Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
The Kansas City Chiefs are one quarter of the way to an undefeated season.
Kansas City improved to 4-0 with a 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots in Monday’s AFC showdown at Arrowhead Stadium. Patrick Mahomes and the defense led the way in a potential playoff preview, helping the Chiefs move a full two games clear of the Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC West standings.
As for the Patriots, they were without Cam Newton because of a positive COVID-19 test and dropped to 2-2 and two games back of the undefeated Buffalo Bills in the AFC East despite a solid showing from Damien Harris.
Notable Player Stats
- Patrick Mahomes, QB, KC: 19-of-29 for 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KC: 16 carries for 64 yards; 3 catches for 27 yards
- Tyreek Hill, WR, KC: 4 catches for 64 yards, 1 TD
- Brian Hoyer, QB, NE: 15-of-24 for 130 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
- Damien Harris, RB, NE: 17 carries for 100 yards
Patriots Offense Lets Down Defense
New England’s offense was a far cry from the one that went up against Kansas City in the 2018 season’s AFC Championship Game.
Newton wasn’t the only one sidelined as running back Sony Michel did not travel with the team because of a quad injury, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. That left Harris as the primary running back and veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer under center, which doesn’t exactly scream Super Bowl contender.
That put the pressure firmly on the defense, and it delivered in the early going by holding the Chiefs to two field goals in the first half.
Stephon Gilmore forced a Sammy Watkins fumble, Mahomes appeared to lose one too in what would have been a massive play if the officials didn’t blow it dead, and Devin McCourty dropped what should have been an interception. It was a credit to the Patriots defense that it dictated play on the road against arguably the most talented offense in the league, but the missed opportunities stood out.
That was especially true because the offense struggled to get anything going.
The receivers didn’t exactly create much separation downfield, and Hoyer took points off the board multiple times. He took a sack in scoring position to end the first half and then lost a fumble in the red zone to undercut another scoring chance after it appeared the offense had figured something out in the second half.
That was Hoyer’s final play before giving way to Jarrett Stidham, who found N’Keal Harry for a touchdown on his first possession after multiple impressive Harris runs. Yet even veteran leader Julian Edelman let the team down, letting a Stidham pass bounce off his hands right into the waiting arms of Tyrann Mathieu, who returned the pick for a score that all but ended it.
Holding the powerhouse Chiefs offense in check for most of the game is more than the Patriots could have realistically asked from their defense, but their offense still wasn’t able to take advantage of a winnable situation.
Chiefs Defense Sets the Tone Before Offense Wakes Up
Kansas City’s defense doesn’t generate many headlines because it is overshadowed by arguably the best player in the NFL on the other side in Mahomes, but it entered play fifth in the league in points allowed per game.
It showed why by allowing a mere three points in a first half that included a Juan Thornhill interception and multiple Hoyer mistakes because of pressure.
Mathieu’s pick-six stands out, but few plays were as important as Taco Charlton’s strip-sack when it looked like the Patriots would take the lead in the third quarter. It proved even more critical after New England finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The defense also set the tone while Kansas City’s offense struggled against a familiar foe. NFL Research noted a Mahomes-led Chiefs team failed to score a touchdown in the first half for just the third time, all of which came against the Patriots.
The talented bunch finally woke up following the Charlton strip-sack.
Mahomes set up a shovel-pass touchdown to Tyreek Hill with a deep ball to Travis Kelce on the ensuing possession and then scrambled to set up another shovel-pass score, this time to Mecole Hardman, the next time he was on the field.
It was only a matter of time before Kansas City’s offense finally broke through even against a stout Patriots defense, but the defending Super Bowl champions are essentially unbeatable if the defense continues to play like it has in the early portion of the season.
Both teams host AFC West opponents in Week 5 when the Chiefs face the Raiders and the Patriots play the Denver Broncos.