The Kansas City Chiefs had some of their past ghosts eradicated on Sunday night, as they bested the New England Patriots for the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era. Behind a strong offensive attack in the first half, the Chiefs won 23-16 in a rematch of January’s epic AFC Championship Game.
The game began on the worst note possible for a Chiefs team coming off their first game without a penalty since 1974; the Patriots ran two unsuccessful running plays before a deep pass by Tom Brady resulted in a pass interference call on Bashaud Breeland, cornerback. A new set of downs resulted in a nearly identical series of events, with another pass interference call called against the Chiefs. This time, Chardavius Ward, cornerback, was the culprit and cost the Chiefs 31 yards. Then, concluding the drive, Brady pitched the ball to James White, running back, who then tossed the ball back to Brady. The quarterback found Julian Edelman in the endzone, giving New England an early 7-0 lead right out of the gate. Edelman was a main target in the AFC Championship as well, garnering 96 receiving yards on seven receptions.
On the Chiefs’ first set of downs, it looked like the game was already lost when Mahomes threw his third interception of the year on his second passing attempt of the night. However, the defense, who has allowed an average of only 14 points per game for the past three contests, forced a three-and-out and allowed the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker, kicker, to drill a 48-yard field goal to put Kansas City on the board. The defense continued to shine on the next series, which ended on a blocked punt by Tanoh Kpassagnon, defensive end, who also blocked an extra point attempt against the Oakland Raiders last week.
After recovering at their own 42-yard line, the Chiefs had their second straight scoring play, as Mahomes found Mercole Hardman, wide receiver, for a 48-yard touchdown. Immediately after, Brady threw an interception to Breeland on the only play the Patriots had before another Chiefs touchdown (by Travis Kelce, tight end) made the score 17-7 in the Chiefs’ favor. Butker nailed another field goal with one minute remaining in the first half to give them a 13-point advantage after 30 minutes of play.
The offense picked up right where they left off for the third quarter; a third field goal by Butker gave the Chiefs what turned out to be their only points of the second half. However, the defense and special teams units slacked a bit, as a blocked Dustin Colquitt punt led to excellent field position and an eventual touchdown run by Brandon Bolden, Patriots running back.
The Patriots repeatedly threatened the end zone, but shot themselves in the foot when they ran out of challenges before two critical no-touchdown calls occurred. The final New England drive of the game saw the Patriots convert on a fourth and six from the Chiefs’ 26-yard line to give them a new set of downs at the 12-yard marker, but the defense bore down, forcing two incomplete passes and two complete passes for negative two yards and nine yards, respectively. In the ultimate irony of the season, Breeland, who has accounted for 86 yards in penalties this year and garnered endless criticism from fans and media alike, blocked Brady’s final pass attempt and sealed the game for the Chiefs.
With this win, the Chiefs became the first team since the Carolina Panthers in week three of the 2017 season to beat the Patriots at home, and have now accounted for two of their past three home losses. Mahomes became the first quarterback under 25 years of age to beat the Patriots with Bill Belickick, head coach, at the helm since 2000. Andy Reid, Chiefs head coach, moved to 3-7 all-time against Belichick, dating back to his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, and secured his 204th career win. He and Belichick have combined for 475 wins, the second-most combined wins total for a head-to-head matchup by two coaches.
The Chiefs clinched the AFC West title for the fourth consecutive year and now have a reasonable chance to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs, as they sit one game back of the Patriots and hold the tiebreaker advantage. At 9-4, they have a great chance to win out, as they face the 5-8 Denver Broncos, the 7-6 Chicago Bears, and the 5-8 Los Angeles Chargers.