Patriots breakdown: The best and worst (and everything in between)
It was appropriate that just minutes after the Red Sox earned a playoff victory, Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 28-yard walkoff field goal to secure the Patriots’ 43-40 shootout win over the Chiefs Sunday night.
Gostkowski’s final boot capped a 5 for 5 night for the 13-year veteran and one-time baseball standout at Memphis.
“It was a fun situation to be in in a game that was going back and forth,’’ said Gostkowski. “You don’t really know what you’re going to be asked to do in various games but when guys go out there and play hard like that and you get a chance to end the game it’s cool.’’
The winner was Gostkowski’s 352d career kick (moving him to 19th on the all-time list) and came on his 401st attempt (good for 30th all time).
“The guys were awesome tonight,’’ he said. [Long snapper Joe] Cardona and [holder Ryan] Allen, the operation was flawless . . . It was just a ton of fun to be out there.”
CIRCLE OF TRUST
Tom Brady’s trust level with Josh Gordon continues to expand as the new receiver was on the field for the majority of the snaps nine times, collecting five receptions for 42 yards.
He drew a key pass interference penalty on a deep pass in the end zone that eventually led to a Sony Michel touchdown and 24-9 halftime lead.
Both Gordon and Brady commented this week on the blossoming relationship they are developing and it’s clear the work they’re doing behind the scenes is paying off.
“I actually think it’s pretty impressive what he’s done,’’ said Brady. “To come out and play as much as he’s played — our offense is certainly not easy — so, we’re building on it.’’
Gordon’s uptick in snaps mean less work for Phillip Dorsett, who wasn’t targeted for the first time this season.
NOT SO SPECIAL
The kickoff unit had an abysmal night, allowing 190 yards on five returns, including Tremon Smith’s 97-yarder in the fourth quarter that set up a Tyreek Hill touchdown and gave the Chiefs their first lead, a short-lived 33-30 advantage.
Perhaps the weirdest kick was Gostkowski’s squib-like kickoff in the first quarter that skidded along the turf and was scooped up and returned 10 yards to the Kansas City 45.
“It was a bad kick,’’ said Gostkowski, who declined to say whether it was an aborted onside kick. “I’m not going to get into it — it was just not very well executed and you can put that one on me.’’
HIGHS OF THE LOWS
It’s not easy to find a lot of defensive superlatives in a game where nearly 1,000 yards were gained and 83 points were scored, but Dont’a Hightower played perhaps his best game in two-plus seasons.
Hightower collected his first career interception, snagging a Patrick Mahomes heat-seeker in the first quarter (no way the rook ever saw him) and returning it 27 yards to the Chiefs’ 4-yard line.
It set up the first of Sony Michel’s two rushing touchdowns and gave the Patriots a 10-6 lead.
Hightower, who had two tackles, including one for a loss, also had a hand in New England’s second interception.
The veteran linebacker put a ton of pressure on Mahomes and forced the quarterback to try and fit his pass into a tight window in the end zone. Instead, the ball got batted around and Duron Harmon ended up with the interception.
Tom Brady scored the Patriots final touchdown when he did his best Patrick Mahomes impersonation and chugged in from the 4-yard line to give the Patriots a 37-33 lead just minutes after Kansas City had just taken the lead.
Brady scored the touchdown by seemingly willing himself out of the grasp of Breeland Speaks, who looked poised to record the sack before Brady, who couldn’t locate an open body, got away.
“Yeah, I don’t know what happened,’’ Brady said a sheepish smile. “They doubled three guys on the play . . . but I got close to the goal line and figured I’d just try to get it in.’’
Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn’t have a good explanation, either.
“He got out of it. I don’t think Breeland is going to miss many of those,’’ he said. “Tom is a big strong guy and he got himself out of it and made a play.’’
Tom Brady had a pair of fumbles (losing one), including a costly one in the third quarter on a Breeland Speaks sack at the New England 29.
It took the Chiefs just four plays to capitalize on the miscue, scoring a touchdown to cut New England’s lead to 27-26.
“You know, we had control [New England lead, 24-9 at the half] and then we let them back in the game with some . . . you know, the fumble was a bad play,’’ said Brady. “But they were making plays on offense. We were making plays. And we talked about competing for 60 minutes and that’s what it took. It took us right down to the last three seconds.’’
New England put up another strong rushing effort, collecting 173 yards on 38 carries (for a healthy 4.6 average). Sony Michel once again led the way with 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 24 totes.
Michel picked up 60 of those yards in the first half when the Patriots were putting together a perfect plan to slow the Chiefs: long, clock-killing drives and forcing Patrick Mahomes into bad situations.
OUT OF THE CLUB
There was no shortage of great plays of the night but one of the best was a classic Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski connection in the fourth quarter.
Lined up in a running formation, Brady did a nice play-action fake before gunning it to his big tight end. Gronkowski then came face to face with Ron Parker and proceeded to throw the safety out of the club with a vicious stiff arm.
It was part of a solid second-half surge for Gronkowski, who finished with three catches for 97 yards.
TALE OF TWO HALVES
Patrick Mahomes looked nothing like the wunderkind he had been over the first fives weeks in the first half. The boy wonder was just 14 of 23 for 164 yards and a pair of interceptions.
He turned it on in the second half, however, throwing for four touchdowns, including lightning-strike touchdown tosses of 67 yards to Kareem Hunt and 75 yards to Tyreek Hill.
“I think I just started hitting on the throws that I was missing earlier,’’ said Mahomes. “I felt like we moved the ball well the entire night, we just have to find ways to score in the red zone [the Chiefs were just 2 of 5]. The last two weeks it seems like we just can’t punch it in there and I feel like the second half we finally started getting it into the end zone.’’
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“[Patrick Mahomes] pushed through in the second half, he did settle down. He did a nice job. But again, the objective is to actually win the game and we didn’t do that,’’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid, assessing his rookie quarterback’s night.
Right tackle Marcus Cannon left with a head injury in the second half and did not return.
The Patriots hit the road again — where they’re 0-2 — after three straight home games to face the newest version of the Monsters of the Midway.
The meanest of the monsters is linebacker/defensive end/general menace Khalil Mack. If this guy keeps playing at the level he’s been at, he will surely replace Ditka as the favorite Bear of Bill Swerski’s superfans.
Mack specializes in terrorizing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. The biggest steal of the offseason, Mack already has five sacks and four forced fumbles on the season.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is thriving under new coach Matt Nagy’s creative offense.