New England’s 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night football came in the shootout that everyone expected.
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes combined to throw for 692 yards on 71 passing attempts. There were eight passes of 20 yards or longer, including K.C. touchdowns of 67 and 75 yards.
So it might be easy to overlook the five field goals that Stephen Gostkowski booted for the Patriots on the way to victory. Those included not only the 28-yard game-winner as time expired, but a key 50-yarder just three minutes earlier to give the home team the seven-point advantage.
During his traditional day-after-game conference call with the New England media, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made sure to emphasize the importance of Gostkowski’s efforts in the high-scoring victory over the previously-unbeaten Chiefs.
“On the 50-yarder, we felt pretty confident in it,” Belichick said. “Steve hit the ball well in warm ups, hit the ball well all night. Sometimes you take a guy like Steve for granted. He just goes out there and bangs them through so consistently from short and long. He’s just done a really good job for us. Last night with as many points as there were in that game you don’t really think of three points as being that big, but they really were. Steve came through for us with five big kicks.”
Beyond Belichick’s praise for his veteran kicker, here are the other key takeaways from the coach’s Monday morning conference call.
“Sony gets better every day”: Another aspect of the win that can’t be overlooked is the contribution that rookie running back Sony Michel made. With the help of some impressive blocking from the offensive line against a Chiefs run defense that came in ranked dead last in the NFL, Michel found room to run early and often against Kansas City. The first-round pick finished with 24 rushes for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns, his second 100-yard game in the last three weeks.
Michel, who currently ranks fifth in the AFC and eighth in the NFL in rushing with 400 yards on 91 attempts (4.4 avg.), has been impressive early in his rookie season despite missing the entire preseason to a knee injury.
Asked if Michel has shown improved patience as the season has evolved, Belichick had high praise for his rookie.
“That’s probably fair,” Belichick began. “Sony gets better every day. He gets better every week. He’s still got a long way to go but he does a lot of good things out there and we’ll just keep trying to get him more experience and more reps and more opportunities to see different things.
“He’s certainly improving in all areas and he’s running hard and taking care of the ball. Those are good things.”
Hogan “able to help in a number of different areas”: Chris Hogan has had a pretty quiet start to the 2018 season, but the veteran made his presence very much felt in the Sunday night win over Kansas City. Hogan caught all four passes thrown his way for 78 yards. That included a 42-yard grab while being interfered with in the fourth quarter that helped set up Brady’s 4-yard touchdown run.
While Hogan’s production – he now has 15 catches for 221 yards with a pair of touchdowns through six games – has been limited, his work behind the scenes has apparently remained quite consistent.
“Chris is one of the hardest working guys on our team,” Belichick said. “He’s got really good stamina. He can kind of run all day. And works extremely hard. Also last night he was in on a lot of kicking game plays too. He was able to help us in a number of different areas. He’s a tough kid who really competes hard and has good stamina to stay on the field for a long time.”
75-yard Hill TD was “bad everything”: Chiefs speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill was one of a number of visitors who found too much success against the Patriots pass defense. The versatile playmaker had three touchdowns, including a 75-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 40.
Though some other big plays for Kansas City came with Mahomes extending the action with his legs – including Kareem Hunt’s 67-yard score – Belichick made it clear that wasn’t the case on the Hill big play. And that it was a case of a lot going wrong for New England’s pass defense.
“I’d just say that was just bad defense, bad coaching, bad playing, just bad everything,” Belichick said. “It wasn’t really an extended play. It wasn’t a scramble. The one to Hunt was more of a scramble play. More of the same. Just bad coaching, bad playing. Just bad defense.”