The Chiefs avoided the quicksand.
The early part of the game had the feel of one of those days for Kansas City — especially as the Patriots had early offensive success. Coming into Sunday, the prevailing thought was that New England would lean into a run-first attack (even without Rhamondre Stevenson) given that has been an area of weakness for an otherwise strong defense.
But the Patriots were pass-first instead, keeping the Chiefs in their base defense while attacking the second level with tight end Hunter Henry. At the time of Henry's score, New England quarterback Bailey Zappe was 16 of 18 for 135 yards. He would have 45 yards for the rest of the game.
The defense settled in, beginning with what I thought was the game's key sequence, holding the Patriots to a field goal after a bad Chiefs interception saw them start on the Kansas City 25-yard line. The Chiefs scored a touchdown on the next drive and then another with a short field after Willie Gay Jr.’s timely interception. The defense finished with 4.0 sacks and six quarterback hits.
The performance on that side of the ball bought time for the offense to get into a rhythm, which it did — in part — thanks to an unexpected hero.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Rashee Rice had themselves a day.
That hero was Edwards-Helaire, the former first-round pick in his second spot start in a row, while Isiah Pacheco recovers from a shoulder cleanup. Edwards-Helaire was fine between the tackles, but the most production he had on the day was thanks to a well-designed screen by Andy Reid.
Edwards-Helaire broke a tackle, leading to a 48-yard gain. Two plays later, the Chiefs direct-snapped the ball to running back Jerick McKinnon, who flipped it to Rashee Rice for a record-setting score.
Rice was excellent on the day, too. As Bill Belichick did his usual thing — where he takes the opposing team's best weapon out of the game — Rice shined as the leading target while tight end Travis Kelce was occupied. He ended the day with a team-leading 91 yards — and no rookie in Chiefs history has had more touchdowns in a single season.
McKinnon and tight end Noah Gray deserve some love as well.
It's a win against a bad Patriots team, but I liked the offense’s step in the right direction.
It was nice to see Mahomes able to take a few deep shots again.
I'm not sure you would say the Chiefs' offense is suddenly "fixed," — especially after tight end Blake Bell and wide receiver Kadarius Toney's drops turned into interceptions that should not have happened — but 27 points on 326 net yards against a tough Patriots defense is a step in the right direction.
The key point that provided some optimism was Kansas City's ability to limit its penalties. They were called for only two in the game — Rice's phantom offensive pass interference early and the regularly scheduled Jawaan Taylor false start. You can see what limiting the laundry does to an inferior team's chances.
All that said, there is obviously still work to be done — and the Chiefs have three games remaining to find their stride before the postseason.