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Instabreakdown: Chiefs fight through familiar struggles to beat the Patriots

Even though undisciplined play continued on both sides of the ball, Kansas City’s notched a win in New England.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In Week 15 of the NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs handed the New England Patriots a 27-17 defeat to advance their season record to 9-5.

Offense (Caleb James)

Although there were still a few struggles with moving the ball, the Chiefs' offense was able to find some big gains with creative play-calling and improved execution.

After driving 42 yards down the field, an offensive pass interference call on rookie Rashee Rice led to a missed Harrison Butker field goal — his first of the season.

The next drive would see the offense get back on track, when a 48-yard screen pass from Patrick Mahomes to Clyde Edwards-Helaire set up a fun wrinkle on the goal line. In a Wildcat play on first-and-goal, running back Jerick McKinnon took a direct snap and threw an underhanded shovel pass to Rice — who finished the play in the end zone.

After the early penalty, Rice locked in — and put together another solid performance. The rookie standout led the team with nine receptions for 91 yards and the touchdown. Rice made the most of his opportunities, catching all of his targets and showcasing his ability to run after the catch.

The Chiefs' second offense standout was Edwards-Helaire. Although his rushing totals were low — 12 carries for just 35 yards — he finished the game with four receptions for 64 yards, and made a remarkable contested catch in the end zone to haul in his first receiving touchdown of the season.

Mahomes played an efficient game, completing 27 of 37 passes for 305 yards — but two fluke interceptions took the offense off the field, giving New England good field position.

On the first, he attempted to thread a ball to tight end Blake Bell — but as Bell went to make the catch, a defender wrestled the ball away. The second was the latest instance of Kadarius Toney failing to lock in. Mahomes tried the wideout on a first-down slant — but as Toney turned to run upfield the ball bounced off his hands into those of a defender.

The Patriots were determined to make the Chiefs work without Travis Kelce. The tight end did have five receptions for 28 yards, but mostly served as a decoy.

The third-down offense was not particularly sharp, converting just five of twelve attempts.

But one area where the offense shined was in the red zone. Of the five trips, the Chiefs scored three times. The drive with the missed field goal and the kneeling drive to run out the clock were the only red zone drives without points.

Offensive Player of the Game: Rashee Rice

The second-round rookie is clearly the Chiefs' best wideout. He’s just the fourth rookie wideout to go over 700 yards receiving under Andy Reid. He also caught his 62nd pass of the season, which put him second all-time among Chiefs’ rookies. As the receptions have mounted, Rice has used his physicality (and explosive running style) to bully his way down the field. His most encouraging play on Sunday was on a third down in the second quarter. Mahomes was under pressure and had to evade the pocket. Rice found a soft spot in the Patriots’ zone coverage and was able to open himself up for Mahoems to hit him for a big pickup. His development has been very impressive — and during the stretch run, he will be a key component of the Chiefs’ offense.

Defense (Ron Kopp Jr.)

It was a very familiar performance for the Chiefs’ defense, showing some soft spots in the first half — and then clamping down in the final two periods.

Kansas City won in situational defense. For the game, the Patriots were only able to manage two third-down conversions on 12 attempts — and only converted one of their three red-zone trips before the fourth quarter.

It started with the play up front, limiting the Patriots’ early-down offense to set up third-and-longs. Defensive linemen Derrick Nnadi and Chris Jones teamed up for one stop on top of linebacker Nick Bolton filling gaps; safeties Chamarri Conner and Justin Reid were positives in run defense as well. Overall, New England totaled only 52 rushing yards on 16 attempts.

Early on, the Chiefs’ secondary looked exploitable — especially when the Patriots targeted tight end Hunter Henry. Reid allowed an early conversion on third-and-12 while also earning a holding penalty. Later in that drive, safety Mike Edwards allowed Henry too much space on a fourth-down pass, resulting in the Patriots’ first-half touchdown.

Early in the game, wide receiver DeVante Parker found some space on a few completions. Cornerback Trent McDuffie was in coverage for one of those early catches — but after that, he limited the New England passing attack with help from a swarming pass rush.

Linebacker Drue Tranquill shot through for one sack on first down. Then defensive end Charles Omenihu came around the edge and forced a fumble on a drive-ending sack. Derrick Nnadi earned a sack, cleaning up pressure caused by defensive end Mike Danna. Linebacker Leo Chenal got his hand up and batted down a third-down pass on a blitz.

Even cornerback Jaylen Watson ended a possession with a sack, blitzing off the edge on third down and finishing the tackle. The team’s four sacks were crucial in holding down the Patriots’ offense.

Defensive Player of the Game: Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed

The team’s top cornerback once again led a stifling effort from the Chiefs’ pass defense, although he did allow one contested completion down the field. He led the unit in tackles with nine, eight of them solo and two of them for loss of yardage. At one point in the second half, he also should have intercepted a pass — but he did finish with two passes defended.

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