On a day filled with mediocre football, the NFL saved its best for last Sunday night as the New England Patriots scored on the final possession of the game to secure a 43-40 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Early on, the game looked like it might be a blowout. The Patriots led 24-9 at halftime and the Chiefs run defense, one of the worst in football, had lived up to their reputation. The Chiefs simply could not stop the Patriots' running attack - mainly Sony Michel who had his second 100-yard game of the season.
However, the Chiefs score 31 points in the second half and America had a great shootout to watch.
For all the talk about scheme and RPOs - the game turned into a match of great players. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski earned his 500th catch in style. Gronkowski had only one catch for 16 yards in the first three quarters and two huge catches in the fourth quarter including the one that set up the winning field goal. Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who looked like a non-factor with only three catches for 43 yards and no touchdowns in the first half, finished with seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns including a 75-yard catch that tied the game at 40. Great players make plays and that's what happened Sunday night.
The Patriots led 37-33 when Gronkowski had a 42-yard reception that led to a Stephen Gostkowski 50-yard field goal (Gostkowski was 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts) to give the Patriots a seven-point advantage. Gronkowski's next big play occurred after Hill had tied the game at 40. On first-and-10 at the Kansas City 48, quarterback Tom Brady connected with Gronkowski on a 39-yard gain to the Chiefs 9 and the Patriots had effectively sealed the game. Inexplicably, the Chiefs decided that after double-teaming Gronkowski basically the whole game it would be a good idea for cornerback Josh Shaw to cover him man-to-man.
After Brady took one knee, Gostkowski hit a chip shot for the win.
The Patriots came away impressed with the talent of Hill. It is one thing to see his speed on film - another to witness it on the field.
"He is fast on film, but when you play against him he is really fast," cornerback Stephon Gilmore said afterward.
The game brought back memories of 25 years ago for what was Robert Kraft's first game as owner.
Gunslinger Dan Marino faced second-year quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Marino and the Dolphins won 39-35 because the Dolphins had the ball last. It was vintage Marino just as Sunday night was vintage Brady. Bledsoe received high praise as did Patrick Mahomes Sunday night.
Players acknowledged afterwards that this game was fun - almost like sandlot football. The NFL can be demanding (meeting after meeting, physical practice after physical practice, weight room session after weight room session), but it is games like Sunday night that make it all worth it.
Said Brady, "It was pretty good. You know, we had control and then we let them back in the game with some - you know, the fumble was a bad play. But, they were making plays on offense. We were making plays. And, we talked about competing for 60 minutes, and that's what it took. It took us right down to the last three seconds."
Added Michel, "That is why I play football because it is fun."