Pick Six:  Observations from Game Six

The Patriots held off one of the better teams in the NFL when they outlasted the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs 43-40 in Gillette Stadium. Stephen Gostkowski made all nine of this scoring kicks – five field goals and four extra points – including a 50-yarder with three minutes remaining in the game and the game winning 28-yarder as time expired. New England put up at least 38 points in their three consecutive home wins and now the team will play six of their next eight games on the road.

Six Observations from Game Six

1. New England was fortunate to hold Kansas City to nine points in the first half. On their opening drive, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes overthrew running back Kareem Hunt, who had badly beaten linebacker Dont’a Hightower up the right seam. Two plays later Mahomes – while being pressured by Trey Flowers – threw too high to receiver Tyreek Hill in the end zone to bring up a field goal attempt. Late in the 1st quarter, on a Run-Pass-Option, Mahomes mistakenly threw into Dont’a Hightower’s zone while trying to hit tight end Travis Kelce. Hightower returned the interception down inside the Chiefs’ five yard line to set up a Patriots’ touchdown. On the next drive, the Kansas City quarterback was pressured on a third-down zone blitz and overthrew Kelsey on an out route to the left, bringing up a second field goal attempt. At the end of 2nd, Mahomes was chased out of the pocket by Dont’a Hightower, threw on the run into a group of Patriot defenders in the end zone, and Duron Harmon picked the ball off.

2. The Chiefs’ offense scored two long touchdowns against the Patriots’ zone defense in the second half. The first one came early in the 3rd quarter when Patrick Mahomes rolled out of the pocket and hit running back Kareem Hunt on a wheel route up the right sideline for a 67 yard score. It wasn’t clear to this observer if Jason McCourty should have dropped deeper to defend the pass or if Devin McCourty should have slid toward Hunt when Mahomes left the pocket. The second long touchdown came late in the 4th when Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill on a crossing route. It appeared that Duron Harmon got turn around in center field and allowed Hill to get past him for the 75-yard catch and run.

3. A third big play from Kanas City came early in the 4th quarter when Tremon Smith returned a kickoff 97 yards, down to New England’s three yard line. Smith got two critical early blocks from the Chiefs’ Frank Zombo (on Matthew Slater) and Demetrius Harris (on Brandon King). Devin McCourty missed on a tackle attempt near mid field and then chased the returner into the end zone. Aside from the 97-yard return, New England’s kick off team also allowed the Chiefs to start drives at their 37 and 45 yard lines.

4. Running back Sony Michel gained 55 yards on eight 1st quarter carries. Twelve yards on a counter behind left guard Joe Thuney and fullback James Develin to the right. Another four yards and a touchdown behind pulling right guard Shaq Mason with James Develin knocking down linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Breeland Speaks. At the end of the opening quarter, Michel picked up another eight yards on a counter to the right, with tight end Rob Gronkowski opening up whole against linebacker Reggie Ragland.

5. The Patriots pushed their lead to 17-6 early in the 2nd quarter thanks to a fortunate bounce of the ball. New England ran a play action pass with left guard Joe Thuney pulling left and running back Sony Michel ineffectively blocking defensive lineman Chris Jones. Jones knocked the football out of Tom Brady’s hands, but center David Andrews fell on the loose ball to secure possession. Two plays later, receiver Julian Edelman broke out of a bunch formation on the left side, ran past cornerback Kendall Fuller’s attempted jam, and pulled in a touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone.

6. On the game winning drive the Patriots used two tight ends and two running backs on third-and-one from the New England 35 yard line. Running behind blocks from Rob Gronkowski on linebacker Breeland Speaks and tackle Trent Brown on defensive lineman Chris Jones, Sony Michel dipped under linebacker Reggie Ragland’s tackle attempt to squeeze out the first down. Two plays later, Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski for 39 yard completion up the right seam to set up the game winning field goal. On that pass, defensive back Josh Shaw tried to jam Gronkowski at the line but the big tight end easily got around Shaw and was a full stride past him when ball arrived.

Originally posted on PatsPulpit.com

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