When the defending Super Bowl champion turns in a 10-point win over a team contending for the first overall pick in the next NFL Draft, it shouldn’t feel like much of an accomplishment. But the Kansas City Chiefs’ 27-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Week 15 feels bigger than it should.
Speaking after the game, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid reiterated that the Patriots’ team is better than their record — now 3-11 — really shows.
“This Patriot team is so close,” noted Reid. “Their number of losses against one score is crazy — No. 1 in the league there. That defense... they’re salty — and offensively, they had a nice plan there coming out.”
The Chiefs’ biggest star was happy with how the team responded after a two-game losing streak — and losing four of the team’s past six games.
“In an important game we needed to win,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes told reporters, “I was glad with how the guys responded — and that we were able to find a way to win against a really good team.”
During the Chiefs’ recent slump, the AFC playoff picture has become very tight. Reid is happy with how his coaches — offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub — helped keep the Chiefs in front of a very tight playoff field.
“When you’re as close as the AFC is right now,” Reid observed, “wins are hard to get, and you’d better enjoy each one. They’re very important — this one [is] no different because of the situation. I liked the way some of the guys approached this thing. The leaders stepped up and did a nice job. I mentioned Spags and Nags and Dave Toub — their leadership was important at this time — and they did a good job with it.”
Although the Chiefs’ division lead is now more secure after the Chiefs’ win is combined with the Denver Broncos’ loss to the Detroit Lions on Saturday, Mahomes recognizes that the AFC West race isn’t over. Sunday’s win was a key to keeping Kansas City in the division’s driver’s seat.
“Just with Denver being right there behind us and losing two straight games,” acknowledged the quarterback, “it’s just finding a way to get that momentum back in our favor. Obviously, I don’t think [that] offensively, we ended it the way we wanted to. But I thought we did a good job [in] that last drive of burning some time off the clock. You’ve got to learn from the mistakes — keep doing it, keep getting better and try to be playing our best football going into the playoffs.”
While far from perfect, Mahomes was happy with how the offense played throughout the game — without the long scoring droughts that have plagued his unit this season.
“We’ve kind of went in waves,” Mahomes said of Kansas City’s offense. “We started off — in the middle part of the season — we were scoring fast and not scoring in the second half. Then we started scoring [in] the second half, but weren’t scoring early... The message all week was, ‘We’ve got to get this thing rolling early. We want to put the pressure on them — and not [have] them put the pressure on us.’ I thought the guys did a good job of it.”
Reid praised Mahomes’ efforts in helping the Chiefs through their rough stretch.
“He’s been great,” the coach declared of the passer. “[Mahomes] makes sure practices are tempo-ed up and going. I’ve told you before: every time he comes to the huddle, it’s ‘Let’s be great!’ That’s what he strives to do himself — and that’s what he wants people around him to do.”
Mahomes knew his team could not afford what would have been the first three-game losing streak of his career. He also knows the Chiefs cannot rest on this win. The Las Vegas Raiders — with extra rest after their 63-21 throttling of the Los Angeles Chargers on “Thursday Night Football” — will be coming to Arrowhead Stadium for a Christmas Day showdown.
“There’s always pressure,” Mahomes stressed, “but obviously, [after] losing two games, you’ve got to play your best football. Losing three straight in this league really puts you in a tough spot.
“I thought the guys did a good job. That’s a really good defense. [On] offense, we scored points early — [and the] defense shut the door, kind of like they’ve been doing these last few weeks.
“We have to continue to get better and better. We’re playing the Raiders — who are playing great football — coming up. So we have to continue to learn and improve.”