Brady-Mahomes I was an instant classic.
How many times have we seen this over the past decade-plus? A team rolls into Foxborough riding high on its gaudy record and sparkling stats, and after 60 game minutes in the land of Belichick and Brady, slinks out, battered and humbled.
This time around, it was the Kansas City Chiefs and their spotless 5-0 run, led by their walking “Madden” cheat code Patrick Mahomes. K.C. rolled into town feeling invulnerable, and left with its first loss, 43-40 … but with a strong measure of pride besides. The Patriots won this, but it’s tough to call this a loss in anything but the standings for Kansas City. Mahomes has arrived, and it took all Tom Brady had to beat him.
Patriots show off new offensive weapons
Brady notched his 200th regular-season win Sunday night, and early on, he got to show off a pair of new offensive weapons: veteran receiver Josh Gordon and rookie running back Sony Michel. Although we’ll need to put the caveat “if he stays on the field” ahead of Gordon for the foreseeable future, Gordon is looking like a true difference-maker in New England, huge and talented and an integral factor on offense even if he runs nothing but slants. Teams doubling Rob Gronkowski leave Gordon single-covered, and he’s more than large and fast enough to match up with any defensive back in the league.
Michel, meanwhile, fits neatly into the rent-a-running-back philosophy of Bill Belichick. Michel didn’t have any theatrical long runs, but he didn’t need to; he hammered away at the woeful Chiefs defense to the tune of two touchdowns. Michel might become an integral part of the Patriots backfield or he might be in Belichick’s doghouse and effectively neutered by December, you never know. But for this night, at least, he held up the ground game aspect of the Patriots’ gameplan.
The first half was all New England; Brady guided drive after precision drive right into the heart of the Kansas City defense. Mahomes, meanwhile, couldn’t get started, throwing two interceptions and stalling out in field-goal range. By the end of the half, the score stood at 24-9 in favor of New England, and the gleam and luster appeared to have faded from the Chiefs.
Mahomes does Mahomes things
But then Mahomes showed why he’s already getting justifiable MVP talk. He opened the second half with a bit of vintage Mahomes … if, that is, we can call anything done by a quarterback seven starts into his career “vintage.” After a frustrating first half, Mahomes found his touch, hitting Kareem Hunt in stride for a gorgeous, leading-“SportsCenter”-type 67-yard touchdown that drew the Chiefs within eight.
What could have been the key moment of the game came with just under three minutes left in the third quarter, with the Patriots sitting at third-and-10 on their own 36. Brady couldn’t find an open receiver, and eventually the Chiefs swarmed him and forced a fumble. Four plays later, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill on a crossing pattern for a touchdown that, with the extra point, drew Kansas City within a point of New England after being down as many as 15 points.
The beats rolled on. New England managed only a field goal, and on the ensuing kickoff Tremon Smith came within an eye blink of taking the ball the full 100 yards. Three plays later, Mahomes found Hill sliding in the end zone, and Kansas City had its first lead. Could this be the passing of the torch?
But you don’t get to be the GOAT without bouncing back from adversity, and Brady guided the Patriots to 10 straight fourth-quarter points to put New England back up by seven, at 40-33. Over? Perhaps. Good job, good effort, Kansas City … ?
Not so fast. Or, in the case of New England’s defenders, not nearly fast enough. On the very first play from scrimmage, 3:03 left in the game, Mahomes found Hill on a deep route; Hill flat-out outran the entire field, and the extra point evened the score once again.
So there it was: Brady, once again, with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. And who else would Brady go to in this moment than Gronkowski, quiet all night but in the exact right spot as this game wound down, wide open and rumbling down to the 9-yard line. One Stephen Gostkowski kick later, and this one was over, an instant classic and a foreshadowing of a hell of a fine playoff bracket.
Mahomes finished the night with four touchdowns, three to Hill, and 352 yards, while Brady threw for 340 yards and a touchdown. This rivalry likely won’t last as long as, say, Brady-Manning, but it’s already off to a fine start.
The Chiefs get the Bengals on a Sunday night return next week, followed by three near-guaranteed wins against the Broncos, Browns and Cardinals. The Patriots, meanwhile, get the Bears, Bills, Packers, and Titans, and could, in theory, win or lose all four of those games based on their seasons to date. Regardless, it’s likely we’ll see these two teams meet again, very likely in the second-to-last game of the season.
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