By: Ian Logue/
September 22, 2002

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Rob Gronkowski says he'll be back with Patriots

FOXBORO, MA -- Sometimes it doesn't hurt to be a little lucky.

The mere flip of a coin before the start of overtime gave New England the football, and when the game was over it was kicker Adam Vinatieri who ended up being the only thing that was perfect for the Patriots on Sunday.  Vinatieri kicked two field goals, including a 35-yarder just 4:40 into overtime which lifted his team to a 41-38 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

It was a familiar scenario after Vinatieri kicked the game-winning kick for the third time in his last five games, the last kick being the 48-yarder to win the Superbowl back in February.  In a game where his defense allowed the Chiefs to find the endzone on each of their final three possessions, it was certainly a relief to know that head coach Bill Belichick can always count on one thing:

He has Vinatieri as his field goal kicker.

"I just am glad that when it came down to the final kick that Adam is the one kicking it for us," said Belichick after the game.  "There is nobody that we have more confidence in than him making that last play."

That was something New England's defense couldn't do in the closing minutes of the game.  The Patriots found themselves leading 38-31 with 2:30 seconds left in regulation, however they allowed the Chiefs to drive from their own 46 all the way down to the New England 1-yard line.  With just :03 left in the game all that stood between the Patriots third straight victory was just one yard, but without linebacker Tedy Bruschi or Roman Phifer who were sidelined with injuries, Kansas City runningback Priest Holmes broke into the endzone, knotting the score at 38-38 as time expired.

New England had been unable to stop Holmes who exploded for 145-yards and two touchdowns in the second half.  Belichick said after the game that despite the absence of two of his key linebackers his team should have done a better job containing the Chiefs runningback.

"I am not going to make any excuses," said Belichick after the game. "I think we have enough players to go out and and play better defensively.  There is no doubt those guys are good football players, but when they are not out there, somebody else has got to step up and do a good job. You know, far too many times today we really didn't get it done."

Quarterback Tom Brady played well finishing the day 39-of-54 for 410-yards and four touchdowns. He threw the ball to 9 different receivers, with four different players catching touchdown passes.

Meanwhile despite being 9-point favorites heading into Sunday's game the Patriots actually trailed at halftime 10-9, the first time they had trailed at intermission in seven regular-season games.  They had committed 9-first-half-penalties for 80-yards after committing just 10 in their first two games. To make matters worse quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception that gave the Chiefs 1st-and-10 at the New England 22-yard line.

The interception later lead to a Kansas City touchdown, and after the game Belichick was very frustrated with his team's miscues.

"We had every kind of penalty you could possibly want," said Belichick. "We had them all. We had them in the kicking game. We had them on offense. We had them on defense. We had personal fouls, late hits, all that crap. It gives them field position, it gives them second opportunities and it takes away plays that we had."

"None of that is acceptable. None of that is what we are looking for. [It was] just real poor sloppy football and we paid for it."

In the second half the team committed just three turnovers, but the biggest problem they had was stopping Kansas City when it counted.  They opened up the third quarter giving up a 57-yard return to Dante Hall, and four plays later the Chiefs increased their lead to 17-9 on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Holmes.

But the Patriots answered, putting together an 11-play 71-yard drive that was ended in a touchdown to Troy Brown who had 6 catches on the drive.  Runningback Antowain Smith took the ball in for the two point conversion, and suddenly the Patriots found themselves back in the football game tied at 17-17.

New England later appeared to grab the momentum, with Ty Law intercepting Trent Green on a pass intended for Johnnie Morton and returning it to the Chiefs 44-yard line.  Four plays later Brady found rookie tight end Daniel Graham who made a one-handed catch for an 18-yard touchdown reception, increasing the lead to 24-17 just five seconds into the fourth quarter.

Then on Kansas City's next possession Holmes fumbled the ball after being hit by Pats safety Victor Green, and Tebucky Jones recovered giving the Patriots the ball at the Chiefs 39-yard line.  Brady then completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to David Patten, and with the lead now 31-17 it finally appeared that the game was firmly in hand, just like it had been during the first two games.

It wasn't.

The Chiefs answered on their next possession with an 8-play 62-yard drive that ended on a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eddie Kennison to cut the lead back to 7 at 31-24 with 9:18 remaining in the game.

However once again New England came right back, with Antowain Smith breaking through the Kansas City defense for a 42-yard touchdown run.  The lead was back to 14 at 38-24, and many wondered if the score would deflate the Chiefs who just wouldn't go down without a fight.

They fought right back, driving 59-yards on 6-plays including a 30-yard reception by Morton which helped set up a 6-yard run by Holmes, and here they were, down just 7 with under five minutes left in the game.  All the Patriots had to do was keep the ball and run out the clock.

Instead they went three and out, and Kansas City drove from their own 46-yard line all the way down to the New England one yard line after Kennison was brought down short of the goal line on a 4-yard pass play.  With :03 left into the endzone went Holmes and now the Patriots found themselves tied 38-38 and heading into overtime.

However after his team won the coin toss, quarterback Tom Brady was as cool as could be.  He completed 4-of-5 for 46-yards, setting up Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal attempt.  Kansas City called a timeout and tried to ice him, but it would be all for not as he put them away with the ball sailing right down the middle to give New England the 41-38 victory.

GAME NOTES: Linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Roman Phifer were inactive for Sunday's game.  Belichick told reporters after the game that Bruschi's shoulder tightened up on him Saturday and since he wasn't 100% they kept him out of action.....Joe Andruzzi left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and didn't return....Troy Brown broke Terry Glenn's single-game club reception record with his 16-catch 176-yard performance. Brown left the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter but didn't think he was seriously hurt....When asked why he opted to go for two early in the game trailing 10-6 Belichick said that since his team was playing so poorly he felt that it might give his team a "bit of a jump".  The Patriots will now prepare for the San Diego Chargers next Sunday at 4:15pm ET.