As the world ramped up for the start of the National Football League’s 2017 season, the New England Patriots had two things on their mind. One, celebrate their epic comeback to win the Super Bowl last season. Two, shower NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with an epic amount of boos.
Both of those goals were accomplished on Thursday night, and they also came out and started the season exactly how Tom Brady and Bill Belichick know how.
On the Patriots first drive of the night, it was a mix of James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandin Cooks and former Bills running back Mike Gillislee. Brady connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown, but the play was reviewed and overturned. Gillislee punched it in a couple of plays later to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.
Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt slashed through the hole on his first NFL regular season carry and picked up nine yards, but fumbled on the play. After the Chiefs were able to stop New England on fourth-and-one, it became the Hunt and Tyreek Hill show for the visitors. Hunt carried the ball several times — picking up yards in bunches — and Hill had several key catches to keep the ball moving. There was also a trick play: an option play with tight end Travis Kelce as the quarterback and picking up a first down on a fake pitch.
Following a field goal that put the Patriots up 10-7 early in the second quarter, the Chiefs were stymied on their next drive. Brady then effectively led the offense down the field, aided by key Chiefs’ penalties on the drive, and Gillislee picked up his second rushing touchdown of the first half to put the Patriots up 17-7.
One of the more interesting plays of the night took place on a Chiefs punt return. Hill called for a fair catch but Michael Thomas grabbed the ball and broke through the defenders. A penalty was called on the play and it was wiped out; pinning Kansas City inside their own 10-yard line.
Right before the half, Kansas City put together a solid drive and marched down the field. Smith connected on a pass in the flat to Hunt to pull the Chiefs within three at the half, 17-14.
The teams traded drives to start the second half, but Smith connected on a 75-yard touchdown pass to Hill with 9:19 left in the third quarter that staked the Chiefs to a 21-17 lead. On the play, Hill became the first player in NFL history to have a touchdown of over 60 yards in five consecutive regular season games, according to NBC Sports.
— NFL (@NFL) September 8, 2017
After a majority of the game passed with no injuries, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower was rolled up on during a running play. He remained down on the turf for a few minutes before exiting the game.
Later in the third quarter, Kansas City was flagged for defensive holding and pass interference which led to Gillislee’s third rushing touchdown of the game and gave New England a 24-21 lead.
In a fairly clean game, Kelce decided to jam the football into the groin of New England linebacker Kyle Van Noy with a little over four minutes to go in the third. The play resulted in a 15-yard penalty for taunting and cost the Chiefs a manageable second down.
It became the new Patriots show late in the third quarter, as Cooks hauled in a long pass from Brady while being held and tugged on by Chiefs defenders. At the close of the third, Stephen Gostkowski hit a 31-yard field goal to put the Patriots up 27-21.
Hunt continued to impress in his first NFL start, and put the Chiefs up early in the fourth quarter with an impressive 78-yard catch and run past multiple New England defenders. And is a play that can be watched over and over.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) September 8, 2017
The Chiefs defense came to play at important moments of the game though, and were able to stuff Gillislee on two different fourth down plays. And the offense was able to turn New England’s defense into a slice of swiss cheese on three separate occasions; having three drives of over 90 yards.
A surprising story line in the season opener was the absence of Gronkowski in the passing game. Other than his negated touchdown catch and one other reception, he was wrangled in by Chiefs’ safety Eric Berry for most of the night. And the Patriots could never seem to get him involved in the passing game.
The fourth quarter was not kind to either team though, as Patriots receiver Danny Amendola left with a head injury, Tyreek Hill departed with a leg injury and Chiefs safety Eric Berry was carted off with an apparent Achilles tendon injury.
But the Chiefs were able to overcome the Patriots with late touchdowns by Hunt and Charcandrick West, and pull away with a convincing 42-27 win. Smith finished 28-of-35 for 368 yards and four touchdowns, while Hunt finished with 17 carries for 148 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns (an NFL record 246 yards from scrimmage in NFL debut). Justin Houston also had two sacks for the Chiefs defense.
Tom Brady finished the night going 16-of-36 for 267 yards and no touchdowns.
Before fans write off New England following a season opening, embarrassing loss at home, remember how fans overreacted a few years ago. That was the last time that these two teams met on primetime television and Kansas City embarrassed the boys from the Northeast.