There were plenty of positives to take away from the Patriots impressive effort in Kansas City. Despite a handful of lowlights, the game was dominated by a collection of young Patriot players taking impressive strides and stepping up against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Considering all the circumstances, the Patriots brought surprising energy in this game. Travelling the same day via two different planes, short their starting quarterback and three starting offensive linemen, the Patriots competed at a high level, giving renewed hope to where this team is headed when they have their full complement of players.
For now, here are the five plays the defined a loss in Kansas City.
Enel Powerful Play of the Game: Gilmore forces the fumble
Situation: Second quarter, KC 6-0, KC 2nd-and-10 from NE23
The Patriots managed to hold the Chiefs to only two first-quarter field goals, a great start but when Brian Hoyer overshot Ryan Izzo up the seam, the defense was quickly thrown back into the fire. Backed up on their own 23, New England faced a potential 13-point deficit to Kansas City but Stephon Gilmore's forced fumble prevented the early insurmountable lead.
After getting called for three pass interference penalties this season, Gilmore has taken his share of criticism, but this was a game-changing play, created by his savvy ability to punch the ball out of the carrier's arms. J.C. Jackson recovered a fumble for the second-consecutive game as the Patriots defense continues to get takeaways.
Sparked by the play, the offense would put together their first scoring drive of the night, going 60 yards in 13 plays and cutting the Chiefs lead to 6-3. Gilmore's forced fumble was the first turning point and is this week's pick for Enel Powerful Play of the Game.
Officials Blow Pats Takeaway
Situation: 2nd quarter, KC 6-3, KC 3rd-and-4 from KC42
The Patriots defense should've had their second-straight drive with a takeaway but the referees blew a play that cost New England as much as N'Keal Harry being incorrectly ruled out of bounds cost them against the Chiefs last year. The refs mistake aside, it was an impressive play from the Patriots defense and still one that got the team a third-down stop.
Chase Winovich showed impressive quickness off the edge, a subtle head fake gave him just enough of an opening to get underneath the left tackle and to Mahomes. Meanwhile, Deatrich Wise fought through two blockers of his own with good hand usage, keeping his body free and his legs continuously churning. He got to the football just as Mahomes was going down, a high-effort play that should've earned Wise a forced fumble.
Shilique Calhoun dropped into a short zone at the start of the play, but quickly closed on Mahomes as Winovich wrapped him up. Again, Calhoun showed a nose for the ball, a weekly recurrence now. Together, the Patriots defensive front did an excellent job in this game across the board. They won the line of scrimmage decisively for most of the night and effectively deployed their gameplan which mixed defensive-back-heavy coverages.
Following the punt that this play forced, the offense would again put together an impressive drive and find themselves poised to potentially take the lead at halftime.
Hoyer ends the half with a sack
Situation: 2nd quarter, KC 6-3, 3rd-and-9 from KC13
The Patriots would get a chance to take the lead at the end of the half, or at least tie it up with a field goal, but would do neither as Brian Hoyer took a sack on this third down and could only helplessly watch the clock expire. It was poor situational management, the kind we've been spoiled not to see much of.
Despite the poor end of half execution, this was still just a 6-3 game. The Patriots defense held the Chiefs without a touchdown, had one takeaway and should've had another. No one expected the offense to come out and light it up, but seeing them move the ball only to keep themselves from putting points on the scoreboard, was frustrating.
Really, it was those mistakes that defined the game.
Hoyer fumbles, KC pulls away
Situation: 3rd quarter, KC 6-3, NE 3rd-and-8 from KC10
The veteran back up quarterback makes his second appearance on this list, unfortunately there's no way around his two big mistakes. The first cost the team at least a tie at halftime but after trading three-and-outs to start the third quarter, Hoyer got the Patriots offense on track and all the way down to the Kansas City 10.
Still down 6-3, the Patriots once again had an opportunity to take the lead but Hoyer held the ball too long, allowing Taco Charlton to finally defeat his blocker and not only get a sack, but force a fumble. Hoyer's lack of awareness and ball protection would make this his last snap of the game and unfortunately, Kansas City would take control from here.
It would take the Chiefs just seven plays to move down the field and score the first touchdown of the game and a commanding 10-point lead.
Damien Harris rips off 41
Situation: 3rd quarter, KC 13-3, NE 2nd-and-1 from NE34
Jarrett Stidham would enter the game with the Patriots trailing by 10, but it was Damien Harris who would spark the Pats first touchdown drive of the day with first, a nine-yard run, then a huge 41-yard run.
As with any explosive ground play, there's plenty of credit to go around. Jakob Johnson cut off the backside linebacker, while Justin Herron and Ryan Izzo executed a double team with Herron releasing to the second level and delivering a block to the frontside linebacker. N'Keal Harry made a block in space to help spring Harris beyond there. It was an impressive effort from a group of young Patriots who are growing up before our eyes.
With Sony Michel now on IR for two more games at least, Harris will have a chance to shine as the lead early-down back. More big plays like this will be a huge boost to the offense.