By Hal Estep
In a return to the status quo, the Kansas City Chiefs defense was put to the test against an all-time great in Tom Brady, and his arsenal of New England Patriot weapons. The defense then failed said test, allowing Patriots running back Sony Michel to destroy them on the ground. Despite a 24-9 deficit at the half, the Chiefs stormed back and take the lead at one point.
Then, it was the Tom Brady show.
Late in the fourth, he took the Patriots down the field in a tie game, and put them in a position for kicker Stephen Gostkowski to win the game with a last-second field goal.
Losing by three points to the two-time defending AFC Champion Patriots is not the end of the world. The real issue? The Chiefs could’ve easily won the game.
The entire first half was awful for Kansas City. They were dominated by the New England’s offense, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes struggled out of the gate. He missed wide open receivers, overthrows on sure touchdowns.
That’s to be expected in a first year starter’s first primetime game at New England. Mahomes threw two interceptions in the first half, including a goal line pick by Patriots safety Duran Harmon.
Without that pick, the Chiefs would have gone into the half down by only two scores.
They were in position to at least get a field goal, but it’s understandable to see why they opted to take a shot at the end zone. Kicker Harrison Butker had already kicked three field goals in the half, but a touchdown would have swung momentum to the Chiefs heading into the second half.
The momentum going into the half didn’t matter- because Kanasa City came out firing on all cylinders in the second half.
One thing that stood out overall: Bob Sutton’s defense is horrendous. It’s that was missing star outside linebacker Justin Houston and the heart and soul of the Chiefs defense, safety Eric Berry.
And those are just the stars. They are also missing depth players, including safeties, Daniel Sorensen, Eric Murray and Armani Watts. These losses would be felt throughout the game.
Without Hosuton, rookie linebacker Breeland Speaks started the game. Speaks performed well, recording 6 tackles and a sack.
But there was one play which will probably haunt him for the rest of the season. In the red zone, Speaks was about to sack Brady, but for some reason, he let him go. Brady slipped into the end-zone for the go-ahead score with under 2:00 remaining.
The theory is that he thought Brady had thrown the ball, and didn’t want to commit a penalty.. Speaks made a rookie mistake, and there is a precedent to have hope for him.
Butker missed his first field goal as a Chief, but went on a tear showing that the Chiefs picked the right kicker. Cairo Santos did the same thing before Butker. Kareem Hunt fumbled his first carry before leading the NFL in rushing last season. The point is, don’t give up on Breeland Speaks for this gaffe.
With Berry out meant that some poor safety had to take the role of lining up against star New England’s tight end Rob Gronkowski. Ron Parker drew the shortest straw, and got embarrassed twice. Gronkowski only made three catches, but he stiff armed Parker to the shadow realm on one catch, and set up Gostkowski’s game winning field goal on his longest gain of the night. Eric Berry may be the only person able to guard Gronkowski one on one, so his absence was easily noticed.
It came down to one more issue- clock management. For once, Andy Reid was not the guy to blame.. The Chiefs got the ball down by 7 with 3 minutes to go. Soon after, Mahomes hit wide receiver Tyreek Hill down the field for a touchdown immediately. That high flying offense can be a gift, but there was a sense of dread with this quick touchdown.
Brady had more than enough time to get down the field and score. Let’s not get it twisted, the offense’s job in that scenario is to score first-and-foremost. But a drive that milked the clock would have been more ideal than a quick touchdown that throws the Chiefs wounded trash defense onto the field against the greatest clutch quarterback of the past two decades.
Then another clock management issue. Gronkowski made the catch with 48 seconds to go, and ran it all the way to the Chiefs’ 9-yard line where he’d be tackled by cornerback Josh Shaw. Chiefs fans may not know that name because he was signed two weeks ago. Any other time, this is a great touchdown saving play by Shaw. But in this scenario, Shaw should have let Gronkowski score. Football purists are probably cursing that idea, but with one timeout remaining for the Chiefs, there’s no way they can win if they don’t let him score.
Jumping into the world of hypotheticals, if Gronkowski scores the touchdown, the Chiefs get the ball back with approximately 40-43 seconds left. With a timeout remaining and an offense easily capable of scoring, the Chiefs could have scored and taken the game to overtime. Overtime would have been decided by the coin toss, because neither defense was capable of stopping the opposing offense.
The blame for this loss must be on the Chiefs’ defense. Throw all the hypotheticals away. Parker couldn’t tackle Gronkowski. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens was getting burnt by running back crossing routes and seemed to hesitate to make tackles, allowing ball carriers time to make one more move to make him miss. There were bright spots on the defense, and they deserve to be recognized. Defensive end Allen Bailey took a break from his reign of terror on quarterbacks to recover a fumble on a critical defensive stop. And safety Jordan Lucas, making his first start, almost picked off Tom Brady.
Of course the offense was spectacular in the second half, putting up 31 points after halftime. Mahomes recovered well from his subpar first half. Hill played like a man possessed, and scored three touchdowns. And Hunt continued his beatdown of the Patriots defense that he began last year, scoring a touchdown and gaining 185 yards from scrimmage. Butker continues his flawless season, with another four-field goal performance. He is 11 for 11 so far this season.
Next week, the Chiefs once again play on Sunday Night, hosting Andy Dalton and the 4-2 Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadim. Kickoff is set for 7:20 PM, and can be watched on NBC.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org