Patriots

AFC: Chiefs start quick, beat Chargers 24-10 to go 3-0

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AFC: Chiefs start quick, beat Chargers 24-10 to go 3-0

CARSON, Calif. - Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes in the first 9 1/2 minutes against what used to be his hometown team, Terrance Mitchell had two interceptions and rookie Kareem Hunt scored on a 69-yard run to seal the Kansas City Chiefs' 24-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

The Chiefs (3-0) beat the Chargers for the seventh straight time and have won 12 straight AFC West games. Los Angeles' Philip Rivers threw three interceptions and the Chargers fell to 0-3 in their first season playing in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center after moving from San Diego.

After a quick start, the Chiefs held on through a defensive struggle in the second half. They got two huge plays in the closing minutes: Justin Houston's sack of Rivers and then Hunt's sensational run when he cut back against the flow and raced 69 yards down the left sideline with 1:49 left. The rookie finished with 172 yards on 17 carries.

The game couldn't have started more differently for Smith, who grew up in the San Diego area, and Rivers.

Rivers was intercepted by Mitchell on the game's third play from scrimmage. Four plays later, Smith hit Tyreek Hill on a 30-yard touchdown pass.

Rivers moved the Chargers into Chiefs territory before Marcus Peters intercepted a pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates and returned it 38 yards to the Los Angeles 34. Four plays later, Smith threw a shovel pass to Albert Wilson for a 14-0 lead.

The Chargers got it together and drove for Melvin Gordon's 11-yard scoring scamper to cut it to 14-7. Rivers floated a 44-yarder to Travis Benjamin for the drive's big gain.

After the Chargers forced a three-and-out, Rivers threw his third interception, when Mitchell leaped in front of Tyrell Williams for the pickoff.

The Chargers' defense began playing better. The Chiefs moved to the Los Angeles 25 before Smith was sacked on consecutive plays, first by Melvin Ingram and then by Joey Bosa and Corey Liuget. Cairos Santos missed a 51-yard field goal, but Rayshawn Jenkins was whistled for roughing the kicker, giving the Chiefs the ball on the 18. The drive fizzled and Santos kicked a 34-yarder to make it 17-7.

Chargers rookie Younghoe Koo kicked a 29-yard field goal as the clock expired to cut the lead to 17-10 at halftime. A week earlier, Koo missed a 44-yard attempt as time expired that would have given the Chargers a win against the Miami Dolphins in their home opener. In the season opener, Koo had a potential game-tying, 44-yarder blocked at Denver and the Broncos won 24-21.

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Brady knew it wasn't over, told Gronkowski to cool it on the celebration

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Brady knew it wasn't over, told Gronkowski to cool it on the celebration

Tom Brady had a feeling. He knew there was only less than a minute left in his team's game with the Steelers. But he also knew that was plenty of time for something crazy to go down. 

After completing a two-point conversion on a fade to Rob Gronkowski -- the piece de resistance of Gronkowski's monster day, most of which was spent being checked by second-year safety Sean Davis -- the big tight end celebrated and hammed it up for an on-the-field camera like he was in a late-90s rap video. 

Brady interrupted his teammate mid-dance. "Hey!" he shouted at Gronkowski. "It ain't over."

"Fifty-five seconds, that’s still a lot of time," Brady said after the game. "They hit the one big play, and before you know it they are knocking on our end zone’s door. [Roethlisberger] made a really great throw [to Jesse James], but they just couldn’t come up with it. Then the great tackle [by Malcolm Butler] on the [Darius Heyward-Bey] crossing route. They tried to fake spike it on third down, but our guys were aware and made a great play."

Brady's message to Gronkowski late was reminiscent of the end of Super Bowl LI, when it was at first somewhat unclear as to whether or not James White got into the end zone for the walk-off game-winner. At that point in time, Brady went from initially celebrating, to unsure White got in. He told his teammates to hold off on the partying until the play was reviewed -- kind of in the same way he told Gronkowski to chill out. 

We know how it worked out. And even if the stakes weren't quite as high, the finish in Pittsburgh was about as dramatic as it gets for a regular-season game. 

"That was great. It was a lot of fun," Brady said. "It was a great environment and a great team that we played that played really well. The weather conditions -- it kind of rained the whole game. It was just one of those days where you go back and forth, you play right to the end, and the ball bounces some weird ways. I’m glad it bounced our way today."

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Belichick highlights fourth-quarter kickoff as key in win over Steelers

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Belichick highlights fourth-quarter kickoff as key in win over Steelers

Leave it to Bill Belichick to shed light on the importance of the kicking game after a game like the one his team played on Sunday. 

Of all the memorable moments in New England's 27-24 win, the one Belichick brought up unprompted in his post-game press conference wasn't a Rob Gronkowski catch, or a Tom Brady throw, or a touchdown that was ruled to be an incompletion.

It was a kickoff. Specifically, the kickoff that occurred immediately before the final Steelers drive of the game. 

Belichick's point? That there were countless plays that mattered, involving an unspecified number of players. Team game.

"A lot of guys played well," Belichick said. "Tom played well. Rob played well, but we got a lot of great play from really everybody on the team. You can just go right down the line. Every play was a big play. 

"The kickoff after we scored was a big play. If that had been a touchback, I don’t know, they might have scored on that pass. It would have been maybe on the 1-yard line. Every play is a big play."

The pass Belichick referred to was the 69-yard catch-and-run that was completed to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 52 seconds left in the game. It moved the Steelers from the 21-yard line to the Patriots' 10 in less than 20 seconds. 

One play prior, Smith-Schuster returned a Stephen Gostkowski kick out of his own end zone for 22 yards before being tackled by Patriots special-teamer Nicholas Grigsby. It was Grigsby's second "teams" tackle of the game, and his third game under Belichick since being signed off of the Ravens practice squad last month.

The difference between Grigsby's tackle and a touchback in the box score was four yards so maybe Smith-Schuster's rumble down the sideline to the 10 wouldn't have resulted in a touchdown.

But you never know. And that's why, to Belichick, every play was big. Even in a game like that one, where hours of sports talk on television and radio will be devoted to a handful of moments that occurred in the last two minutes.

It's an approach that has helped shaped the style of the coach who watched his team win its ninth straight division title and 15th of the last 17. It all matters. 

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