What looked like a blowout soon devolved into an epic disaster.
As always, when the New England Patriots are involved, wait for the final whistle to blow before jumping to conclusions.
Tom Brady and Co. overcame a resurgent Kansas City Chiefs offense -- as well as countless mistakes of their own -- to survive and pick up a crucial 43-40 win at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.
"We had control and then we let them back in the game," Brady said, going on to reference a fumble he lost in the third quarter. "They were making plays on offense. We were making plays. We talked about competing for 60 minutes, and that's what it took. It took us right down to the last 3 seconds."
The Patriots had a 15-point lead at the half, which was gone early in the fourth quarter when Tremon Smith’s 97-yard kick return paved the way for a Tyreek Hill 1-yard touchdown catch from Patrick Mahomes II to help make it 33-30 with 8:38 left in regulation. It was Kansas City’s first lead since kicking a field goal on the opening possession of the game to go up 3-0.
Brady led the Patriots back downfield on their very next drive, picking up 42 yards on a deep ball to Chris Hogan and rumbling into the end zone himself from 4 yards out to put New England ahead 37-33.
"There were some other things going on in that play, and he stayed alive," Brady said in reference to Hogan's grab. "I've hit him on that a bunch over the last two-and-a-half years. He's got enough speed to separate down the field, and I threw it up high enough to try to give him a chance to run under it."
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The game couldn’t have been further from over, of course. The Patriots finally forced the Chiefs to punt on the series that followed, the first time either team had to do so all game.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 50-yard field goal to put New England ahead 40-33, only to see Hill torch the Patriots once again with a 75-yard touchdown catch from Mahomes on the first place of Kansas City’s next drive.
Tied at 40-40, New England embarked on a seven-play, 65-yard drive that would be enough to survive and advance. The key play was a 39-yard hookup between Brady and Rob Gronkowski, that got the Patriots from the outskirts of field goal range to right in the sweet spot.
Gostkowski's kick sailed through the uprights with no time left on the clock, and New England is now 4-2 -- just one game back of Kansas City (5-1) in the AFC playoff picture.
Brady finished with 340 yards through the air, his second game in a row north of 300 after falling short in New England's first four games. He completed 24 of his 35 passes and threw for one touchdown, a 17-yard pass to Julian Edelman in the second quarter.
New England had a 24-9 lead at halftime, with two rushing touchdowns for Sony Michel and a Gostkowski field goal accounting for the scoring. Kansas City's five first half drives ended with three field goals and two interceptions -- one by Dont'a Hightower, one by Duron Harmon.
Michel finished the game with 106 yards on the ground in addition to his pair of scores, good enough for the second game of his brief career with more than 100 yards rushing.
Hill had seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns for the Chiefs. Kareem Hunt, whom the Patriots passed on twice in the 2017 draft for Derek Rivers and Antonio Garcia, respectively, also had a monster game with 185 yards from scrimmage (105 receiving, 80 rushing).
Josh Gordon had five catches for New England, the most he's had in a Patriots uniform. He was targeted nine times in all and racked up 42 yards.
Asked after the game to describe Brady in the huddle during a potentially game-winning drive, Gordon noted his poise as what stood out.
"I think it's overall, he just has a certain calmness to him in a high-pressure situation. Not everybody has that," Gordon said. "I think when he displays that, other guys feel better about what they're supposed to do knowing that we're in good hands."
The Patriots are on the road next week against the Chicago Bears. It's a two-game road swing in all, with a trip to western New York to play the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football the following week.
New England's next home game is on Sunday, Nov. 4 vs. the Green Bay Packers -- also on Sunday Night Football.