FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' wild 43-40 win over the previously unbeaten Chiefs.
BRADY FOURTH-QUARTER SURGE SAVES PATRIOTS
For most of the second half it appeared the Patriots were doomed for the same kind of second-half meltdown that sank them in last year's opener against the Chiefs, but Tom Brady wouldn't let it happen . . . even though he was one of the big reasons Kansas City was threatening to walk out of Gillette Stadium with another victory. With the Patriots still in command at 27-19 and moving the ball seemingly at will, Brady committed one of his worst gaffes of 2018. He looked, and looked, and looked down the field and couldn't find a receiver on third down, and held the ball long enough to be strip-sacked. That gave the Chiefs a short field and they quickly capitalized with a touchdown to cut the Patriots lead to 27-26. Brady led New England to a field goal that increased the lead to 30-26, but the Chiefs quickly regained the lead on their next possession. That's when No. 12 went to work. On third-and-four from the 4 late in the fourth quarter, Brady scrambled for a touchdown that put the Patriots on top, 37-33. Then later with the score tied 40-40, Brady's deep shot to Rob Gronkowski down the right sideline with just seconds remaining set up the Patriots to win the game. Stephen Gostkowski's kick won it, 43-40.
SAFETY NOT FIRST
The Patriots got a rough performance from what is typically one of their most dependable position groups. Devin McCourty got beat for two Tyreek Hill scores. Duron Harmon took a bad angle on a Hill catch-and-run in the fourth quarter that turned into a 75-yard touchdown, and on one of the hill touchdowns allowed by McCourty, it seemed as though Harmon could've helped out his Rutgers buddy. The Chiefs have speed to burn offensively, but the Patriots are going to have to clean things up on the back end moving forward after a rollercoaster performance that nearly lost the Patriots the game.
McCOURTY BROTHER MISCOMMUNICATION
Good thing we got this McCourty-brothers-can-communicate-by-a-wink story out early Sunday. They appeared to have a communication breakdown early in the third quarter when Patrick Mahomes found Kareem Hunt up the right sideline for a 67-yard score that might've had brought back painful Week 1 2017 memories for Patriots fans. Jason McCourty appeared to be the curl/flat defender on the play based on his drop, apparently expecting help over the top. It never came. Devin McCourty jumped a route in the intermediate area, leaving Jason to chase Hunt to the goal line. The touchdown made it a one-score game, 24-16. As referenced above, it was a rough rest of the second half for Devin McCourty, who was in coverage on Tyreek Hill for two touchdowns.
PRESSURE WINS THE FIRST HALF
The Patriots didn't record a sack in the first half, yet their quarterback pressures helped make them the first team to keep the Chiefs out of the end zone in the first half this season. I spoke to players during the week who insisted they were good with not getting sacks so long as they were getting off the field on third down and impacting quarterback throws. That's exactly what they did in the game's first half hour. Their biggest defensive plays of the first half? An Adrian Clayborn hit that forced a third-down incompletion deep in Patriots territory in the first quarter; a Clayborn and Adam Butler hit that helped force an incompletion in the end zone; a Dont'a Hightower hit that helped force a Duron Harmon pick.
EDELMAN MATCHUP A WINNABLE ONE
Kendall Fuller came into the game allowing quarterbacks a 106.1 rating when targeting him in the slot. He was beaten easily by Julian Edelman in the second quarter for an easy pitch-and-catch touchdown to the corner of the end zone. Whenever the Patriots could find Kansas City's oft-overmatched slot corner on one of the most productive slot receivers in recent NFL memory, it was a matchup worth exploiting.