FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (USA TODAY) – The New England Patriots unveiled their fifth Super Bowl banner, held a pre-game celebration that boasted five oversized Lombardi Trophies and included a performance from rapper Flo Rida, and their fans taunted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with clown noses.
And then the Patriots lost their home opener Thursday night to the Kansas City Chiefs, 42-27, in giving up the most points and yards (537) in a single game during the Bill Belichick era.
This was not the crisp, clean performance the Patriots have become known for over the past few seasons, as New England struggled to get new additions to its roster to play seamlessly. On the other side, the Chiefs racked up numerous explosive plays en route to an upset that few saw coming.
Kansas City recorded three touchdown drives of 90 yards or more. Two of them came on passing plays of 75 yards (to receiver Tyreek Hill) and on 78 yards (to running back Kareem Hunt).
In fact, the Chiefs had scoring drives of 90, 92, 75, 90 (again), 60 and 75 yards.
And the Chiefs stuffed two separate New England fourth-and-1 conversion attempts.
Though Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got all the buzz in the leadup to the game, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith took advantage of favorable matchups, and completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
It wasn’t only the passing game that was on point for Kansas City, either.
Third-round rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who emerged as a starter after Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending knee injury, exploded onto the scene and chewed up New England’s defense. He ran the ball 17 times for 148 yards, caught five passes for 98 more yards and scored three total touchdowns.
All that after he fumbled his first career carry on Kansas City’s opening offensive play from scrimmage.
The victory, though, may have been costly for the Chiefs. Midway through the fourth quarter, safety Eric Berry went down with an Achilles injury, and the team quickly ruled him out for the rest of the game.
Brady finished the day with 267 yards on 16-of-36 passing.
It wasn’t all bad, however, for the defending champs.
If there was any question who would replace former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount – who signed this offseason with the Philadelphia Eagles – in short-yardage and goal-line situations, the answer became clear Thursday night.
It’s Mike Gillislee, whom New England to an offer sheet this offseason that the Buffalo Bills later declined to match.
Gillislee ran the ball 15 times for 45 yards against the Chiefs. But most importantly, he scored three touchdowns, already getting a jump on the NFL-leading 18 rushing scores that Blount collected last season.
The Patriots also lost starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) and receiver Danny Amendola (head) to injuries in the second half of the game.
Next week, the Chiefs host the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Patriots travel to New Orleans to face the Saints.
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