By: Denny Hackett
The Patriots outlasted the Chiefs in a Sunday night shootout, winning 43-40.
Other than their first drive, the Patriots played a complete first half against the Chiefs and put up 24 points in the first half for the third straight week. The Patriots’ defense was excellent, intercepting Mahomes twice, including one in the endzone by Duron Harmon that kept the Chiefs down 24-9 at the half. The other interception was by linebacker Dont’a Hightower and set the Patriots up for Sony Michel’s first touchdown of the game to put them up 10-3.
Dont’a Hightower was all over the place for the Patriots’ defense. He did an excellent job covering Kansas City’s star tight end Travis Kelce. On numerous occasions, he provided a lot of pressure on Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Late in the third quarter, the defense began to show signs of cracking after two long touchdowns for Kansas City. One of which was a 67-yard pass to running back Kareem Hunt and the second was a 20-yard pass to Tyreek Hill that left safety Devin McCourty completely in the dust. Late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ secondary gave up another huge play resulting in a 75-yard touchdown reception for Tyreek Hill.
After making his debut last week against Indy, Julian Edelman caught his first touchdown pass of the season. Rookie running back Sony Michel also continued his great run of play this week with two more touchdowns and has now scored at least one touchdown in three straight weeks. After a slow start in training camp and the first couple games of the season, Michel has become a focal point for the Patriots in recent weeks.
Josh Gordon also continued to make an impact for the Patriots as he works to build a role in the offense. He continues to develop in the Patriots’ system as he works to come back from his hamstring injury. Late in the first half, he set up Sony Michel’s second touchdown in the game after drawing a pass interference penalty at the one yard line.
One fascinating change with the Patriots’ offense this year is that they are playing with a different philosophy. In recent memory, the Patriots have typically been a pass first team. But it seems for the first time in at least a decade, they are looking to keep the ball on the ground more often. Even Brady got involved with the rushing attack with a five-yard touchdown of his own on a scramble in the fourth quarter. But when it was time to win the game, the ball was in Brady’s hands.
It’s easy to credit the shift with the emergence of Sony Michel, but it’s also important to note that when it comes to the run, the offensive line has been excellent. Even James White, who is known for his receiving skill set is having an easier time rushing the ball. Not to mention the fact that reserve running back Kenyon Barner has also had success on the ground in limited action.
Despite the offensive success, the defense struggled at times against the Chiefs, especially in the second half. The high-powered Kansas City offense had several huge plays that gashed the Patriots for touchdowns. The Patriots are going to have to take a look at limiting these plays since it is likely these two teams will meet again down the road in the playoffs.
The Patriots have a week to savor the win before they head to Chicago to take on the Bears next Sunday.