Chiefs Upset Patriots in NFL Season Opener
The New England Patriots were favored to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough by a touchdown.
Many projected the Patriots to run the table and finish the season 16-0 and add another title to the trophy case. Kansas City was one of sixteen stepping-stones leading up to potentially one of the greatest NFL season in history. Even with Julian Edelmen out for the season, New England added field stretching receiver Bradin Cooks in the offseason and would be fielding a healthy Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots also added some other gadgets to their offensive arsenal in Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and recently acquired Phillip Dorsett. With Tom Brady at the helm, surely the Patriots would make quick work of Kansas City, right?
Well, it appeared so in the first five minutes of game. Brady and company moved the ball 73 yards in under three minutes, capping off the drive with a Gillislee touchdown. On the Chiefs opening drive, it looked ugly. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt fumbled his first career carry and the Patriots were on the verge of scoring again. Brady and the Patriots were in Kansas City territory and opted to go for it on fourth down.
The Chiefs defense held tough and safety Eric Berry made a momentum-shifting tackle that halted a Patriots route. Alex Smith took over and, through the creative play calling from Head Coach Andy Reid, marched his squad down field to knot it up at seven. A much-needed, confidence building touchdown, helped Kansas City overcome a shaky start with a lot of football left to play.
Kareem Hunt Explodes
Hunt, who catapulted to the top of the depth chart following a season-ending injury of starting running back Spencer Ware, didn’t start the game as he would have liked. His teammates rallied around him and helped Hunt refocus on the task at hand. Reid showed confidence in his rookie ball carrier as he continued to dial-up plays for Hunt. With Kansas City trailing 17-7, a hot handed Smith found Hunt for a three-yard touchdown reception.
Speedster teammate Tyreek Hill scorched through the Pats secondary, giving the Chiefs a 21-17 lead off a 75-yard touchdown reception. New England would answer as Gillislee punched it in. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski added a field goal to put his team up 27-21. The Patriots would lose both linebacker Dont’a Hightower and receiver Danny Amendola to injury for the remainder of the second half. Hightower was key for the Patriots defensive strategy and Amendola was Brady’s leading target as he tallied 100 yards on six receptions.
Kansas City would capitalize on the Pats personnel misfortune. Hunt would show off his speed out of the backfield as he bolted pass fill-in Cassius Marsh for a 78-yard scamper. Marsh, who was acquired from the Seahawks via trade, hasn’t been on the roster for a week. He was exposed and left in Hunt’s dust. Hunt would continue to prove he is a threat on the ground and through the air.
Hunt finished the game with a record-breaking rookie debut, totaling 246 yards from scrimmage. He averaged a staggering 8+ yards per carry. The Toledo alum was a fantasy football hero for some. To those who had Hunt on the bench, ouch. It’s unlikely hunt sits on any fantasy team lineup until he proves otherwise.
Alex Smith, KC Defense Play Lights Out
Smith had a spectacular night through the air. Despite have cannon-armed rookie Patrick Mahomes as his backup, Smith played pressure free. He finished with over nearly 400 yards through the air and four passing touchdowns. Will Smith be able to produce like this week-to-week? No. But he won’t have too. With developing Hunt, game-breaker Hill and imposing Travis Kelce as his weapons, Smith can play good enough to have the Chiefs competing for a back-to-back division crown.
Defensively, Kansas City lost their heart and soul in safety Berry. Berry was instrumental in shifting the momentum of this football game. He smothered Gronkowski and kept Gronk quiet throughout the game. A season-ending achilles injury is the latest obstacle Berry will have to overcome, but he has the character to do so after overcoming so much more. Losing Berry for the year makes the win against New England so bittersweet.
Next Man Up
There is simply no replacing Berry. However, the Chiefs have enough pieces on their defense to still be a top defensive team moving forward. Justin Houston looked phenomenal, Dee Ford was productive and Marcus Peters is a stingy defender. If the Chiefs offense can do even half of what they did last night, combined with the defense not being flatlined without Berry, Kansas City remains a top team in the AFC.
For New England, their focus remains the same. Head Coach Bill Belichick will find a way to get the most out of his pieces, solidifying the Pats as a stable Super Bowl contender. The news on Hightower appears positive. Amendola absence could affect the offensive production, but other pieces will step up to fill the void.
Kansas City will look to keep the momentum going in order to be taken serious in the AFC. The Chiefs knocking off the defending Super Bowl Champions 42-27 sends that message loud and clear.
Kansas City is for real.