What started as a euphoric night in Foxborough ended with Patriots fans streaming for the exits with several minutes to go, as the Kansas City Chiefs went into Gillette Stadium and pulled off an absolute stunner in the opening game of the 2017 NFL season, beating New England 42-27. Andy Reid's squad shocked the defending champion New England Patriots on banner night, recovering from a first-drive fumble to rack up more yards and put up more points than any opponent ever has against a Bill Belichick-coached team.
In the end, the Chiefs ran 63 plays and gained 541 yards, 352 through the air and 189 on the ground. Alex Smith had one of the best games of his NFL career, Kareem Hunt had the best Week 1 debut any rookie has ever had (his 246 total yards were the most ever by a player in Week 1 of his rookie season), Tyreek Hill scorched the Patriots' vaunted secondary (seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown), and the Chiefs hung 42 points on the defense that allowed fewer points than any in the NFL last season.
The Kansas City defense should not go unmentioned here, as it harassed Tom Brady into what is sure to be one of the worst games he'll have all season. Brady completed only 16 of 36 passes for 267 yards, and did not toss a touchdown pass. Mike Gillislee rumbled in for three scores, but the Chiefs held New England to 3.5 yards per carry on 35 totes overall. Brandin Cooks could not get untracked in his first game with New England, Rob Gronkowski was limited to two catches for 33 yards, and none of the Patriots' other weapons managed to break the game open.
For the first few minutes of this game it looked like the Pats were going to roll, as they marched right down the field for a score on their first drive of the season. When Hunt fumbled on the first touch of his NFL career on the ensuing Chiefs drive, the Pats were right back on business and looked poised to take a two-score lead. It appeared for a moment that they had when Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski for a score down the middle of the field, but the touchdown was overturned by replay review and the Pats eventually turned the ball over on downs.
The Chiefs answered with a touchdown on their next drive and they were right back in the game. That was really the story of the night. The Patriots built a lead, and the Chiefs came back to take one of their own. First they tied it after falling down 7-0. Next they took a 21-17 lead after trailing 17-7. And then finally they blew the Patriots doors off by racking up 21 straight points after the Patriots took a 27-21 lead late in the third quarter.
Here are a few more takeaways from the Chiefs' shocking victory.
1. A banner evening, at least to start
The first Thursday night of the season, by NFL tradition, always brings banner night with it. That's right, the Patriots -- in case you haven't heard -- are the defending Super Bowl champions. This latest Lombardi Trophy was their fifth, which means the banner hanging in the rafters in their home stadium is No. 5 as well.
And doesn't it look real nice up there with all the others?
Of course, the Patriots being the Patriots, they immediately forgot about last year and moved onto 2017.
Naturally, they're Super Bowl favorites once again. Even after the opening-week loss.
2. No love for the Commish
It should come to the surprise of exactly no one that the reception NFL commissioner Roger Goodell received at Gillette Stadium was not exactly warm and fuzzy. Goodell was mercilessly booed by Patriots fans, who apparently still have not gotten over Goodell's decision to suspend Tom Brady for the first four games of last season. (The chances of them getting over this during Goodell's lifetime are somewhere south of zero.)
Of course, there were also some hilarious anti-Goodell shirts in the stands.
Ole Rog' is obviously persona non grata in New England, so he couldn't even watch the game with the Robert Kraft, as he usually does when he visits the stadium of the previous year's Super Bowl winner.
Goodell is watching the game from a suite. He's not in the box of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) September 8, 2017
3. Alex Smith was the best QB on the field
I swear this was true for pretty much the entire evening. Tom Brady uncorked a 54-yard laser to Brandin Cooks near the end of the third quarter that reminded us all what he's capable of when he really has it going, but for most of the night, he simply didn't. Instead, it was Alex Smith that was out there carving up the opposing defense.
Smith completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, including this beautifully lofted toss down the sideline to Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard score, as well as a picture-perfect 78-yard strike to rookie running back Kareem Hunt.
In addition to those two monster plays, Smith engineered a 92-yard touchdown drive to end the first half. In all, that gave the Chiefs three touchdown drives of 90 yards or more -- two more than they had all of last season. Incredibly, this magnificent game did not mark Smith's career-high in passer rating. He recorded a perfect 158.3 rating in a 56-31 victory over the Raiders back in 2013.
