Patriots’ Mistakes Vs. Chiefs Overshadowed Stellar Defensive Performance

Kansas City's offense scored just 19 points Monday night

by Zack Cox

Oct 6, 2020

The first time Patrick Mahomes faced the New England Patriots, he hung 40 points on Bill Belichick’s defense.

In their last two meetings, the Kansas City Chiefs’s offense has scored 42 points — total.

A rash of self-inflicted errors prevented the Patriots from achieving the unlikeliest of upset victories Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium, but New England’s defense again succeeded in stymying arguably the NFL’s best quarterback in a 26-10 loss.

The Chiefs managed just six points in the first 44 minutes of game time. Their first touchdown — a 6-yard reverse flip to Tyreek Hill — came with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Kansas City’s offense, fresh off a 34-point battering of the Baltimore Ravens, totaled a mere 19 points against a Patriots D that was missing half of its 2019 starters and had flown into KC that morning. (A Tyrann Mathieu pick-six rounded out the scoring for Andy Reid’s club.)

The 19 points were the second-fewest a Mahomes-led Chiefs offense ever had produced, trailing only last year’s sleepy 19-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Chiefs’ O has scored 23 or fewer points in eight of Mahomes’ 40 starts, including his NFL debut and another game he exited due to injury. His last two matchups with the Patriots both are on that list.

“They have a lot of good veteran players,” Mahomes, who finished with 236 passing yards Monday night, said in his postgame video conference. “I think that’s the first thing. When you have good players and you do different schemes and you’re able to do that, you usually are a pretty good defense. And for us, we didn’t execute at a high enough level when you’re playing against a defense like that if you want to go out there and have success.”

One key to the Patriots’ success was an unconventional third-down game plan. Knowing Mahomes feasts on blitzing defenses, New England opted to send not five, not four, but just three pass rushers in most critical situations, frequently dropping pass-rush-focused outside linebacker Shilique Calhoun into coverage.

The Patriots dropped eight in coverage on seven of Mahomes’ nine third-down dropbacks — not including the aforementioned Hill touchdown, which counted as a pass — and blitzed on just one: a double safety blitz by Devin and Jason McCourty in the red zone on the game’s opening possession.

Those nine plays resulted in just three first downs: a 22-yard completion to Hill, an 18-yard scramble by Mahomes and a defensive pass interference penalty against Travis Kelce.

The drop-eight strategy wasn’t limited to third downs, either. According to Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, New England rushed three on 44% of Mahomes’ dropbacks, something it did just 16% of the time during the 2019 season.

The Patriots also played to their strengths by deploying seven defensive backs — including hybrid safety/linebacker Adrian Phillips — on 10 of Kansas City’s 11 third downs. (They used six on a third-and-inches during the second quarter.)

The Chiefs went a season-worst 4-for-11 on third down (36 percent) after going 10-for-13 against the Ravens and converting 58 percent over their first three games.

Mahomes said New England’s approach was “a little similar to what Houston was doing” in Week 1. The Chiefs won that game handily, but the Texans held Mahomes to 211 passing yards and 6.7 yards per attempt.

“(The Patriots) just played well,” Mahomes said. “When guys were open, it seemed like I wasn’t finding them. I’d see it on the tablet after when I would go to the sideline. We were calling plays that were getting guys open. I’ve just got to be able to be the guy to find them and get it to those guys so they can make plays happen.”

It’s immensely difficult to keep an offense as explosive as Kansas City’s silent for an entire contest, though, and the Patriots’ defense eventually cracked, surrendering back-to-back 75-plus-yard touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarter.

New England’s offensive miscues were more glaring — quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham combined for four turnovers in Cam Newton’s absence, and Hoyer’s sack at the end of the first half cost the Patriots three points — but the defense had a few costly gaffes, as well.

Safety Devin McCourty and cornerback J.C. Jackson both failed to haul in what should have been easy interceptions, giving Kansas City new life. The Chiefs capitalized, scoring 10 points from those two drives. They added another six after safety Kyle Dugger was flagged for DPI on third down and defensive end Deatrich Wise picked up an iffy unnecessary roughness flag one play later.

The Chiefs also converted three consecutive third downs on their two touchdown marches.

“Obviously, when we watch the film and get another look at it, we’ll see that some key plays in the game went their way,” McCourty said after the game. “Couple key third-down conversions in the red area and in the field really was the difference in the second half. You know, and then failing to make plays — my dropped interception, we had another deep ball where we possibly could’ve had an interception.

“We’ve got to have those plays against this team, and we didn’t have it (Monday night).”

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images
Patriots tight end Ryan Izzo
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