KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In his 20th season as an NFL head coach, moral victories mean nothing to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. But watching his team rally from a 15-point deficit at New England before falling 43-40 to the Patriots with a depleted roster left him perhaps surprisingly upbeat after a loss.
"I appreciate the effort and we just kind of dug ourselves in a little bit of a hole early," Reid said during his Monday conference call with reporters. "So we can learn from that and do better there on both sides of the ball. But on the other hand, there were some good things in there, too. The comeback in the second half I thought was a positive."
Reid always falls back on his role as a teacher, preferring to lean on learning from mistakes than dwelling on what's broken and needs fixing.
"I'm not a big moral victory guy as much as I am learn from what you've got to better yourself," Reid said. "If we can just stay on to that and get better the next week. I don't care who's in there. I don't care. Get your stuff together and let's go play and get ourselves better now."
But Sunday night's game seems to have left the Chiefs more optimistic for the future than one might think. The Chiefs entered the game missing three starters, most notably edge rusher Justin Houston and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. They lost center Mitch Morse to a concussion during the game, and also played without key contributors including linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon, wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas and safety Eric Murray, who has filled in during the absence of All-Pro Eric Berry.
Rookie linebacker Breeland Speaks illustrates the club's increasing reliance on young players and newcomers. Speaks averaged just 23 defensive snaps during his first five games He took 76 of the defense's 78 plays against the Patriots Sunday night in his first career start.
"It's new growth, right, so it's a new limb and that's okay," Reid said. "The attitude is right, it's just working through youth and communication, that's what we're doing right now with the new group in there."
Reid knows his young team will make mistakes, but he sees a positive that when they're making mistakes it's not due to a lack of effort.
"If they're making a mistake, it's 100 miles-an-hour they're making a mistake," Reid said. "But they're working through it."
Even quarterback Patrick Mahomes fits into that category as well. Mahomes struggled in the first half against the Patriots, completing 14-of-23 passing for 164 yards and two interceptions.
"He started off a little rough, but he came back; he battled through it," Reid said. "He kept firing, which is important, and made some plays."
The two first-half interceptions from Mahomes should provide the young passer with the learning opportunities Reid stresses. His first interception came when he didn't see linebacker Dont'a Hightower filter back out off a blitz. The second pick occurred when Mahomes tried to force a ball through a too-tight window in the end zone after scrambling out of the pocket. The turnover cost the Chiefs a valuable field-goal opportunity in the red zone.
"Patrick's going to try to make plays the best he can, but listen, he can take something from that too," Reid said. "There's a time and a place where maybe you just throw out of bounds and you kick one."
Mahomes backed up his coach's faith in his ability to battle back, rallying the Chiefs from a 24-9 halftime deficit with four second-half touchdown passes. He finished the game with 352 yards passing, establishing a franchise record with his fifth straight 300-yard passing game. That bounce back reinforced Reid's faith in Mahomes as a quarterback who can overcome adversity within a game and continue striving for improvement.
"He knows every day is not going to be perfect, but I got to keep battling and that's what he does, and I appreciate that with him," Reid said.
But just as the risk-taking of Mahomes cost him early, it paid big dividends during the second-half comeback. Mahomes used his scrambling ability, field vision and big arm to make something out of nothing, finding running back Kareem Hunt free and wide open behind the secondary for a 67-yard touchdown pass.
"There's a time and a place though for everything, and with all of his gifts and abilities and great play, he'll learn that with time here," Reid said. "But you can't fault him for trying his best. You know you're going to get his best."
--C Mitch Morse left Sunday's game with a concussion and has entered the league's concussion protocol. The Chiefs have no timetable for his recovery and will continue to monitor his progress until he clears the protocol and returns to play.
--OL Jordan Devey started Sunday's game at right guard in place of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who went on injured reserve last week with a fractured fibula and ligament damage in his ankle. Devey moved to center when Mitch Morse left with a concussion, with Andrew Wylie taking over at right guard.
--LB Justin Houston did not play Sunday with a hamstring injury. He entered the game as doubtful, but he did not practice last week and appeared a long shot to play against the Patriots. He remains day-to-day entering prep for this week's home meeting with Cincinnati.
--LB Tanoh Kpassagnon tested his sprained ankle on the field Sunday night but did not play against the Patriots. He appears likely to rejoin the lineup in Week 7 assuming no further setbacks.
--WR De'Anthony Thomas went on injured reserve after re-fracturing his right fibula he first injured in Week 17 last season. CB Tremon Smith took over as the team's top kick returner against the Patriots.
--S Eric Murray did not play Sunday with a sprained ankle. The Chiefs ruled out Murray early on Friday. While the club continues guarding the severity of his injury, his return in Week 7 remains uncertain.
--S Leon McQuay received a promotion from the practice squad with S Eric Murray unavailable with a sprained ankle. McQuay did not play in Sunday night's game.
--S Eric Berry remains on the sidelines entering Week 6 with a sore heel. He has not practiced with the team since Aug. 11 but the club continues expressing optimism he may return soon.