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Matchup Winners: Chiefs big plays stun Patriots

When the Patriots ran:

Edge: Chiefs

The Patriots did a lot of nice things in the running game. They got all four of their versatile backs involved, used tempo to create some favorable matchups and found the end zone on the ground three times. Mike Gillislee served as the power back, recording all three scores from in close, while also breaking free for an early 16-yard run. James White was as effective as a ball carrier as we've seen him in the first half, picking up 30 yards on six carries, most resulting in first downs. But things bogged down in the second half and at some other key junctures. Gillislee was stuffed on a pair of fourth-down carries requiring little more than an inch or two, the first of which completely changed the tenor of the game. Despite the diminished production in the second half, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels stuck with it and the Patriots ultimately ran the ball 35 times for 124 yards and a pedestrian 3.5-yard average. Gillislee finished with just 45 yards on 15 carries while White added 38 on his 10 attempts. The Chiefs did a much better job containing that pair after intermission and that helped Kansas City pull the upset.

When the Patriots passed:

Edge: Chiefs

Tom Brady never looked sharp at any point in the game. His first pass sailed high and wide of an open Dwayne Allen down the right sideline and things never really improved. He completed just 44 percent of his passes, hitting on just 16 of 36 attempts for 267 yards and failed to throw a touchdown. He did manage to connect on a few big plays, particularly to newcomer Brandin Cooks, whose 54-yard reception was among his three catches for 88 yards. Cooks also drew some penalties against embattled Chiefs corner Terrance Mitchell that contributed to scoring drives. Danny Amendola also did a nice job replicating Julian Edelman, grabbing six passes for 100 yards before leaving in the third quarter with a concussion. While the offensive line did a decent job in protection early, things gradually deteriorated and by the fourth quarter Brady was under siege. He was sacked three times on the final two possessions and hurriedly threw on a few other occasions down the stretch. Safety Eric Berry did a terrific job containing Rob Gronkowski, limiting the tight end to two catches for 33 yards. Chris Hogan was invisible, catching a single pass for 8 yards despite being targeted five times. The Chiefs dropped seven and eight into coverage consistently, flooding the middle of the field and forcing Brady to look vertical. With few exceptions, those deep balls failed to do damage.

When the Chiefs ran:

Edge: Chiefs

Rookie Kareem Hunt's first carry as a professional went horribly wrong. After picking up 7 yards off right tackle, Hunt was stripped by Jordan Richards and Devin McCourty recovered deed in Kansas City territory. That was last time Hunt wasn't able to excel. The third-round pick had a huge debut with 148 yards on the ground and another 98 through the air. He combined for three touchdowns, two as a receiver, and the Patriots never really slowed him down throughout. The Chiefs ran the ball 27 times for a whopping 185 yards and a healthy 6.9-yard average, and that included five Alex Smith attempts that netted just 3 yards. Hunt consistently chewed up yardage both between the tackles and out wide, where K.C. seemed intent of running at Dont'a Hightower and his replacement, newcomer Cassius Marsh. Charcandrick West only had one carry but made the most of it, rumbling untouched 21 yards for an insurance touchdown to close the scoring. The decision to start Richards at linebacker instead of David Harris or Elandon Roberts may need a second look, although the Chiefs various multiple-receiver packages may have contributed to that. In either regard the Patriots appear to be lacking both size and depth up front and Bill Belichick and coordinator Matt Patricia now have 10 days to decide how they will proceed on defense.

When the Chiefs passed:

Edge: Chiefs

Of all the surprising elements of the Chiefs opening night stunner, this had to be the most shocking. Smith is known as a game manager for good reason. He wins a lot of regular-season games by taking care of the football and staying out of trouble. He also shies away from potential big plays by taking the safe route and being content to punt. On Thursday night he may a number of key throws that resulted in big plays. He directed three 90-plus-yard touchdown drives and hit on touchdown throws of 75 and 78 yards. The latter was particularly impressive as he found Hunt down the seam and dropped a perfect throw over Kyle Van Noy and Marsh down the right hash. He completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns and no picks for an eye-popping 148.6 passer rating. That wasn't supposed to happen against the Patriots new secondary but Tyreek Hill (seven catches, 133 yards, 1 TD) and his friends consistently got free. A big part of that was a lack of pressure as Smith was rarely if ever flustered. He was sacked three times, but one came when he lost his footing and the others the result of excellent coverage after he had plenty of time. New England did a nice job on Travis Kelce (five catches, 40 yards), most coming on shovel passes that resulted in minimal gains, but it was the complementary pieces and big plays that killed the Patriots on this night.

Special Teams:

Edge: Chiefs

The good news was Stephen Gostkowski was perfect, hitting both field and all three PATs while delivering consistent deep kickoffs. Otherwise this wasn't great either. The Patriots ran into the punter on consecutive plays in third quarter in a costly exchange. The first one saw Amendola return Dustin Colquitt's kick to the Chiefs 44, only to be nullified by Brandon Bolden's penalty. Marsh was guilt on the next punt, forcing another redo after Amendola took it back to the Patriots 37. Colquitt let loose a 59-yard bomb on his third try, forcing the Patriots to begin at their 28. That's potentially a 28-yard difference in field position, and the Patriots ensuing drive ended in a field goal. Brandon King was also flagged for unnecessary roughness on De'Anthony Thomas' 31-yard kickoff return, allowing the Chiefs to start at their 45. Thomas also had a 29-yard return later in the game, although the Patriots improved their coverage in the second half as Johnson Bademosi and Jonathan Jones made impressive stops on Thomas inside the 15. Ryan Allen had a net of just 38.7 on six punts but two were downed inside the 20. Overall it was an opener the Patriots would like to forget in virtually every department.

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