Friday, September 08, 2017

Chiefs Take Down The Champs

This wasn't a football game. This was a heavyweight bout.

Leading up to it, Collinsworth described the Chiefs as counter-punchers. We knew going into it that it was going to be a tough place to play. The Super Bowl champs opening at home, with the trophies, with the banners, with Mark Wahlberg. Al and Chris said they've never heard Gillette as loud as it was before the game.

And the Patriots came out swinging hard. No huddle down the field, 73 yards in under 3 minutes. It's 7-0.

First Chiefs play of the season, first career snap for Kareem Hunt and he fumbles. Never lost a fumble in 4 years of college.

Patriots are 32 yards from the endzone. 6 plays later, Tom Brady throws a touchdown to Gronk and it's 13-0 before Alex Smith has even thrown a pass.

Except that it wasn't. After the commercial break they take the touchdown away. That leads to a 4th and 1 from the 10.

They're going for it. KC Star writer Terez Paylor calls it disrespectful to go for it. The Chiefs stop them on 4th down and take over at the 10.

The Chiefs counter-punch and go 90 yards for a score with only getting to 3rd down once.

That was a huge sequence. Gronk completes that pass and it's 14-0. But defense steps up and boom, it's 7-7 after the first quarter. The Chiefs stop the bleeding and prove this is going to be a fight.

Next drive ends with a 4th and 1 for the Pats from the 8. The Chiefs have them gunshy and they settle for a field goal. That initial 4th down stop still providing benefits.

But the Patriots get it back after a punt and take a 17-7 lead. And the Chiefs punt again. Just like that it feels inevitable. The Patriots are the Champs. They've scored on 3 out of 4 drives. The Chiefs have only scored on 1 out of 4 drives. To stop them from scoring, we needed a key 4th down stop—you can't count on those.

With 3:44 to go in the first half, the Pats have the ball and could extend their lead before the half. But the Chiefs force their first punt.

The Chiefs now have 2:47 to salvage something. And I've always liked Alex Smith in these situations. I think he's best when he's forced to throw down the field. They quickly chip down the field, picking up key 3rd downs and with 13 seconds left Alex Smith checks down to Kareem Hunt for his first career touchdown.

It's Halftime and it's 17-14 Patriots. The Chiefs just executed a two-minute drill on the road in Foxboro against the Champs. KC gets the ball back to start the second half. The Chiefs hung in there and fought back from the second wave of punches.

Against a normal team, I'd feel reasonably confident. Against the Patriots, just nothing but dread. It still feels inevitable. But at least we didn't get blown out. At least we're not a national laughingstock.

After two punts, the Chiefs start a drive on their own 25 and this happens:

I really can't say enough about this. This feels SO MUCH like a play that I've seen happen over and over without the same result. The one where Alex checks down to RB and then the broadcast shows a replay that he had a wide open Maclin or Kelce or Hill that could have had a score. Or the one where Alex sees an opportunity like this but the pass is a little long or a little short. Or the one where he makes the throw but the ball bounces off a normally sure-handed receiver. I've seen countless variations of the wide open receiver—but I've rarely seen this version.

This is the version where Alex scans left and then continues to scan right where Hill is. When he sees Hill breaking open and doesn't hesitate. He fires it perfectly deep hitting him right in stride. And Hill catches it, oh my goodness he catches it. This is the version where the Chiefs take the lead for the first time. Just wow.

I saw the angle from Alex's point of view (wish I could find it again) and when Alex starts to throw it, Hill is not nearly that open. He's got him beat, but he's basically even with the defender. It's a thing of beauty.

And then, oh by the way, it's 21-17 Chiefs. With 9 minutes to go in the 3rd. It feels great, but I know that 24 minutes of football is an eternity. I expect the Patriots to come back.

The Chiefs lead lasted for 4 minutes. Patriots 24-21 with 5 to go in the 4rd. Damn.

