With Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs lighting up scoreboards every week and the Patriots catching their stride recently, it promised to be a must-watch game. Seemingly the only person who didn’t care for the pregame excitement was Bill Belichick, who treated the game with his usual grumpiness.
But for everyone who was counting down for the Sunday Night Football matchup, Chiefs vs. Patriots lived up to hype.
The fourth quarter alone had 30 points scored as the Chiefs rallied from a 24-9 halftime deficit to tie the game in the final minutes. But with one last drive with three minutes remaining, Tom Brady led the Patriots to a 4-2 record by setting up a chip shot field goal for Stephen Gostkowski.
This is how that last quarter went down in the important Patriots win:
The Chiefs’ next return man up helped give them their first lead of the second half
De’Anthony Thomas went on injured reserve over the weekend, leaving the Chiefs without their No. 1 kick returner. Luckily, they have a never-ending supply of absurdly fast return men.
Meet rookie Tremon Smith, a sixth-round pick out of Central Arkansas:
Tremon Smith's 9️⃣7️⃣ yard kickoff return that set up the touchdown. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/3oARKvyCv0— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 15, 2018
A whopping 97 yards later, the Chiefs were in striking distance of taking the lead. On third-and-1, Mahomes lobbed it in the end zone and either overthrew Kareem Hunt or his psychic connection with Tyreek Hill knew the receiver would come sliding in:
That was the Chiefs’ first lead since they were up 3-0 early in the first quarter.
A Tom Brady TD was seemingly aided by Breeland Speaks dodging a penalty
Now down 33-30, the Patriots needed an answer and, oh yeah, they have Tom Brady. Two straight catches by Chris Hogan set the Patriots up with first-and-goal. On third down, Brady couldn’t find an open receiver and tucked it and ran, looking like he was going to get tackled just short of the goal line.
Then, Chiefs rookie Breeland Speaks somehow just ... let him right out of his grasp:
The 41-year-old Brady crashed into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the year.
It looked awkward at the time — and not just Brady’s running style. It was almost like Speaks let up because he didn’t want to get penalized.
Not just almost. The always candid Speaks said after the game that’s exactly what happened:
#Chiefs LB Breeland Speaks said he believed Tom Brady had already thrown the ball on his TD run and was fearful of the new rules protecting the passer. “it was definitely on my mind. It sucks.” Will he alter his approach going forward? “Yes. I gotta finish the play next time.”— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) October 15, 2018
It likely wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The Chiefs were called for holding on the play, which would’ve give the Patriots first-and-goal at the 2. But it goes to show just how much the NFL’s roughing the passer rule continues to affect the game for defensive players.
Gronk stiff-armed a Chiefs defender into dust
Rob Gronkowski did his best Vance McDonald impression when he stiff-armed Chiefs safety Ron Parker into the ground on a 42-yard gain. Gronkowski didn’t score a touchdown like McDonald did, but he still put the Patriots in scoring range in a very tight game.
The Patriots didn’t get much out of the drive after this gain — they got four yards in their next three plays before settling for a field goal that put the Patriots up, 40-33, with just over three minutes left.
Mahomes and Hill immediately answered with a 75-yard touchdown
These are the plays that had people excited about the Mahomes-Hill connection coming into the season. Mahomes has the arm talent to make every single throw on the field and Hill is the most dangerous man with the ball in his hands in the NFL.
It helps that Hill was wide open on the play — there wasn’t a Patriots defender within five yards of him at the catch point.
Once Hill caught it, he was off to the races. He exploded past Patriots safety Duron Harmon and scored the touchdown that tied the game at 40.
Brady, however, got the last laugh.
Brady did what Brady does to ice it
Earlier this week, we asked whether Mahomes or Brady is the better quarterback to have with a chance at a game-winning drive in the year 2018. The scenario came to life in the fourth quarter with the two quarterbacks trading clutch drives and huge plays.
But the king of comebacks has been Brady for over a decade, and he showed he’s still worthy of the crown.
After Mahomes’ 75-yard touchdown pass to Hill, Brady was given just over three minutes to drive into Kansas City territory and set up a Gostkowski’s range. He made it look easy with completions for seven yards and 16 yards before connecting with Gronkowski once again for a pivotal 39-yard gain:
The last chunk play set up a 28-yard field goal for Gostkowski that solidified the 43rd game-winning drive for Brady during the regular season. It was also Brady’s 200th regular-season win and the first time an NFL game has ended in a 43-40 score:
THAT'S SCORIGAMI!— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 15, 2018
43-40 is a final score that has never happened in an NFL game, until now
It’s hard to knock Mahomes for his impressive finish to the game, but Brady still has ice water in his veins and he slammed the door shut when he had the chance.
The matchup of the Chiefs and Patriots looked like it would be the game of the week and it lived up to the hype. January is still a long way away, but we’d be lucky if we got to see a rematch in the playoffs.