Try to do it with your star quarterback sidelined by COVID-19, a 40-year-old mate taking his place, your best running back heading to the injured reserve and a flight that never landed in Kansas. City only shortly before kick-off.
Still, the New England Patriots still managed to give the Chiefs adjustments for most of the Monday night, hanging in a basket from the Super Bowl champions until the end of the third quarter. It wasn’t until Tyrann Mathieu picked up an interception for a touchdown in the fourth that Kansas City claimed their 26-10 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
“You’ve seen it this season. You saw it last season. Even if you hold us down, we can go out there and make plays when they count, ”said Mahomes, who threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns. “When your number is called you have to play, and I thought enough players played that we could come out with a win.”
Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman won TD for the Chiefs, who have now won 13 straight games.
“We made plays when we had to make plays,” said coach Andy Reid, “and we can learn from that. There are many areas that we have to do better, but it’s tough to win in this league and it’s tough to beat the Patriots in any situation.
Maybe a little easier in this one.
The marquee match was supposed to take place on Sunday, but it was put on hold when New England confirmed that a player – who was later revealed to be Cam Newton – tested positive for COVID-19. Later on Saturday, it emerged that Chiefs QB Jordan Ta’amu training team had also tested positive, forcing the NFL to postpone the game.
Other tests, including one performed at 6 a.m. ET on Monday, returned no positive results from either team.
With their quarterback sidelined and running back Sony Michel hitting the IR with a quad injury, the Patriots (2-2) were forced to rely on mate Brian Hoyer and a squad of running backs. -offensives who never really set the pace.
Hoyer, who has now lost 11 straight starts for three different teams, finished 15 of 24 for 130 yards and an interception before being benched in the second half. Jarrett Stidham led the Patriots to a touchdown near 13-10, but he also threw two interceptions, including the 6 pick to Mathieu that propelled the Chiefs to their fourth straight 4-0 start.
“We had a few opportunities tonight (and) weren’t able to take advantage of them. You can’t give a team like this those kinds of opportunities, ”said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “I have spun the ball four times. I had too many penalties.
Still, Belichick’s heavy and draining game plan has largely worked.
The Chiefs walked the field for a basket in their first practice, added another later in the half, but struggled to get going. Sammy Watkins lost a chance to score while fumbling in the red zone, Mahomes was under constant stress and the rest of his wide receivers were covered by the New England high school.
In fact, the Patriots could have been in the lead if Hoyer hadn’t made two monumental mistakes.
The first came in the dying seconds of the first half, when the Patriots had used their timeouts to get within shooting range. Hoyer was sacked by Frank Clark on the third try, and the 40-year-old mate didn’t realize he couldn’t stop the clock. He touched zero and the Chiefs took a 6-3 lead in the locker room.
Hoyer’s second mistake came at the end of the third quarter, when he again felt the pocket collapse on a third try. This time the Chiefs stripped the ball and recovered it, preventing New England from another basket attempt.
“Two bad decisions in the red zone cost us points,” he said.
Give the bosses enough chances and they’ll usually close it.
Finally enjoying a swing in the momentum, Mahomes hit Hill and Travis Kelce with long passes to quickly move down. And when Hill swept over the pylon for a touchdown, the Chiefs had some leeway.
The Patriots responded behind a long run from Damien Harris, who had just been activated off IR, and a nice catch by N’Keal Harry in the end zone. But the Chiefs continued to move on offense, taking advantage of pass interference and personal foul penalties from the league’s lesser team to set up Hardman’s touchdown.
When Mathieu was perfectly positioned to catch a flipped pass and take it home, the Chiefs were heading for a winning start in a grueling three-game, 11-day streak that includes a visit to the Buffalo Bills.
“I always feel like we can play so much better and I think that’s the goal,” said Mathieu. “Forget this game. Our youngest stepped in, played well, but we’re getting to the heart of the matter. We have two really tough opponents ahead and we have to find a way to win the next two games.
Patriots running back James White was back after missing two games after his father died. He carried three times for 21 yards and caught seven passes for 38 yards, then tore in a post-game press conference.
“He meant everything to me,” White said. “He pushed me. He didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear. But he always wanted me to do the right thing and pushed me to be the best I could be all the time.
Patriots: Right guard Shaq Mason missed the game after a calf injury late last week. The Patriots’ offensive line was further depleted later in the first quarter, when right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor left with a headache.
Chiefs: Defensive tackle Chris Jones was sidelined with a groin injury that sidelined him in training last week. Defensive end Mike Danna joined him on the bench with a hamstring injury in the second quarter.
The Patriots continue their AFC West tour when the Broncos travel to New England on Sunday. The Chiefs face the Raiders the same afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.