FOXBOROUGH – We saw this sort of thing in 2013 about this time of year.
On the same day, Kenbrell Thompkins caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a walkoff win at home versus New Orleans. Later that night, David Ortiz struck perhaps the biggest postseason blow at Fenway Park since the epic Carlton Fisk home run in the 1975 World Series with a grand slam to give the Red Sox a win versus Detroit in the ALCS, tying that series at one game apiece. New England fans were agog at both games, with Big Papi’s salami being the linchpin to the eventual World Series win the Red Sox would later get.
Now five years later, we have a bit different déjà vu, and area fans are once again celebrating not once but twice in the same night.
This time the Red Sox struck first. A three-run double by Jackie Bradley Jr. and stout relief pitching enabled the Red Sox to hold off the defending champion Houston Astros, 7-5 at Fenway Park to tie the 2018 ALCS at one game apiece. Later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a walkoff field goal from 28 yards out to give the Patriots a wild 43-40 shootout win over the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. The win had to be walkoff, as Patrick Mahomes and the high octane Chief offense could not be allowed to gain any more possessions. Whoever had the ball last would win, and Tom Brady made sure of that.
A shootout between the Patriots and Chiefs was expected, but the game actually outdid the hype. The 43-40 final score was the first such final score in NFL history. Mahomes and Brady combined for 692 passing yards. Kareem Hunt, the villain from the season opener last year when the Chiefs came into Foxborough and shocked the Patriots 42-27, once again bludgeoned the Patriots for 185 all-purpose yards. Tyreek Hill, the fastest man since Bullet Bob Hayes, had 142 yards on seven catches and three touchdowns. Against most any other team in the league, the Chiefs win and win easy.
But the Patriots had plenty of answers. Sony Michel had 106 rushing yards on 24 carries, and two touchdowns. James White had 92 yards from scrimmage and averaged 6.5 yards per rush. Rob Gronkowski led the team with 97 yards receiving as four different Patriot receivers had 50 or more receiving yards. Josh Gordon and White each had a team-high five catches,
For all the offenses were able to do, the Patriots have to take a look at their defense and shake their heads. Great as the Kansas City offense is, the fact remains that the Patriot defense was able to hold the Chiefs to three Harrison Butker field goals in the first half. The defense could not sustain that level, as Mahomes led the Chiefs to touchdowns on four of the six second half drives, with two of the touchdowns coming on long gains thanks to defensive breakdowns. The Patriots can break down the film and look at how they were able to deal with an elite offense, but if per chance the Patriots make it back to the Super Bowl, chances are they will experience another shootout as in the previous two Super Bowls, and once again might not be lucky to win like last year.
The first long gain came on the third play of the second half. On third down and three from his own 32, Mahomes rolled out right and saw that Hunt had slipped away from coverage. Mahomes was able to find Hunt down the right sideline and Hunt ran away from Jason McCourty for a 68-yard touchdown pass. It made the score 24-16 Patriots at the time, nothing to get too alarmed over, but to see Hunt do this to the Patriots again after what he did last September was a bit disquieting. McCourty lost complete track of Hunt and could not recover in time.
The second long gain was very perplexing. After Gostkowski kicked a 50-yard field goal to make it 40-33 Patriots, Mahomes took over at his own 25. On the very first play, Mahomes found a wide open Hill deep downfield. He made a leaping catch, then outran Duron Harmon, the nearest defender, to the end zone to tie the game at 40 with 3:05 left. Someone clearly blew the coverage; when this happens, it usually means that a cornerback let a receiver go figuring that safety help was behind him. Harmon must have broken the wrong way, figuring Hill would be tightly covered by a cornerback.
The one indelible memory that all fans should take from the game is how the Patriots won it. With Hill scoring the 75-yard touchdown so quickly, it left the Patriots with 3:05 and three timeouts to win the game. You could feel that the Chiefs did the Patriots a favor by scoring so quickly, and you more or less knew how the game would end.
And end it did. Julian Edelman ran an end around left for seven yards. Michel had two two-yard runs as the clock ticked below two minutes. Since the Chiefs had only one timeout left (remember that their head coach is named Andy Reid), once Michel got that first down, Patriot Nation began to exhale. White took a toss for 16 yards, then Brady found Gronkowski for 40 yards along the right sideline to put the Patriots at the Chief 8-yard line. Reid burned his last timeout, Brady took a kneel and put the ball just where Gostkowski wanted it. Three seconds left. Kick is good, as the late Gil Santos would say.
The Patriots now keep in play the hope that if they have to play Kansas City in the playoffs, the game might be played at Gillette Stadium and not Arrowhead Stadium. The Patriots trail the Chiefs by one game in the conference standings, but there are ten weeks of play left in the regular season. The Patriots cannot go on yielding 40 points to elite offenses, but at least the Patriot offense looks as wonderful as ever. With a decent running game to go along with Brady getting more help from his pass catchers, Patriot fortunes look bright in the days and weeks ahead.
The Patriots will get their first look at Mitchell Trubisky next week, as the Chicago Bears are no longer the offensive have-nots they have sometimes been over the years. The Bears lost an overtime struggle at Miami on Sunday after failing to take advantage of a Dolphin fumble at the goal line in overtime.
Maybe by the time the Patriots play the Bears, the Red Sox can be thinking about a World Series berth, if they can somehow break through in Houston this week. If nothing else, it could make next Sunday even bigger and better than this one.
Posted Under: 2018 Patriots Regular Season