The Kansas City Chiefs built an early lead over the New England Patriots and held off a late rally to win in Foxborough by a final score of 23-16.
The New England Patriots‘ impressive 21-game home winning streak is over.
On Sunday evening, the Kansas City Chiefs came into Gillette Stadium, punched the defending champions in the mouth, and then held firm against a series of counterattacks during a furious New England rally.
It was the exact same gameflow as the last two meetings between these teams – in the AFC Championship Game last season as well as during a regular season meeting last October – except this time, it was the Chiefs who opened up a large early lead, and the Patriots who were forced to try and mount a comeback.
In both instances last year, the Patriots decidedly outscored the Chiefs in the first half of the game only to see Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the Kansas City offense get hot in the second half to tie the game or even take the lead. Both times in 2018 the Patriots were ultimately able to fend off their AFC rivals and hold on for the win.
Not so on Sunday.
New England actually scored the game’s first points on a beautiful James White flea flicker to Tom Brady, who hit a wide-open Julian Edelman early on in the first quarter. Fans could be forgiven if they assumed the game would take on the same tone as the last two meetings – some on the internet even went so far as to suggest the Patriots offense may finally have been cured of its season-long malaise.
But Kansas City then rattled off 20 straight points to take a 20-7 halftime lead. At one point in the third quarter, the deficit ballooned as high as 23-7 even. A blocked punt for the Patriots led to a 10-yard Brandon Bolden touchdown run that cut the K.C. lead to 10 (the Patriots went for two and didn’t get it).
Nick Folk’s 29-yard field goal was the only points scored by either team in the fourth quarter. New England had a chance to score a touchdown that would have tied the game at 23-all (assuming Folk made the extra-point attempt), but Bashaud Breeland got his hands on a ball that was intended for Edelman in the end zone.
The Patriots turned the ball over on downs, Mahomes kneeled a couple of times, and the game was over.
New England now falls to 10-3 on the season, while Kansas City improves to 9-4. More disturbingly, the Patriots have now lost all three games they’ve played this year against the other AFC division leaders – the Chiefs, the Texans, and the Ravens. Those three teams are expected to potentially lock down three of the four top seeds in the AFC, so there’s a very good chance that the Patriots could see at least one or two of them again at some point.
Worse still, the Ravens beat the Bills on the road earlier in the day. While the results of that game do technically help the Patriots preserve a one-game lead in the AFC East, it also basically ensures that the road to Super Bowl 54 will go through Baltimore, not New England.
If the season ended today, the Patriots would likely host Kansas City again at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round – assuming they can hold off the other AFC contenders (and Buffalo) to earn a first-round playoff bye.
The only silver lining for Patriots fans is that the schedule is about to get very, very soft again. New England has two of its last three games at home, with the only road game coming up next Sunday against 1-12 Cincinnati. The Patriots then return home to host the 9-4 Bills and then finish up their season at home against the 3-10 Dolphins.