Few people gave the Chiefs a chance to march into Foxborough Thursday night and pull off the upset of the defending-champion Patriots in the NFL opener.
But march Kansas City did, right through a 42-27 beatdown of New England that left fans running for the exits early on a night that was supposed to be a celebration of past successes and future accomplishments.
The energy and excitement of pregame ceremony, including the unveiling of the Super Bowl LI banner at Gillette Stadium didn't last too long, even though the home squad actually had the lead 7-0 to open the scoring, 17-14 at halftime and 27-21 in the third quarter. But Alex Smith helped the Chiefs pull away with an impressive passing attack that included 133 yards from Tyreek Hill. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt did the most damage, rushing for 148 yards and a touchdown while also hauling in five catches for 98 yards and two scores.
Offensively the Patriots moved the ball relatively well in the first half, but faded down the stretch. The loss also saw New England lose a couple of key players to injury as Danny Amendola (head) and Dont'a Hightower (knee) failed to finish the fight.
In the end, Andy Reid's squad took it to Bill Belichick's team by outcoaching and outplaying the supposed Super Bowl favorites. "We didn't do much of anything well enough tonight to deserve to win," Belichick concluded.
It will be a long week-plus in Foxborough between Thursday night and the Week 2 trip to New Orleans. Belichick is left with plenty to work on and his players with plenty of introspection after a loss that had team leaders questioning the team's fight.
Before moving on to the bounce-back work at hand, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the shocking season-opening loss to the Chiefs.
Stephen Gostkowski –* *The New England kicker started the year doing his job at every chance he got, something pretty much no other player can say. He hit field goals from 25 and 32 yards and all three of his PATs. He also put all of his kickoffs into the end zone, including some into the corner that gave his coverage unit a chance to hold the Chiefs to short returns.
Brandin Cooks – The newcomer, like most of his teammates, was far from perfect. But, Cooks did notch three catches for 88 yards, including a 54-yard long in the third quarter to help set up a Gostkowski field goal that had the Patriots up 27-21. The speedy threat also drew a handful of penalties, including a 26 yarder in the third quarter at the goal line to set up a Mike Gillislee 1-yard touchdown.
Mike Gillislee –* *The new running back put forth a very LeGarrette Blount-like performance in his New England debut. That included a nose for the end zone and a low yards-per-carry average. Gillislee ran it 15 times for 45 yards (3.0 avg.) but three of those runs were touchdowns from 2, 2 and 1 yard out. Unfortunately, Gillislee also came up short on a couple fourth-down runs. It wasn't perfect, but Gillislee took a first step toward showing he could fill the Blount big-back, touchdown-scoring role for 2017.
Danny Amendola –Though he did put the ball on the ground once and left the game in the third quarter with a head injury, Amendola pretty much made the most of his chances to make plays. The veteran receiver caught six of the seven balls thrown his way for 100 yards (16.7-yard avg.) with a long of 27 yards. With Julian Edelman gone for the year, Amendola did his best to step to the plate, unfortunately it was in a losing effort and finished with him missing the end of the game to injury.
Coaching –* *With an entire offseason of preparation, New England's coaching staff didn't put anything near its best game plan on display against Kansas City. Offensively there was no flow to the personnel groupings or the passing game, especially in the second half. Down a score late, it was reminiscent of Super Bowl XLII with a throw-it-deep approach despite remaining time for a comeback. Defensively the use of Jordan Richards as basically a linebacker – though he did have a forced fumble on the first play – didn't pay off as Kansas City ran all over the small front to the tune of 185 yards and a 6.9-yard average. It's also questionable to have newcomer defensive end Cassius Marsh wide in coverage on Kareem Hunt, leading to a 78-yard touchdown. On some level Belichick and his staff also bear the burden of the team seemingly running out of gas and laying down as the Chiefs pulled away for the blowout in the fourth quarter on a couple long runs.
Tom Brady – From his very first throw of the night toward an uncovered Dwayne Allen through the end of the game, Brady was just a bit off. As he found himself under more pressure in the second half, Brady didn't react well. Brady finished completing just 16 of 36 passes for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions while being sacked three times. The 40-year-old passer also referenced his team's competitiveness in his postgame comments and as the leader of the team he will play a role in turning things around on and off the field at this early point in the season.
Malcolm Butler/Devin McCourty/Stephon Gilmore – New England's Pro Bowl defensive backs looked anything like elite players against Alex Smith and Co. Butler, who struggled in the preseason, continued a tough summer. He set the Chiefs up at the 1 in the second quarter on a questionable pass interference call and then missed the tackle on Kareem Hunt's ensuing catch-and-run touchdown. McCourty allowed a 7-yard Demetrius Harris touchdown in the first quarter. Later he and the newcomer Gilmore were in the area together allowing Tyreek Hill to hit a 75-yard touchdown that left the two defensive backs looking a bit lost. The back end is supposed to be the strength of the defense buoyed by its best players, that just wasn't the case as Smith piled up 368 yards and four scores through the air.
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