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Instant analysis from Patriots’ 23-16 loss to Chiefs

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A touchdown’s worth of observations from Sunday’s AFC title rematch.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The remainder of the Kansas City Chiefs’ shoulder pads, helmets and cleats arrived shortly before Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium.

The logistical issues ended there against the New England Patriots.

Kansas City outlasted New England by a score of 23-16 in a December rematch of January’s AFC title game, sending the Patriots to 10-3 on the regular season and to the end of a 21-game winning streak in Foxborough.

Here’s a touchdown of observations from what went into it.

Patriots begin in hurry-up to unpack the flea flicker

New England’s initial drive brought hurry-up. It brought “12” personnel with one back and two tight ends. It brought a pair of third-down conversions courtesy of pass interference on Chiefs cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward.

And it also brought a flea flicker from James White back to Tom Brady, and then downfield for a 37-yard touchdown strike to Julian Edelman.

The TD catch marked the wideout’s sixth of the season. It capped off a possession that began at the Patriots’ own 18. Brady began 6-of-9 passing. But New England’s quarterback would go 4-of-10 to close the half, with an interception by the aforementioned Breeland among them. By then, Edelman resembled the clear answer behind an offensive line that couldn’t sustain its protection, accounting for 70 of Brady’s 101 yards.

New England’s 21st interception becomes a wake-up for Kansas City

Kansas City’s offense followed up New England’s 7-0 start with an interception. It’d be the the 21st of the campaign, and J.C. Jackson’s third. The cornerback cut underneath a DeMarcus Robinson over route to pick off quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But while Mahomes began 0-of-4 through the air, he’d complete his next four.

And more.

Mahomes found conversions on second-and-25 and third-and-19 before halftime. The reigning league MVP found effectiveness in the flats, and it made for a catch-and-run track meet. It’d help set up a Wildcat rushing TD by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Nick Folk’s return met by a 41-yard rejection

A 41-yard attempt by Folk ended at the hands of 6-foot-7 Chiefs defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon. Kpassagnon sliced in between former Texas Christian tackles Marshall Newhouse and Marcus Cannon on the left side of New England’s line for the block.

Folk had been re-signed by the Patriots on Saturday after an emergency appendectomy on Thanksgiving led to his release. He went 7-of-9 on field goals during his initial stay, which was split by one game of Kai Forbath.

New England moved on from Forbath last Monday, and practiced throughout the week without a kicker under contract. The Patriots elected to go for it on fourth-and-7 halfway through the second quarter as opposed to trying a 44-yard field goal. It resulted in a turnover on downs. Folk’s next attempt came in the fourth quarter, and went through the uprights.

Matching speed with speed

Justin Bethel, a three-time Pro Bowler for his work on special teams, would be an early wrinkle for the New England defense on Sunday. The Patriots sent Bethel on to match speed with speed versus Chiefs rookie Mecole Hardman’s 4.33 40-time. Bethel had seen four snaps defense for New England this fall prior to then.

But soon, Hardman would see the end zone on a double-move opposite another 4.33 in nickelback Jonathan Jones. Unable to close on the 48-yard score was safety Duron Harmon as the Patriots’ last line of single-high defense. Jones also revisited first-team All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill, who had been limited to one 42-yard reception in the January meeting with overhead help. Hill finished with six catches for 62 yards this time.

No. 1 corner Stephon Gilmore shadowed the Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins once again while some Tampa 2 mixed in. Gilmore would be called for holding on Watkins late in the first quarter, negating a sack by Patriots defensive tackle Adam Butler, but Watkins managed to catch four of his eight targets Sunday. The Patriots managed to hold the Chiefs to three second-half points.

Four-down Patriots shift the field

The score read 23-7 late in the third quarter. It’d read 23-13 after core safety Nate Ebner dove in for the Patriots’ NFL-leading fourth blocked punt of the campaign.

Ebner’s play against the Chiefs’ Dustin Colquitt put New England on the doorstep of another.

And on a jet sweep to four-down running back Brandon Bolden, the ball was in the end zone from 10 yards out. The Patriots had Sony Michel, quiet after rushing for north of 200 yards with four touchdowns against the Chiefs as a rookie, in the backfield on Bolden’s score. New England’s attempt at a two-point conversion fell short.

First-rounder’s second career touchdown remains unofficial

On the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, Patriots safety Devin McCourty jarred the football free from Kelce. Upon review, a forced fumble and a recovery by New England would be the call. Just not until a chance at a potential touchdown return had been whistled dead. And not until after head coach Bill Belichick expended his final challenge.

The Patriots’ offense worked into the red zone afterward. And first-round pick N’Keal Harry played a part, fighting off the sideline on what would have been a pylon-reaching touchdown from Brady. But it wasn’t ruled a touchdown. It was not reviewable. The Patriots, once 16 points down, turned to Folk for a 29-yard field goal. That’d make it 23-16 with one timeout left.

Another possession would be left. It saw a no-call for pass interference on a deep shot to Phillip Dorsett become fourth-and-6. A scramble by New England’s 42-year-old quarterback moved the sticks and picked up 17 yards. A turnover on downs followed.

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Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 8, 2019