Patriots fans, still bitter over the four-game suspension the NFL levied against Tom Brady in connection with Deflategate, booed commissioner Rodger Goodell as he stepped onto the field in Foxborough Thursday to award the team its fifth Super Bowl banner, which it earned in February after mounting the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to overcome the Atlanta Falcons.
The Patriots trailed 28-3 midway through the third quarter of that game but scored 25 unanswered points to tie it at the end of regulation, and another six to win it in overtime.
Whatever momentum New England carried over from that game ran out after the third quarter of the NFL opener Thursday night between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game looked like a mirror image of the last 20 minutes or so of Super Bowl LI.
Led by quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs offense exploded for 21 points, while Kansas City’s defense held Tom Brady and company scoreless.
Hunt had 256 total yards in the game—more than any player has ever recorded in his first NFL game. He scored three touchdowns, two receiving and one rushing. Alex Smith had arguably the best game of his 12-year NFL career, completing 28 of 35 passes (80 percent) for 368 yards and four touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.
Brady, meanwhile, completed just 52 percent of his passes for 267 yards. He did not throw a touchdown.
Fourth-year goal-line running back Mike Gillislee, whom the Pats acquired from the Bills in the offseason after LaGarret Blount left for Philidelphia, scored three short-yardage touchdowns. Still, the Chiefs held New England’s rushing attack—which includes as many as three runners in addition to Gillislee–to 3.5 yards per carry on 35 attempts.
While the final numbers may look one-sided, the game was a back-and-forth battle for the first three quarters. New England received the opening kickoff and engineered a 10 play, 73-yard drive that took nearly three minutes off the clock. Gillislee capped it off with a two-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hunt fumbled the first regular-season NFL game ball he ever touched. One reporter noted during a postgame interview with Hunt that the back had not fumbled since high school.
New England took over deep in Kansas City territory. After the replay booth overturned what was originally called a touchdown pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, the Pats turned the ball over on downs at the Kansas City 10. Gillislee failed to convert on fourth and one.
Alex Smith and company took over and put together the first of three 90+ yard touchdown drives by Kansas City. Last year, the Chiefs had a total of three such drives, CBSSports notes. Smith found Demetrius Harris in the end zone from seven yards out to cap it off.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 25-yard field goal as the first quarter drew to a close to give New England a 10-7 lead.
After Kansas City went three and out, New England drove 82 yards in almost six minutes and found the end zone. Gillislee pounded forward for 37 yards on six carries (6.17 yards per carry), including a 16-yard run to the left side, and scored from two yards out. The Pats took a 17-7 lead with seven and a half minutes to go in the first half.
With 2:47 left before halftime, Alex Smith began the Chiefs’ second 90+ yard touchdown march of the game. He went eight for ten with 66 yards on the drive, and found Hunt in the end zone, giving the rookie his first NFL touchdown. Kansas City clawed within three.
Midway through the third, Smith connected with Hill for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Chiefs in front, 21-17.
Later in the quarter, the Pats took over near midfield, and a 22-yard pass from Brady to Amendola, along with a 26-yard pass interference penalty against Kansas City, set Gillislee up for his third touchdown of the game. Gostkowski added a field goal with 12 seconds to play in the third to put the Pats up 27-21.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Smith hit Hunt for a 78-yard touchdown. Hunt ran the ball into the end zone later in the quarter, then broke a 58-yard run to set up backup running back Charcandrick West for a 21-yard touchdown run.
Hunt finished with 148 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, along with 98 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
The Chiefs selected the rookie in the third round of April’s draft. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 112.38 rushing yards per game over a four-year college career with the Toledo Rockets, who play in the MAC conference.
He posted 1,631 rushing yards on 205 carries (8.0 yards per carry) his sophomore year, and 1,475 on 262 carries (5.6 yards per carry) in 2016, his senior year.
Brady went 3-10 for 35 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs turned things upside down in Foxborough Thursday, posting the most points (42) and the most total-yards (537) ever recorded against a Belichick-coached Patriots squad, per CBSSports.
They beat a Patriots team that rarely loses at home, and sent New England fans grumbling for the exits midway through the fourth quarter.
All the while, last year’s Super Bowl banner waved in the breeze, powerless.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons