YOUTH VS. EXPERIENCE
CHIEFS FACE PATS 23-YEAR-OLD QB PATRICK MAHOMES TAKES ON BRADY
FOXBORO — Usually, the much-ballyhooed, circle the calendartype games are reserved for later in the season. Only, this one arrived Week 6. Sure, there was a mini-event Week 4 against the Dolphins when the Patriots were 1-2, and the Fins came to town at 3-0.
But this epic showdown with the Chiefs tonight in prime time is better, and much more meaningful. Unlike the Dolphins, the Chiefs are legitimate, offensively anyway. They arrive at Gillette Stadium, 5-0, and are clearly the best team in the AFC, and perhaps the NFL, although there’s an argument to be made for the LA Rams, who are also unbeaten.
What makes the game so special? The stars and the stakes.
Let’s start with the latter. The implications are far-reaching. With the Patriots at 3-2, the Chiefs have two wins in hand. While it’s too early for seeds to be decided, a win would definitely put the Chiefs in the driver’s seat for the top seed and home field for the postseason. It’s a spot the Patriots covet, because historically, it’s gotten them to the Super Bowl. Lose, and it’s a long road to get back in contention for the prime spot atop the AFC, a spot the Patriots have owned in recent years.
Think the Patriots want to travel to Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC Championship Game? Theoretically, that’s what we’re talking about.
The players aren’t going to talk about playoff seeding at this stage, but they understand the enormity of the proceedings.
“It’s two good teams, going at it, battling on “Sunday Night Football.” It’s going to be a great atmosphere, it’s going to be an opportunity for us to see what we’re made of, going up against a good football team, a great football team who’s playing exceptionally well, undefeated,” said safety Duron Harmon. “We’re going to have to have our best effort to make this an extremely good game.”
Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett didn’t mince words.
“We all know what it is. They’re arguably the best team in football right now. They’re undefeated,” said Dorsett. “It’s going to be a great game. It’s going to be exciting. We gotta make it tough on them. We know what their offense is capable of.”
The Chiefs offense has been one of the major storylines of the NFL to this point. First-year starter Patrick Mahomes hasn’t met a defense he hasn’t destroyed, and that includes Jacksonville.
A year ago on banner raising night, the Chiefs with Alex Smith at quarterback, embarrassed the Patriots. Now they have Mahomes, an MVP front-runner, at the controls.
The 23-year-old broke the NFL record for most touchdown passes through the first three games of the season, while his six TD strikes against the Steelers in Week 2 made him the youngest quarterback to ever do that.
Five games in, he’s the talk of the league, preparing for his first go-round against the Pats and Bill Belichick, who usually feasts on young quarterbacks.
“They’re going to have a great game plan. They’re going to have ways to take away the stuff that we’ve had success with so far this season, and I expect them to throw some stuff out there that’s unscouted,” Mahomes said Wednesday during a conference call. “But, at the same time, we’re going to keep working on our game plan and keep doing things that we do well in order to have success.”
With two defenses that have struggled keeping opponents from scoring, with KC allowing the most yards per game, it figures to be a high-scoring affair.
The Patriots offense, which had struggled to score in a few games, busted out the past two, scoring 38 against both the Dolphins and Colts. Tom Brady and Co. got a boost last game with the return of Julian Edelman, and as Josh Gordon continues to get more familiar with the offense, even better things will happen.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is in a bit of a scoring slump, not having gotten into the end zone since opening week, said there wasn’t any added pressure on the Patriots offense to match scores with the Chiefs.
“As an offense, we always want to go out there and we always want to put up points,” said Gronk. “That’s our job, that’s our mission every week and however the game goes, we’re just trying to put up as many points as we possibly can and we’ll see how it plays out Sunday. But as an offense, we’re trying to score every single time we have the ball.”
Many experts are predicting an old-fashioned shootout.
“Bill’s probably going to give Mahomes something he hasn’t seen before, but the kid can make plays. He’s got playmakers around him,” said SiriusXM NFL analyst Solomon Wilcots. “So I can see this being a real shootout, a high scoring game. It’s hard to go against the Patriots at home, against a very young quarterback.”
During the week, the Patriots were quietly confident. The players on defense, in particular, were already buying into what Belichick had in store for Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, et al.
“Coach has a good game plan for us,” said cornerback Stephon Gilmore. “We just have to read our keys . . . they have great speed, so we just have to know where they’re at, and lock in. Coach is going to put us in position to make plays. I’m looking forward to it. They’ve got a good football team. Their quarterback’s playing great. It’s going to be fun.”
Added Edelman: “We’re playing an undefeated team that looks unbelievable . . . so we’ve gotta battle. If you love football, this is why you play, for games like this.” PREDICTION:
Patriots 31, Chiefs 28
xPxAxTxxRxIxCK xxxxxx MAHOMES
xxxxxxx xxxxxx TOM BRADY