The 2017 NFL season began with the Kansas City Chiefs upsetting the New England Patriots, 42-27, in the kickoff game on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
The Patriots took the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown in nine plays covering 73 yards. It was a textbook drive and the Chiefs defense appeared off-balance against Brady and the Patriots. It looked like the Patriots were picking up where they left off after last year’s Super Bowl win. To make things look even worse for Kansas City, the Chiefs rookie RB Kareem Hunt fumbled on his first carry to give the ball back to the Patriots.
The Patriots again drove steadily for what appeared to be a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Gronkowski. However, the pass was ruled incomplete and the Patriots went for it on fourth down. The Chiefs defense held at this crucial point, and they took over at their own 10 yard line. The offense then marched on what would be the first of two long drives of 90+ yards that resulted in touchdowns. That was twice as many drives of 90 yards or more than they had all last season.
The Chiefs offense shone with good running from Hunt, and stellar QB play from Alex Smith. In, the next offensive play after the fumble, Smith handed the ball off to Hunt, and he ran for 9 yards. This show of confidence in Hunt was a key moment. It helped propel him to a spectacular performance of 246 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was a new NFL record for a rookie debut. Hunt later credited the team and coaches for not losing confidence in him after the fumble.
Smith threw his first TD pass to Demetrius Harris to tie the game, 7-7 with 3:33 left in first quarter. He would have a gigantic performance, throwing for 4 touchdowns and only the seventh 300+ yard game of his career. He finished with 28 of 35 attempts for 368 yards and no interceptions. He clearly outplayed Brady who had no touchdown passes.
The second quarter opened with a Patriots field goal to retake the lead, 10-7. The Chiefs got the ball in great field position after a penalty on the kickoff. However, they could not convert a first down after Smith suffered his lone sack of the evening. The Chiefs punted to the Patriots and they began from their own 18-yard-line. A second long drive, aided by a defensive penalty on the Chiefs, put them on the two-yard-line. The Patriots scored on a second TD run by Mike Gillislie to lead 17-7.
It was looking bleak for Kansas City at that point. However, the Chiefs came back in the final two minutes of the first half to drive for a second TD on a pass from Smith to Hunt. The Chiefs now trailed the Patriots by only 3 points, 17-14, at halftime.
The offense for the Chiefs exploded while exploiting the Patriots poor defense in the second half. The Chiefs struck first in the third quarter with a 75 yard pass from Smith to speedy receiver Tyreek Hill for a TD, and retook the lead, 21-17. The Patriots came back with a TD and a field goal to bring a six point lead into the final period.
Having a lead going into the fourth quarter is almost a sure win for the Patriots. However, this time the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points to overcome a 27-21 deficit, and put a huge first victory on the board. One of those was another long pass of 78 yards for a TD from Smith to Hunt. It was an impressive second half for the Chiefs, and an equally depressing defensive performance by the Patriots.
New England moves on to play the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans on Sunday, September 17th. Kansas City will host the Philadelphia Eagles at Arrowhead Stadium on the 17th as well.
By D.T. Osborn
Featured, Top and Inset Images Courtesy of D.T. Osborn