All signs pointed to Sunday night's battle between the previously-undefeated Chiefs and Patriots at Gillette Stadium being a high-powered shootout.
All the signs were right, as Tom Brady led the Patriots (4-2) to the 43-40 win over Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs (5-1) on Stephen Gostkowski's 28-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
Very little defense was played and big plays were had by both offenses, New England putting up exactly 500 yards while Kansas City was just behind with 446 yards.
The only punt in the game came by Kansas City in the fourth quarter.
New England scored on nine of its 12 possessions after turning the ball over on downs to open the game. Kansas City scored on eight of its 11 possessions.
"Tough to slow those guys down," Brady said after acknowledging how impressed he was with Mahomes. "They've been scoring a lot of points all year. They're going to be pretty tough to stop, so glad we had our last shot and glad we took advantage of it."
New England topped 38 points for the third straight game while Kansas City surpassed the plateau for the fourth time in six games.
"Proud of the way we competed all the way through," Bill Belichick said of the win. "We played hard and played for 60 minutes. So I think we deserved it."
Before moving on to next week's trip to Chicago to take on the upstart Bears, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the exciting, down-to-the-wire win over the Chiefs.
Sony Michel/run blocking – For the third straight week New England ran the ball quite successfully, this time against a Chiefs run defense that statistically is the worst in the game. Michel carried the ball 24 times for 106 yards (4.4 avg.), scoring touchdowns of 4 and 1 yards. He consistently picked up positive yardage in chunks behind a line that owned the trenches. It was Michel's second 100-yard game in the last three contests, leading a rushing attack that churned out 173 yards on 38 attempts (4.6 avg.) with three scores, the third a 4-yard run for Brady.
Red zone D – Some of it came thanks to missed throws from Mahomes early, but later New England got a few key stops in the red zone to force field goals. Kansas City converted just two of five red zone trips, while Brady and Co. were going four for six. Trey Flowers had a great play from the backside to tackle fullback Anthony Sherman for a 2-yard loss on a catch at the 6-yard line in the second quarter. Stephon Gilmore had a nice pass defense on the next play. In a game that was decided by three points at the final gun on a night with little defense being played, those plays were part of the victorious difference.
Stephen Gostkowski – The 351st made field goal of Gostkowski's career on his 400th attempt was the game winner. It was also Gostkowski's fifth field goal on five attempts on the night, hitting from 48, 24, 39, 50 and, finally, 28 yards. When asked to, he also put the ball through the end zone for touchbacks as issues in the kickoff/kickoff coverage seemed to be more about coaching decisions and coverage execution. The Patriots don't win with Gostkowski and field goals of 48 and 50 yards aren't exactly gimmes at Gillette.
Duron Harmon/Devin McCourty – The two veteran safeties were a big part of allowing three touchdowns to dangerous Chiefs playmaker Tyreek Hill. A week after allowing a couple scores to the Colts, McCourty was chasing Hill early and then got tangled up with Jonathan Jones on a second score. Later, in a zone, Hill ran across the formation and in front of Harmon who seemed somewhat flat-footed and ill equipped to take down the speedster who ran right by for the 75-yard touchdown. The pass defense was chasing too often as Mahomes threw for 352 yards, including 100-yard games for both Hill and running back Kareem Hunt. McCourty and Harmon were both big parts of the big plays allowed.
Kickoff decisions/coverage – Things were off all night for the kickoff unit. First came a Gostkowski squib that gave Kansas City the ball at its own 45. Later the Chiefs hit the big return with the 97-yarder from Tremon Smith to set up a short Hill touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Overall Smith had 180 yards on his four returns. The philosophy of kicking to the goal line and forcing the opponent to return to try to pin them inside the 25 rather than just giving the free yards on the touchback hasn't worked well all season and really backfired against K.C.
Brady-to-Gordon – The first couple weeks of the new relationship between Brady and Josh Gordon felt like they were progressing in a consistent fashion. Sunday night there were a few hiccups, even though they connected five times for 42 yards. There were four other targets where they were less than on the same page. One throw down the left sideline saw the ball bounce out of bounds with Gordon having no idea it was even thrown. Later, Brady threw his way in the back of the end zone in the third quarter with Gordon breaking out and unaware the ball was in the air. A deep ball was lucky to end as an incompletion and not an interception. Brady expressed confidence in where the relationship is going, but also emphasized that it's still very much in the early stages.
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