Local pro sports fans couldn’t lose on Sunday night
Ah, the Big Choice: Patriots or Red Sox?
Such was the dilemma for local sports fans on Sunday night, and of course there were compelling reasons to choose a Red Sox ALCS Game 2 over a New England Patriots Sunday night Game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. Especially since the baseball started well over an hour before football.
But this game, despite being just Week 6 in the NFL, signified a third of the way through the season for the Patriots. A loss would have put them four games (three plus the head-to-head tiebreaker) behind what would have been an undefeated KC team for the future top spot in the conference.
So it was a biggie. Perhaps the first real huge game the Patriots have had in the first half of a season in a long time.
And they passed the test in thrilling fashion. Sports fans were in luck. If they chose baseball first, they saw the Red Sox survive to even the ALCS with a 7-5 win. They hit the remote and caught the finishing stages of a wild 43-40 Patriots win over the Chiefs on a last second Stephen Gostkowski 28-yard field goal. It was a classic scorefest in the fourth quarter, and most of the second half.
Through the first half, New England seemed equal to the task as its offense was purring, totaling 190 yards with a 24-9 halftime lead that was fueled by interceptions by Dont’a Hightower and Duron Harmon. New England never punted, back Sony Michel had two TD runs and Tom Brady a 17-yard TD pass to Julian Edelman.
But in the second half, Kansas City wonderkid Pat Mahomes threw four TD passes and the Chiefs tied the game with too much time left, 3:03.
Tom Brady took the cue, moving things on a seven play, 65-yard drive. Game, and now the Patriots trail the Chiefs by just a game and own the tiebreaker if it comes down to that in the AFC for top seed and home field.
“Tough place to play,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game. “Bill’s (Belichick) to a good football team and so, you have two good teams playing each other. We came up short, but again, we will learn from this.”
Remember, the Patriots have won only two AFC Championship Games on the road in the Belichick/Brady Era – both in Pittsburgh, and the last one coming in a season in which they beat Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl (January-February 2005).
It would be tough to figure that this Patriots team, if you really want to look far ahead, could go into Kansas City and win an AFC title game.
But we’re really getting waaaay ahead of ourselves. While David Price was struggling Sunday night to prove New England fans wrong, the Patriots were successfully trying to prove that their offense, heavily questioned three weeks ago after a loss in Detroit, is back and just as good as usual.
And why wouldn’t one think that? The team has really added two quality receivers since then in Josh Gordon (inactive for Detroit) and Julian Edelman (his second game back after his suspension). Rookie back Sony Michel was finally becoming a useful part of the offense, with over 200 yards rushing combined in his last two games. And he had 106 on Sunday night.
When you look at the Patriots schedule – and it’s often counterproductive to do this – there are some questions. Perhaps the toughest teams they’ll have to face after Sunday night all come from the NFC North – Bears (next Sunday on the road), Packers (next home game, Sunday night Nov. 4) and Vikings (next home game after that, Sunday, Dec. 2, currently a 4:25 p.m. scheduled start).
Who else is there? OK, yes, playing Tennessee and Pittsburgh on the road won’t be easy, but they really haven’t established themselves yet. The AFC East remains a walk in the park, but Miami on the road is always a hurdle.
So you never know. Perhaps the Chiefs, severely liable on defense, are pretenders.
But the Patriots really don’t want to have to go on the road in the playoffs. Sunday night’s win was the first real big step in trying to make sure that doesn’t have to happen.
Winning on the road in the postseason isn’t easy. Neither the Red Sox or the Patriots want to press their luck.
But the sports fan Sunday was in luck.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,firstname.lastname@example.org,or@Telegraph _TomK.