FOXBOROUGH — For the second time in their last three matchups, the Chiefs offense gave the Patriots defense a drubbing.
On Thursday night, the Patriots allowed 42 points and 537 yards to the Chiefs, who had the 20th-ranked overall offense in 2016. The last time the Patriots allowed more than 40 points also came against the Chiefs, a 41-14 victory at Arrowhead Stadium in 2014.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and company took a page out of the Patriots offensive playbook on Thursday night, pounding the defense with methodical, short-yardage plays before connecting on timely big ones.
The most troubling part of New England defensive struggles was its steady incompetence. The Smith-led offense marched wherever it pleased with little resistance.
Three of the six Chiefs’ touchdown drives went for 90 yards or more. Their shortest touchdown drive took 60 yards.
Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt, making his NFL debut, tortured the Patriots both as a runner and pass-catcher. He rushed 17 for 148 yards and a touchdown, while adding five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
New England’s defensive issues were pervasive. While the front seven was physically dominated in run situations, the secondary was periodically torched. Smith, regularly criticized for his methodical, dink-and-dunk style, chose the right opportunities to let the ball fly.
The Patriots focused on containing speedster Tyreek Hill, a first-team All-Pro punt returner last season as a rookie.
“They have explosive players,” linebacker David Harris said earlier this week. “Everybody knows about Tyreek Hill’s coming-out [party] last year. He deserves all the praise he gets because he is a definite difference-maker.”
Inexplicably, the Patriots secondary badly lost sight of Hill for one play, and that was all that mattered.
Five minutes into the second half, Hill ran a double move past cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who received no safety help from Devin McCourty. Hill caught a wide-open sideline pass before running into the end zone untouched.
“A guy like him is hard because they use him in so many different ways,” McCourty said earlier this week. “It’s not like you can just be prepared for him when he’s here or when he’s there. You have to know where he is all the time.”
Arguably the most deflating play came less than a minute after the fourth quarter began, as the Chiefs trailed, 27-21.
Hunt ran a skinny post out of the backfield. Defensive end Cassius Marsh, acquired from the Seahawks earlier this week, picked up Hunt near the line of scrimmage, but he lagged behind the speedy back, while linebacker Kyle Van Noy provided little over-the-top help. Smith threw a strike to Hunt up the seam, and he ran for a 78-yard touchdown.
Subsequent fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 60 and 79 yards capped Kansas City’s explosive night. Smith completed 28 of his 35 pass attempts for 368 yards and four touchdowns, one of the best performances of his 12-year career.
The number of big plays allowed was troubling for the Patriots, who added Gilmore. a 2016 Pro Bowler, to essentially the same secondary as last season. Last year, the longest touchdown the Patriots allowed in the regular season was 26 yards. One game into 2017, they have already surrendered 75- and 78-yard scores.
The Patriots will have 11 days to fix their troubles, as they prepare for Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-powered offense in New Orleans on Sept. 17.