on the sideline as he saw his playbook diminish as backups were forced into key roles and fail.
Quite how they fix the problems if Hightower’s knee injury proves to be serious is a question for another day, but the Patriots have 10 days to try and build a unit that can stop a nosebleed before they next take the field.
Justin Houston is back
In the first half, Houston put in a strong shift as an edge run defender, taking on the fullback and turning ball carriers back inside. He was consistently in position and even managed a key fourth down stop against the run too. In the final five minutes, with the Patriots getting into pass-crazy mode he ran around right tackle Marcus Cannon with a terrific swipe move and picked up a big sack, and followed it up with a carbon-copy one on the next drive to put a dagger into the heart of the Patriots.
It was great to see such a talented player back on the field after two injury-ravaged seasons. His impressive return bodes extremely well for the Chiefs defense this season.
Nightmare start to a dream debut
Kareem Hunt got the start tonight due to Spencer Ware’s season-ending injury. His first carry ended in a fumble, which is just about as bad as it’s possible for a running back’s career to start.
From there, it was all gold for Hunt though. What is normally a mental blow to a back that is tough to shake for the rest of the night, Hunt turned it around and dominated the game. He finished with a massive 148 yards on just 17 carries on the ground and 98 yards on five catches, with three trips to the endzone.
He looked like a natural in the Chiefs’ backfield and was the perfect compliment to an excellent game from Smith. Hunt’s speed and vision were on display, as well as his excellent pass catching. He immediately looked like one of the most deadly running backs in the NFL, though we should wait to see him against a competent defense before we add him to the current Mount Rushmore.
Not quite there yet
The Patriots offense looked very much like you would expect to start the game, with a lot of variety and a lot of pretty passes, but it wasn’t quite the harmonious symphony it was during the famous comeback in February. While Tom Brady was on point with Danny Amendola early, there was a little rust with the Rob Gronkowski connection and some miscues with both Dwayne Allen and Brandin Cooks.
And then Amendola was taken away by the concussion protocol and Gronkowski was clearly on a pitch count. What was left was a disjointed bunch of new players with no rhythm. The option routes disappeared in favor of straight shots down the field, which were entirely unsuccessful.
Tom Brady finished the day a humbling 16-of-36 for 267 yards and no touchdowns as the Patriots offense was stymied at every turn by a Chiefs defense that never threatened to take the ball away but did enough to disrupt the flow and eventually got some clean rushes on #12.
- Mike Gillislee looked like a good fit for the Patriots offense, providing a blend of power and speed in the first half, and found the endzone three times. His disappearance when the game started getting out of hand wasn’t a surprise.
- The Chiefs offense looks like it will be fun all year, with a lot of Tyreek Hill wrinkles and some option plays, including Travis Kelce taking a snap in the pistol and optioning on a play.
- Eric Berry was carted off with an apparent Achilles injury, which would be an extremely damaging injury for the Chiefs defense.
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