No team has ever racked up more offensive yardage (537) and points (42) against a Bill Belichick-led defense in New England. It was a rough night for the defending champions who started the game looking like their usual dominant selves.
Tom Brady opened the game by orchestrating a nine-play, 73-yard touchdown drive and then was gifted another possession when the Chiefs fumbled away their first chance on offense.
But Kansas City came back with a vengeance and picked apart the New England defense. A 21-0 run in the fourth quarter erased a 27-21 lead for the Patriots and gave the Chiefs an impressive victory.
Rookie running back Kareem Hunt tallied 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards, and three touchdowns in his Chiefs debut. Alex Smith posted 368 passing yards and four touchdowns.
It’s a long road to January, but for now, the Chiefs look like a dangerous opponent for any team.
7 things we learned
1. Alex Smith isn’t ready to roll over yet.
Patrick Mahomes was the big acquisition of the offseason for the Chiefs, and his performances in preseason got Kansas City fans excited.
The addition of the rookie and Smith’s contract situation mean it’s likely that this is his last season with the team, and many wondered if he’d be able to hold on to the starting job. If Week 1 was any indication, he’s not going to go down without a fight.
Smith racked up 368 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions on the night. It’s only the second time he’s had more than three touchdowns and the seventh time he’s eclipsed 300 yards.
If he continues to play at this level, the Chiefs are going to be a lot to deal with for any opponent.
2. A 3-man rush actually slowed Tom Brady.
Many teams have tried — and failed — to find ways to slow down Tom Brady. The Chiefs are not the first to try dropping eight players into coverage and rush only three.
But Kansas City actually found some success with it.
Early in the game, Brady was able to pick apart the Chiefs secondary on long drives, but he failed to capitalize on passes deep and eventually the Kansas City defense began locking down his receivers.
Brady connected with Brandin Cooks on one deep pass that netted the Patriots 54 yards, but the Chiefs kept most of his other passes in front of them. It forced him to look for plays underneath, and players like Marcus Peters and Eric Berry wiped out a lot of those options.
3. Tom Brady still looks good at 40.
It wasn’t his best night, but the Patriots entered Thursday as the favorites to win the Super Bowl because most people are still convinced Brady is going to continue to be really good. And why shouldn’t they? He was 39 during the 2016 season and may have been at his most dominant.
But age can sneak up quickly on a quarterback, and playing at an elite level after a 40th birthday just doesn’t happen.
Brady is going into uncharted territory, but he didn’t look washed up against the Chiefs. Yes, he finished without any touchdowns, but he still led the Patriots to 27 points against a defense that was No. 7 in points allowed last year.
It’s at the point of his career where it’s worth noting that he still looks good, as he’ll be under the microscope from people looking for signs of age. It wasn’t a great game for Brady, but he isn’t done quite yet.
4. Just keep Tyreek Hill at wide receiver.
Hill was an All-Pro as a rookie with six receiving touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, two punt return touchdowns, and one kickoff return for a touchdown. But his 24 rushing attempts in 2016 were mostly end arounds and other plays designed to get the speedster in space.
On Thursday, the Chiefs tried to play Hill like a traditional running back for a few plays. The Patriots funneled the 185-pound receiver up the middle and held him to just five rushing yards on his two attempts.
At receiver, Hill reminded everybody that he’s a dangerous player in space. He toasted the New England secondary on a 75-yard touchdown and finished with 133 receiving yards on seven receptions.
With no more Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs want to get Hill more touches. Running him up the middle isn’t the smart way to do that.
5. Kareem Hunt is just what the Chiefs need.
Jamaal Charles is gone, Charcandrick West has never done well as a starter, and the Chiefs are all over the map with C.J. Spiller. Luckily for Kansas City, it looks like it found a capable workhorse in Hunt.
The third-round pick began his career with a fumble on his first NFL carry, a bizarre start for a player who fumbled just once in his entire collegiate career. But he bounced back and looked like a great investment for the Chiefs.
He rolled for 148 rushing yards on 17 attempts, caught two touchdown passes from Alex Smith — including a 78-yard touchdown that gave the Chiefs a lead in the fourth quarter — and capped the night with a 4-yard touchdown rush that put the Chiefs up 35-27.
Moving on from Charles is tough, but the Chiefs have reason to be excited about the newest face in the backfield.
6. Mike Gillislee is a touchdown hawk.
Brady faced coverages that forced him to dink and dunk for most of the night, and that set up Gillislee on the doorstep to clean up several drives. He became the first Patriots player to ever finish a Week 1 game and the first NFL player to ever finish a Thursday night season opener with three rushing touchdowns.
LeGarrette Blount is a middling journeyman of a running back and led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns with the Patriots last year. Now those touchdowns are headed Gillislee’s way.
It just wasn’t enough to keep up with Smith’s big day.
7. The Chiefs aren’t afraid to get weird.
Early in the game — when the Patriots were rolling and the Chiefs needed a spark — the team ran a read-option play with tight end Travis Kelce at quarterback. He faked a pitch to Hill and took it himself for a first down.
It wasn’t the only attempt to be a little different Thursday night, and the Chiefs essentially ran a spread offense for much of the game.
With speedy players like Hill and De’Anthony Thomas, and a matchup nightmare like Kelce, the Chiefs are perfectly set up to be creative. Now it’s on the rest of the NFL to figure out a way to stop them.