Chiefs go back to back punts. Patriots open a drive with a 54-yard pass to Cooks. This is the 3rd wave of punches from the champ. A touchdown here would make it a two-possession game going into the 4th. Limit them to a field goal and it's only a 6 point game.

Chiefs Red Zone defense comes up huge again. Patriots 27-21. After a penalty it's 1st and 15 from their own 5 for the Chiefs. This feels like a punting situation. But Kareem Hunt goes 13 yards up the middle, gets the team some breathing room. Nice, underrated play. If he doesn't do that, then he can't do this:

Holy shit. Kareem Hunt is my new best friend. Alex Smith is a gunslinger. The Chiefs have counterpunched for the 3rd time. They've retaken the lead.

It's at this point 28-27, where I first thought: "Okay we're in this game. It would really, really suck to get to this point, to have this lead on the road, and have it all be wasted. We need to win this."

Ensuing drive. 3rd and 2, key tackle by Peters/Berry leaves NE with a 4th and 1 from the KC 40. They have to go for it. They try to run it like they did back in the first quarter. The Chiefs defense stops them again. The same defense that on the opening drive couldn't stop anything, is now a stone wall.

After exchanging punts, Chiefs get the ball and go to work. Short passes, deep passes, it's all working. They score again. I wish they would have gone for 2 to try and put it out reach, but they kick the extra point and it's 35-27 with 5 minutes to go.

At this point, having seen three waves of punches from the champs, I thought there was a 99% chance that Brady goes down the field and scores a touchdown.

First play of the drive is the first sack of the game for the Chiefs. #BigMacSack. Houston beats the edge rush and finally gets home on Brady.

Chiefs force a punt and get the ball back with 4 minutes to go. Still nervous. Need to close it out.

So the Chiefs run the ball twice for 79 yards and go up 42-27. Is this real life?

Like can I start celebrating yet? Holy shit.

The Chiefs sack Brady twice more on the final drive and get to victory formation.

The game is over.

Can I stop being nervous now?

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For the record, there were two times this decade where the teams involved in the kickoff game reached the Super Bowl.

In 2013, the Broncos beat the Ravens on opening night. The Broncos would end up reaching the Super Bowl, but losing.

In 2014, the Seahawks beat the Packers on opening night. The Seahawks would end up reaching the Super Bowl, but losing.

So that's not exactly as exciting as I would have hoped, but...based on this alone, it seems more likely that the Chiefs would reach the SB than the Patriots, so I'll take it.

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Here are some random fun stats:

The 4th Quarter by Pats was reverse of Super Bowl: 4 drives, 2 first downs, 0 points. Outscored 21-0.

The Patriots were 81-0 at Gillette when leading at half during the regular season before last night (95-1 when including playoffs).

42 points is the most allowed by the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era.

The Chiefs have won 7 straight road games, including wins over all 4 teams from the last 2 Super Bowls (CAR, DEN, ATL, NE)

Players with 300+ pass yards, 4+ passing TD and 0 INT against a Bill Belichick defense: Drew Brees (2009), Alex Smith (tonight)

Kareem Hunt has set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage in the first game of a career with 246.

Alex Smith last 2 games vs. New England (48 of 61 for 616 YDS 7TD 0 INT.)

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Chiefs Offense in the Red Zone: 3 times = 3 touchdowns

Chiefs Defense in the Red Zone: 6 times = 3 touchdowns, 2 fg, 1 turnover on downs

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It's easy to start thinking just about the emotional part. The opening night national TV win, coming back against the Patriots who spent the offseason rubbing it in the Falcons faces...

But this is a huge win for the season.

For starters of course, the Chiefs are 1-0 and have a few extra days to practice for their next game. They already got a road win, in the hardest game on the schedule. Plus, it's a tiebreaker against the Patriots that could easily impact the playoffs. It's not even ridiculous to think that the AFC Championship could be these two teams and because of this game (maybe both finish 12-4) that game is at Arrowhead because of Week 1. Holy crap.

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