The Chiefs clinched their fourth consecutive AFC West championship but have plenty to play for.
At 9-4, they are a game behind the 10-3 Patriots in the race for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, so they’d need to gain a game for a first-round bye. But by virtue of Sunday’s victory, the Chiefs would have the tiebreaker.
3. (y) Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
The Chiefs took care of business against New England in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon, putting up enough points where the Patriots were forced to chase them. With their win, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West (again) under Andy Reid, guaranteeing them no worse than the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. They have their eyes on much more, though, as they’re just one game back of the Patriots with the tiebreaker now. A bye isn’t out of question but they’re going to need some help from the Patriots.
The Pats lost 23-16, having lost roughly 11 points due to referee error. What makes the two Patriots plays especially frustrating is that if the officials had merely let the plays carry on, they both would’ve been subject to automatic review—all turnovers and scoring plays are—which could’ve caught any mistakes on the play. Instead, the refs blew their whistles early, leaving any reviews up to coach’s challenge. And because of the NFL’s arbitrary two-to-make-three challenge system, Belichick had none.
On 4th and 3 with 1:06 left, the New England Patriots were five yards from the end zone. The Kansas City Chiefs blitzed, leaving cornerback Bashaud Breeland one on one in man coverage against Julian Edelman, quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite target.
Breeland batted the ball away, sealing the Chiefs’ 23-16 victory.
“You just knew it would come down to the end,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said.
Did you forget about the Chiefs? Because they are in with:
Overlook him at your own peril. In 11 games, he’s tossed 21 touchdowns against just three interceptions this season. If there’s a time for Mahomes to take back the spotlight, it will be in the postseason.
With a win in New England — breaking the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak in the process — the Chiefs not only secured their spot in the playoffs, but they claimed the AFC West again.
The Chiefs showed some great resolve after a rough start to the game that featured a flea-flicker touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman. After that, they went on a 23-0 run that really separated themselves in the game. The real reason why their grade isn’t higher is due to a number of critical penalties and allowing the Patriots to make what should have been a blowout into a one score game late. The Chiefs simply need to close better.
“It doesn’t feel great right now,” said Mahomes, who played the whole game and threw for 283 yards and a touchdown. “It’s something you play with. In this sport you’re going to get hurt. You’re going to bang something. For me, it’s about going out there and competing and relying on my teammates to help me out when maybe I’m not feeling 100 percent.”
“First off, I don’t think this will be his last season,” Mahomes said. “He’s still playing at a high level. But yeah, you want to beat the best.”
At least for now, and for a few more weeks, that is the Patriots, even if it is in name only. But this did not feel like a measuring stick game for the Chiefs as much as it might have last season. For so many years, the Patriots were the standard. But that, as Reid noted, is their history.
”I think it’s just another step in the season honestly,” Mahomes said. “For us, we’ve dealt with adversity through the middle of the season as far as injuries or losses that we didn’t expect to have before the season started. But this team is building every single week. The defense is getting better. The offense is still rolling and doing good things. We’re still getting better.”
This Time, Chiefs Heat Up Brady: Granted, it’s a lesser version of the Patriots offense, but it was good to see Steve Spagnuolo dial up blitz after blitz unlike last January, when Bob Sutton sat back and let Brady pick his secondary apart.
New England was burned twice by officiating calls that cost two potential touchdowns late. The first came on a quick whistle on a Travis Kelce fumble. Refs blew the play dead ruling the Chiefs TE down by contact. The play was overturned, but it negated a return in which it appeared Stephon Gilmore had a free run to the end zone. On the ensuing drive, Patriots receiver N’Keal Harry appeared to reach out for a touchdown but was ruled out of bounds. Replays showed the wideout’s foot in bounds, but with no challenges left, Belichick couldn’t contest the call. New England would end up settling for a field goal, which changed the tenor of the end of the contest. The Chiefs’ big road win pushed them to 9-4 and clinched the AFC West title for the fourth straight season. It also moved them within a game of passing New England for a potential first-round bye. The loss sent the Pats to 10-3 on the season, and essentially two games behind the Ravens for the top spot in the AFC. For next week, it’s “On to Cincinnati” for Belichick’s team that needs to get back on track after back-to-back losses
“I was worried,” Mathieu told USA TODAY Sports. “I’ve kind of got the whole Deion Sanders pregame ritual. I like to lay my stuff out. So, I had to wait. I was hoping it didn’t affect my play. I’m very superstitious.”
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“I should have picked that ball,” he said, shaking his head for emphasis. “We lined up in the best formation in football, ever -- ‘Zero’ -- and as I cut across, I thought I could jump in front and get it. If my right arm was free, I think I might have taken the chance, but I knew I could get a hand on it with my left, so that was the smart play.
”But damn -- I owe my baby a football. He gives me goals every week, and he’s gonna say something about it, too. But hey, we got a Dub, and I can go back and tell him, ‘We’re gonna be playing football in January.’”
“It might be ugly at times to maybe some folks, but we ran the ball today for 180 yards or so and got Aaron Jones going,” Rodgers said. “Different teams have thrown different things at us. I just think we need to be a little more consistent at times. I don’t think we had maybe the same type of flow after the first couple early drives with just the energy. We just missed on a couple things. We’ve got to clean some of that stuff up, but I wouldn’t mind winning ugly all the way to the Super Bowl.
Why the Saints lost
It certainly wasn’t because of Brees, who put up 349 yards on 29 for 40 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The problem was the vaunted Saints defense got scorched by Garoppolo, and the offense losing tight end Jared Cook to injury hurt them in a major way -- the tight end left the game early with a concussion and did not return -- considering he accounted for two Saints touchdowns before being knocked out of the contest. They were still able to rally behind Michael Thomas, but a porous secondary had no answers for Sanders and Co., with Sanders himself hanging 157 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, 35 passing yards and one passing TD on New Orleans.
I said last week Broncos Country could get used to hearing “Lock-to-Sutton” over the next decade. Add “Lock-to-Fant.” That combo was fun to watch. Hopefully Fant’s injury isn’t serious and he’s able to get on the field against the Kansas City Chiefs, and that appears to be the case. Andrew Mason tweeted that Fant said his foot is fine, and expects to be good to go for KC. Fant had four catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Tannehill has now thrown for 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 118.5 passer rating (No. 1 in the NFL) in nine games (seven starts) this season. He’s averaging a ridiculous 9.9 yards per attempt, which is far and away the best mark in the league. That tells us that not only has he been extremely efficient, but he’s throwing downfield for explosive plays.
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2. The Chiefs defense is for real
Don’t be distracted by the statistics — even though they’re generally trending upward. Pay attention to what you saw on the field on Sunday. The Chiefs defense gave up some plays — even great defenses give up plays against good teams — but more often, they made plays. And they made those plays in the biggest moments.
Perhaps more importantly, they didn’t allow themselves to be dragged down by the Patriots’ opening drive. That was clearly their worst moment of the game — and it didn’t get them down. They came back out and played like a championship defense for the rest of the game.
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.
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