4. Never tell me the odds
The Chiefs were facing long odds to come away with a win in this game. They entered as nine-point underdogs on the road against the defending champions, a team that almost never loses at home. This was also the Thursday Night kickoff game, and the home team was 13-2 in those games coming in.
Not only that, but the Patriots went up 17-7 at one point during the second quarter, which in their recent history has meant the game is all but over.
Needless to say, the odds of a Chiefs victory were not great at that point in the game. And yet, the Chiefs stormed back to take a 21-17 lead on touchdowns by Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill, and for a minute there it looked like they might defy the odds.
But then the Pats answered with Mike Gillislee's third score of the game and a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. At that point, it was 27-21 Pats. And when an Alex Smith-quarterbacked team gives up 27 points or more, history tells us they're not very good. Or at least, they weren't until 2016.
Naturally, the Chiefs found a way to win this one as well.
5. Amendola is the new Edelman
The Patriots suffered a big blow to their offense during the preseason, losing Julian Edelman for the year to a torn ACL. Edelman has long been Tom Brady's most reliable receiver, averaging at least 6.1 catches per game during each of the last four seasons. It was reasonable to expect that the Pats would have to make up for his absence but committee, but at least during Week 1, they slid Danny Amendola right into Edelman's role and did not miss a beat. Amendola finished the evening with six catches for 100 yards.
Amendola and Edelman are similar players -- they're both short, shifty wide receivers that do most of their damage within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, usually on quick-breaking routes. The issue with Amendola throughout has career is that he's struggled to stay healthy. He's missed 32 games due to injury in his career, and it's a pretty good bet that whether he sees heavy usage or not, he's going to miss a game or more at some point this year as well. (Indeed, he left the field with a possible concussion early in the fourth quarter.) Unless and until that happens, though, the Pats can rest easy knowing they have a player who can bring that Edelman-esque element to their offense, even if it's in a smaller complement of snaps.
This is, after all, exactly how the Patriots handled it when Edelman missed time during the 2015 season. Amendola stepped up with 32 catches for 304 yards and a touchdown over the next four games after Edelman went down before getting injured early in the next contest.
6. Hat tricks
As there always is in the lead-up to a Patriots game, there was a whole lot of debate about just how their backfield situation would shake out. LeGarrette Blount led the team in carries, yards, and touchdowns last year, but the Pats let him leave for Philadelphia this offseason. They replaced him by signing both former Bills back Mike Gillislee and former Bengals back Rex Burkhead. They also came into the year with a fully healthy Dion Lewis, so they had four backs potentially in the mix for Week 1.
At least in this one we got clarity on one thing: Mike Gillislee is the goal line back.
Mike Gillislee: 1st Patriots player to score 2 rushing TD in a season opener since Corey Dillon: (2005)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 8, 2017
Mike Gillislee and Rob Gronkowski (2015) are the only players in Patriots history with 3 TD in a season opener.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 8, 2017
Meanwhile, the Chiefs had a three-touchdown running back of their own. Rookie Kareem Hunt entered the preseason behind Spencer Ware on the depth chart, but he was elevated to the top job after Ware suffered a devastating knee injury during the preseason. Boy, did Hunt take advantage of the opportunity.
Not only did he have the 78-yard receiving score we embedded above, but he also scored on a receiving touchdown near the end of the first half, and ran in for a third score midway through the fourth quarter.
He was remarkably efficient, amassing 246 yards on just 22 total touches. That's the single highest yardage total for a rookie playing in his team's Week 1 game in the history of the NFL. And all that after fumbling on the first touch of his career.
7. Injury bug
As mentioned earlier, Danny Amendola left the field in the second half and entered the concussion protocol. Earlier in the game, Pats linebacker Donta Hightower left the field with a knee injury. Chiefs wide receiver/return man/all-around weapon Tyreek Hill was seen hobbling to the locker room with cramps in his leg, and star safety Eric Berry was carted off during the fourth quarter with an Achilles injury he suffered on a non-contact play. It was not a good night for avoiding the injury bug.
8. Up next
For the Patriots: They travel to New Orleans to play the Saints at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
For the Chiefs: They host the Eagles at 1 p.m. ET on Fox