While the world was waiting for Tom Brady and the Patriots to falter against Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, they ended up coming away disappointed after an incredible 43-40 by Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Sunday night’s game will go down as one for the ages, with Brady not yet ready to be brushed aside in favor of a player who many feel will be among the league’s future elite quarterbacks in the coming years. Mahomes certainly played well, throwing 4 touchdowns on the night but his two critical interceptions ended up being the difference in a game where every possession mattered.
As for Brady, he passed for over 300-yards and his most notable moment came when he scored on a gutsy 4-yard rush that put the Patriots back in front 37-33 after the Chiefs had earlier retaken the lead. The victory improved them to 4-2 on the season and more importantly, gave the Chiefs their first loss of the season and potentially puts New England in the driver’s seat for home field down the road should they meet again in January.
The win was also a milestone for Brady, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to win 200 regular season games.
Here are some things we learned after a wild night at Gillette Stadium.
1) Michel Establishing Himself as a solid NFL Back – It’s amazing how many people were ready to crucify Sony Michel during his first couple of games, but it’s clear that the Patriots found themselves a gem when they selected him in the first round of the draft earlier in the offseason.
Michel ran well all night as he piled up 106-yards on the ground and accounted for 9 of the team’s 15 rushing first downs, including two touchdowns. The biggest thing that stands out with Michel is he reads the holes well and shows great acceleration and doesn’t go down after first contact. He’s been better than expected and played a critical role in New England being able to control the football and keep the Chiefs defense off balance.
While the Patriots offensive line certainly deserves some credit, Michel has been consistent and continues to improve each week. Provided he can remain healthy over the rest of the season, he may end up being a name we talk about at the end of the year as a key reason why this team ultimately ends up having success down the road.
2) Hunt and Hill Proved to Be a Big Problem Again – Chiefs offensive standouts Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill are each known for their respective speeds and both players ended up wreaking havoc again against New England’s defense.
Even with the Patriots’ defenders in relatively good position against them on several occasions Sunday night, they still couldn’t get there quick enough to make the tackle and keep either player from making plays. Both players finished the night with over 100-yards receiving, with Hill and Hunt hauling in touchdown passes of 75 and 67 yards respectively. The 67-yard reception by Hunt was big, as it came on the third play of the third quarter and got the Chiefs back in the game at 24-16 less than two minutes into the second half.
Hill’s 75-yard touchdown was also key as it came on the first play of the Chiefs ensuing possession after Stephen Gostkowski hit a 50-yard field goal to put the Patriots ahead by 7 points at 40-33. The play knotted the score at 40-40 with 3:03 left to play in the game, with Hill getting deep into the secondary and then accelerating away, stealing back the momentum for Kansas City and setting up an unbelievable finish.
Those two scoring plays were two longest receiving plays of the season by a Patriots opponent and Hill’s 75-yard touchdown matches the 75-yard touchdown he scored back in Week 1 of 2017 which, coincidentally, came in the 4th quarter of the Chiefs win in Foxboro. He finished the night with 142-yards receiving along with three touchdowns and proved to be a player that the Patriots just didn’t have an answer for.
Gronkowski was dominant Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)
3) Gronkowski Makes a Statement – Tight end Rob Gronkowski likely heard people talking all week about how he wasn’t as good of a player as Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, but he certainly made a pretty big statement during Sunday night’s win.
The veteran finished the night with 3 catches for 97-yards, including a 42-yard reception that saw him power past safety Ron Parker, with Gronk throwing him down with one hand as Parker moved in to try and make the tackle.
Brady told Gronk to stand up.
Gronk told Ron Parker to sit down. pic.twitter.com/R5B6jhI49x
— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) October 15, 2018
Parker had no chance, as Gronkowski showed his power after knocking him completely off his feet as he scampered for his huge gain. It was a critical play, as it helped set up Gostkowski’s 50-yard field goal.
Gronkwoski later came up big yet again as he picked up 39-yards on what proved to be New England’s game-winning drive, taking the Patriots from the Chiefs’ 48 down the Kansas City 9yd line. From there, Brady ran it and shifted over to better set up Gostkowski’s 28-yard attempt, which he easily hit and sent everyone at Gillette Stadium home happy.
But give Gronkowski credit. He proved to anyone watching the game that he remains the best tight end in the league and his clutch play ended up being a key reason why Kansas City is no longer unbeaten.
4) Terrific Showing for Dont’a Hightower – Hightower has taken a little bit of criticism in recent weeks after some questioned whether or not he’s lost a step, but he stepped up Sunday night during the Patriots win.
Hightower’s interception early in the game (surprisingly the first regular-season interception of his career) played a key role in New England grabbing the control in the first quarter, with the turnover giving the Patriots the football at the Chiefs’ 4-yard line. One play later, Michel punched it in and the Patriots took an early 10-3 lead.
Hightower was also part of another turnover after he jammed Kelce and put pressure on Mahomes toward the end of the first half when the Chiefs appeared to be on the verge of getting points right before halftime. The play, which saw Hightower run Mahomes down and get a hand on him as he released the football, led to the interception by Duron Harmon and killed Kansas City’s threat while preserving New England’s 24-9 first-half advantage.
While he only finished with two tackles on the score sheet, Hightower’s performance overall can’t be understated as he had a strong showing on a night where the Patriots definitely needed it most.
Gostkowski was clutch Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)
5) Gostkowski Finishes as the Unsung Hero – After an offseason with whispers by some fans who felt the Patriots should start exploring options at kicker, Stephen Gostkowski quietly came away as an unsung hero in the win over Kansas City.
The veteran kicker obviously hit the 28-yard game-winner, but he also hit a critical (and certainly not easy) 50-yard field goal with just over 3-minutes to go that put New England up by 7-points. It proved to be a big one as the Chiefs would score a touchdown one play later after Hill’s 75-yard scoring reception. Had Gostkowski missed, it would have forced New England into having to score a touchdown to win the game and it can’t be understated how important that field goal was.
Overall, Gostkowski was a perfect 5-for-5, hitting field goals of 48, 24, 39, 50 and 28-yards on the evening. He also hit all of his extra points. For anyone who follows football around the NFL, the kicker position has been one that has been incredibly inconsistent for other teams this season and the Patriots remain fortunate where they have a player who doesn’t fall into that category.
The win improves the Patriots to 4-2 on the season and they’ll now move on to the Bears, with a trip to Chicago up next for the team next Sunday at 1pm ET.