After trailing 24-9 at halftime on Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs outscored the New England Patriots 31-16 until the final seconds of the game, when a 28-yard Stephen Gostowski field goal with three seconds remaining closed out a 43-40 Patriots win.
Here are five hot takes from the Chiefs’ first loss of the season.
1. Brady vs. Mahomes I
Yes... I’m breaking out the Roman numerals, because this matter between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes isn’t settled.
The aging legend and the young upstart played to a draw on Sunday night, notching nearly identical passer ratings of 109.2 and 110.0.
But that is not to say they played identically.
Brady was steady throughout the game. Mahomes played poorly in the first half, and brilliantly in the second. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes, but partially offset those with a pair of interceptions. Brady threw only one touchdown, and didn’t throw a pick. Brady did, however, fumble each of the two times he was sacked, while Mahomes wasn’t sacked at all.
Honestly... it’s just about what we might have expected from these two players — when you consider their respective ages, and that their styles of play are so completely different.
But here’s the thing: Brady has probably learned everything he’s ever going to know about playing this game. Mahomes, on the other hand, is nothing less than a sponge who — according to his coaches — remembers everything, and learns from his mistakes.
One of those mistakes from Sunday was scoring a touchdown in a single play on the Chiefs’ final drive, and handing the ball back to Tom Brady in a tie game with three minutes left on the clock.
In Brady vs. Mahomes II — which will likely occur in January — that mistake probably won’t happen again.
2. A tale of two halves
By the time the first half ended, the Chiefs had scored three field goals and Patrick Mahomes had thrown two interceptions, while the Patriots had scored three touchdowns and a field goal.
This is not a formula for success in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
There are probably Patriots fans who went to bed during halftime secure in the knowledge that the Patriots would win the game 45-15. After all, young quarterbacks are routinely humiliated in Gillette Stadium. Why should this game be any different?
But in the second half, the Chiefs scored four touchdowns — all of them passes from Patrick Mahomes — plus a field goal, while the Patriots managed only four field goals. More than a few Patriots fans will read their morning newspaper headlines and wonder, “What the hell happened?”
The Patriots had simply did to the Chiefs what the Chiefs have done to their opponents all season: forced them into abandoning their game plan in order to play catch-up. And like a couple of their earlier opponents, the Chiefs almost pulled off a comeback win.
But this isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades. The Chiefs are 5-1 because they deserve to be. Both teams did their best to slow down the tempo of the game in the first half. The Patriots simply did it more effectively, and forced the Chiefs into doing what they didn’t want to do.
3. Yards, yards and more yards
The Chiefs defense gives up a lot of yards. A LOT of yards.
On Sunday night, the defense surrendered another 500 yards to an opponent — bringing them to just over 2800 yards given up in six games. If you do the math on that... well, don’t do that math, OK? If you care about the number of yards the defense is giving up, it’s just going to upset you.
But I think it’s important to note something about Sunday’s game.
Once again, the Chiefs had way too many snaps on defense — 75 — versus 53 on offense. That works out to 6.7 yards per play. Is that a good number? No... absolutely not. It’s worse than several other games this year — but not all of them. And it was against the Patriots — not the Jaguars or the 49ers.
Perhaps more importantly, the Chiefs gave up 4.6 yards per attempt on the ground. This isn’t an ideal number, either, and it’s higher than a couple of other games this season — and substantially lower than several of them, too.
Then there’s this: in the first half of the game, the Chiefs defense gave up 190 yards — and 24 points. In the second half, they gave up 310 yards — and 19 points.
I’m working on two points here:
First, let’s recognize that it is important to pay attention to the yards a defense gives up. But just looking at the raw number of yards isn’t very useful. It’s more informative to consider how much it gives up on a per-play basis — particularly now that bye weeks are starting to happen, and teams can rise or fall in the rankings simply because they didn’t play in a given week.
And second, although yards are important, they still aren’t posted on the scoreboard.
4. A special play from the special team
Ever since training camp. special teams coach Dave Toub has been saying that Tremon Smith was a talented kick returner. And with the injury to De’Anthony Thomas, he got his opportunity to shine against the Patriots.
Smith had four kickoff returns during the game — each one progressively longer. The last, of course, was the 97-yard return in the fourth quarter that set up the Chiefs go-ahead touchdown.
All due credit to Smith, who averaged 45 yards on his four returns in the game. But we should note that in the long return, the blocker who opened the door was none other than recently-returned linebacker Frank Zombo.
Zombo gets a bum rap from a lot of fans, but he’s always been a very good special teams player, and he demonstrated it again on Sunday.
5. The Chiefs are still doing just fine
As more than a few people noted this week, the Chiefs were playing with house money when they got off the plane in Foxborough. There was plenty to gain with a win over the Patriots, but little to lose. A win would have been a big statement for the team on a national stage, and given the Chiefs a tie-breaker over the Patriots that may yet prove to be important.
But there was little to lose with a loss — especially a narrow one. The Chiefs are still in a great position to win the AFC West for the third consecutive season, and after playing the Patriots as they did — particularly on their home field — no reasonable person would fail to give them the respect they have earned.
And boy howdy... it was a fun game to watch!