Mellinger: Chiefs 26, Pats 10: A slow-starting but eventual win
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - This relationship between sports columnist and reader is built on mutual respect and trust, qualities that need to be cherished and protected at all costs, so here's where we start tonight:
I'm not sure what I just saw in the Chiefs' 26-10 victory.
Was this Bill Belichick showing that even without premier defensive talent you can slow the fire-breathing dragon that is the Chiefs offense by deploying six defensive backs with different forms of coverage?
Was this Patrick Mahomes simply playing like a normal human quarterback the week after going full unicorn?
Was this just diminished energy and execution stemming at least partly from a floating kickoff time and COVID-19 anxieties?
Was this something more positive - an example of even the best game plan against Mahomes and the Chiefs turned into dust? More proof that, eventually, he and his team will find a way?
Honestly, any of these are possible. Same with other possibilities that aren't coming to mind at the moment.
Here's what's certain: the defending Super Bowl champions who fashion themselves as a dynasty on the come should not need this much drama to beat a New England team that flew in the day of the game to start Brian Hoyer and finish with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback.
If the 2020 Chiefs should be judged every week on a Super Bowl standard then this wasn't good enough.
The offense that has an answer for everything could not convincingly solve a Patriots defense that routinely dropped seven or more in coverage, bringing occasional pressure from varying angles.
The offense that used a first-round pick on a running back could not effectively run the ball against a defense that appeared content with giving up rushing yards.
The Patriots missed on two interceptable passes by Mahomes, and gave up a pick-six when a ball bounced off Julian Edelman's hands and into Tyrann Mathieu's.
The Patriots played without Cam Newton, the star quarterback who had the Patriots operating at Tom Brady-level precision but tested positive for COVID two days before the originally scheduled kickoff. And they played with the entirely overwhelmed Brian Hoyer.
Look. These are high-level criticisms. The Chiefs won. They beat the Patriots, and you don't need a long memory to remember when that seemed impossible, or when it was a season highlight.
Belichick is the greatest coach of our time, and there is no shame in being slowed by an icon. If the Chiefs' worst day is good for a 16-point win then, well, we can certainly find bigger problems in this world. We are now 13 games removed from the Chiefs' last loss. That seems good.
Not all games can be like last week's, and this isn't the first time Mahomes has been slowed for more than a half. But the Chiefs will see plenty to fix from this.
The challenge now is to make sure the defensive game plan the Patriots used won't be turned into a loss against a team with a better quarterback.