In the AFC East, where the four teams have a combined 11-22 record in games outside the division, the Patriots maintained their two-game lead as the second-place Buffalo Bills also lost, 13-9 to the Carolina Panthers. The 6-5 Patriots play four of their five remaining games within the division: one against the 4-7 Bills, one against the 4-7 Dolphins and two against the 2-8 Jets.
Playoff implications aside, Sunday's game was a stinker for the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady threw a career-high four interceptions and was only 7 of 18 in the first half while the Chiefs were building a 19-3 lead. New England attempted only 18 rushing plays, good for a mere 74 yards. The defense surrendered 420 yards and 24 first downs and failed to force a punt in the first half.
The Patriots were far more effective in the second half, but not until surrendering another touchdown that put the game out of reach at 26-3.
"We didn't play well enough on offense, didn't play well enough on defense, on special teams. We could have done a better job of coaching, so it was across the board," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who coached the team eight days after the death of his father, Steve Belichick.
After the game's opening kickoff, the Chiefs wasted no time taking control. The Patriots got the first possession and went three-and-out on two Brady incompletions and a Heath Evans zero-gain run. The Chiefs got the ball on a punt, and their offense opened with a Larry Johnson 16-yard run on the first play and a 27-yard pass from Trent Green to Eddie Kennison on the second play. Seven plays later, Johnson scored on a one-yard run, and the rout was on.
The Chiefs went on to score on each of their first five possessions and roll up 285 yards of offense before halftime. The Patriots looked helpless, as the Chiefs executed 17 first-half plays of seven yards or more, including nine plays of 15 yards or more. One five-play sequence leading to Tynes' third field goal featured two runs by Johnson of 16 and nine yards and two receptions by Sammy Parker of 20 yards and 17 yards.
Johnson led the way in the first half with 79 yards rushing on 20 carries and two catches for 38 yards. Tight end Tony Gonzales also busted loose, catching four balls good for 63 yards and four first downs. Green completed 11 of 17 first-half passes for 205 yards.
The best news in the first half was that the Patriots forced field goal tries on the Chiefs' next three incursions into the red zone. The bad news is that Kansas City kicker Larry Tynes nailed all three kicks and added a fourth one from 47 yards at the end of the half.
While the Chiefs moved the ball at will, the Patriots in the first half managed just one Adam Vinatieri field goal while turning the ball over twice on interceptions and punting twice. New England managed only 104 yards of total offense before halftime.
Both first-half interceptions came on passes that bounced off the hands of Patriots receivers (Deion Branch, then Troy Brown) and into the hands of Chiefs safety Greg Wesley. Wesley had three interceptions on the day.
The first half ended on a sour note for the Patriots. First, they got the ball with 1:51 remaining and a chance to drive for a trademark pre-halftime score. Instead, Brady missed on three of four passes and took an eight-yard sack. The possession took only one minute off the clock, and when the Chiefs got the ball back after a Josh Miller punt, they drove 57 yards in 49 seconds and notched a field goal.
The second half started out looking like more of the same. The Patriots gained only three yards on their first possession, and after a Miller punt, the Chiefs went 68 yards on three plays (and an Ellis Hobbs pass interference penalty good for 12 yards), capping the 52-second drive with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Green to Dante Hall. On the touchdown pass, Hall lost Hobbs at the line of scrimmage then blew past safety Mike Stone to get wide open.
Down 26-3, the Patriots finally came to life on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Patriots scored back-to-back touchdowns with drives of 69 and 72 yards. Brady went 4-for-6 for 40 yards on the first drive and 6-for-6 for 68 yards on the second. The Patriots attempted a two-point conversion on the second score but failed, making the score 26-16 with 10:03 remaining.
The defense also dug in during that stretch, holding the Chiefs to a combined 58 yards on three possessions while forcing two punts and a fumble. DE Richard Seymour caused the fumble by stripping Johnson of the ball, and DE Ty Warren recovered.
After the Patriots had drawn to within 10, their defense came hard after the Chiefs. LB Rosevelt Colvin dropped Johnson for a 3-yard loss on the first play of the next Kansas City possession, then Warren and LB Willie McGinest combined to take down Johnson in the backfield for another 3-yard loss. After Green hit Parker for a first down on 3rd-and-16, Seymour tackled Kennison for a 5-yard loss on a reverse on the next play. The drive ended three plays later with a punt.
The good efforts of the defense went for naught, though, as Brady threw his third interception to Wesley on the Patriots' ensuing possession.
The Patriots were held back throughout the game by their lack of a ground attack. Patrick Pass was the leading rusher with 26 yards, and Evans gained only 11 yards on six carries. With the Patriots over-relying on the pass, the Chiefs brought heavy pressure on Brady, sacking him three times. They also blanketed the Patriots' receivers, particularly Branch, who caught just one first-half pass for three yards.
Starting RB Corey Dillon missed the game with injuries. Dillon and reserve RB Kevin Faulk are both expected to return before the end of the season. The Patriots also played with starting WR David Givens and reserve receiver Bethel Johnson.
With Givens and Johnson absent, WR Tim Dwight was busy on offense and special teams. Dwight caught five balls for a team-leading 76 yards, including an excellent grab on a high pass from Brady in the fourth quarter, good for 20 yards. Dwight also picked up 17 yards rushing on a pair of reverses and returned six kicks for 147 yards (24.5-yard average).
Notes: Artrell Hawkins became the sixth player to start at strong safety since Rodney Harrison was injured. The others were Guss Scott, James Sanders, Arturo Freeman, Randall Gay and Mike Stone. … Brady finished the day 22 for 40 for 248 yards with one touchdown pass to go along with his four interceptions. … Branch wound up with five catches for 49 yards. … TE Christian Fauria caught his first touchdown pass of the season, a 1-yarder from Brady. … TE Ben Watson had three catches for 14 yards, all in the first half. Fellow TE Daniel Graham had two catches for 37 yards. … The Patriots play the Jets next Sunday at 4:15 p.m. in Foxboro.