A dominating first half turned into battle for survival in the second — but the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed to take down the New England Patriots 23-16.
Here are five winners and three losers from the game:
- Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo came in with an effective game plan to stifle the Patriots offense. His blitz strategy was consistently successful at forcing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into uncomfortable throws. Spagnuolo brought the pressure in a variety of situations. In the first half, pressures from safety Daniel Sorensen, linebacker Reggie Ragland and others caused Brady to go 0/5 when under duress. New England converted only two of their eight third-down conversion attempts. Brady finished with only 169 passing yards — with just 4.7 yards per attempt. He threw an interception and was sacked three times — which resulted in a low 63.3 passer rating.
- Tight end Travis Kelce had one play that soiled what was otherwise a good performance. Kelce had multiple chunk plays in the first half; he had 45 yards by halftime. He also punched in a 4-yard rushing touchdown after taking a direct snap as the quarterback in a heavy shotgun formation. But Kelce’s day got interesting late in the third quarter, when he appeared to gain a first down before fumbling the ball away. That mistake led to the Patriots’ last field goal. The tight end finished as the leading Chiefs receiver with nine targets, seven catches and 66 yards.
- Cornerback Bashaud Breeland did not start the game very well. He had two early penalties — and was also the main victim of the Patriots’ big flea-flicker touchdown that concluded their initial drive. But in the second quarter, he was gifted with a big play when Brady threw a pass right to him; that play set up the Chiefs’ second touchdown. He also laid the wood on a big hit that gave the Chiefs defense momentum leading into halftime. His biggest play, however, came on fourth down with just a minute remaining. Breeland sealed the deal when he tipped away a pass intended for receiver Julian Edelman in the end zone. It was a great play — keeping his body away from Edelman’s and still cleanly defending the pass.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman made a momentum-building play in the first half when he caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes. With a defender in the area, he showed good concentration and displayed his expected explosiveness to finish off the play. Hardman also had a couple of good kick returns past the 25-yard line.
- The defensive line stood their ground and controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game; Patriots running backs averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Frank Clark had a sack and two tackles for loss while Alex Okafor and Chris Jones each had a sack. Derrick Nnadi made multiple run stops including a tackle for loss. As a whole, the defensive line accounted for four hits on Brady and all three of the sacks.
- Chiefs running backs didn’t do anything impressive on the ground. LeSean McCoy had a good 13-yard run — but the unit as a whole only had 54 yards on 19 carries — just 2.9 yards per attempt. Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware combined for 18 yards on nine carries. The sole Chiefs rushing touchdown came from Kelce. McCoy does not look as dynamic as he did in the earlier parts of the season — but his run blocking is not doing him any favors.
- Offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz were not on their A-game against the Patriots. New England pass rushers Chase Winovich and Deatrich Wise found success around the edge and combined for three hits on Mahomes — and a 12-yard sack by Wise. Schwartz was also a victim of a pancake hit by Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins that sent him to the ground and contributed towards a negative run. Fisher earned a false start penalty on a third-down play in the fourth quarter. The whole offensive line failed to execute consistently — as evidenced by the team’s 2.6 yards per carry and the five quarterback hits surrendered.
- Chiefs head coach and offensive play caller Andy Reid continues to be unable to figure out why his unit stalls on the opponent’s side of the field; it was a significant problem during this game. The offense had four drives that at least got to the Patriots 30-yard line. They were only able to score a touchdown on one of them, settling for field goals on the others. In this way, it was similar to the 2018 game in Foxborough. The other issue with the play-calling in this game seems to be a problem in most Chiefs games; the plays in the second half were conservative — which is reflected in the Chiefs scoring only three points after halftime. It didn’t come back to bite them today — but when these games become win-or-go-home, Reid needs to keep his foot on the gas.