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The Chiefs won this game, but their recent struggles are a reminder of how amazing the Patriots’ glory days were

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Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs got the better of the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

FOXBOROUGH — The Chiefs came into Gillette Stadium Sunday and righted their football ship, at least a little bit.

 

With a 27-17 win over the Patriots that was neither all that difficult nor all that surprising,
the Chiefs snapped a two-game losing streak,
pushed their record to 9-5, and began the climb out of the doldrums that had hit their previous four games, three of them losses.
But the No. 1 seed in the AFC might be out of reach, with the defending
Super Bowl champions not simply chasing the Dolphins and Ravens, but the ghosts of their own dominant past.
After last week’s loss to the conference rival Bills ended with a rare burst of public frustration from quarterback Patrick Mahomes,
after an originally scheduled Monday night prime-time visit to
New England was bumped to the relative anonymity of Sunday afternoon,
the Chiefs limped eastward concerned more with holding onto a playoff spot than securing home field throughout.
For a team with five straight AFC title game appearances, all at home, and
two Super Bowl titles in the last four years, the lesson is clear:
Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget just how easy the Patriots made it look in dominating the NFL for nearly two decades.
These days, it feels like a distant memory, and a 71-year-old Bill Belichick
might look like a relic of another time. But he’s still the coach who led a two-decade run of dominance.
“He’s done an unbelievable job, the best in the business ever,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid insisted after
Sunday’s game, his defense of a longtime coaching friend rooted in the challenge of
facing Belichick many times over the years,
including a home loss in the 2018 AFC Championship game that preceded
the Patriots being crowned Super Bowl champs one more time.
Reid’s personal experience is more than enough to trump the intensifying national conversation that the Patriots’ precipitous
decline — they dropped to 3-11 and were blown out in their one playoff
appearance since Tom Brady departed — the past few years should bring Belichick’s time in New England to an end.
“I don’t question it,” Reid insisted. “I know how great he is.
I got to deal with him by playing against him. There’s nobody better that I’ve gone against.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick spent some time with Chiefs coach Andy Reid before the game. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

No doubt these are tough times in New England, where the final three games of this season can’t come fast enough;
where the question of Belichick’s future with the franchise, be it as coach,
general manager, both, or neither, has yet to be answered;
where costly mistakes and mind-numbing penalties continue to thwart any
effort by a roster lacking the game-breaking talent once plentiful in these parts.
The halcyon days of Brady are long gone, along with his mastery of fourth-quarter comebacks and magic touch with less talented teammates.
Sunday’s visit by the Chiefs stands as a powerful reminder of how amazing it all was, and really,
how hard it all was, too.
And how difficult it is to replicate. The level of consistency — six Super Bowl titles and nine appearances between 2001 and 2018,
a stretch during which the Patriots failed to win the AFC East title only twice — is unparalleled in the history of the sport.
Reid and Mahomes are the closest current facsimile, and they are reminded on a weekly basis just how difficult it is to stay on top.
Denver being right there behind us, losing two straight games, we knew we had to find a way to get momentum back in our favor,”
Mahomes said after his 305-yard, two-touchdown day.
“We’ve got to keep doing it, getting better, and try to play our best football going into the playoffs.
“There’s always pressure but obviously losing two games,
losing three straight in this league really puts you in a tough spot. Guys did a good job.
That’s a really good defense and we scored points early.”
The Patriots hung with them early, but a Chiefs touchdown just before the half and another

 

turn-back-into-a–pumpkin second half by Bailey Zappe (180 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT) and it was the same old story for New England.
Same old 2023 story, anyway. Once upon a time, the Patriots were the big kids on the block, the favorite to win week in and week out,
a team that rarely faltered and stayed focused, knowing a target was on their backs and winning anyway.
This is not to say Mahomes and Reid won’t find their mojo by playoff time.
But it’s their turn to try to do it as favorites, to take everyone’s best shot,
to know they won’t be sneaking up on anyone. They are a dangerous opponent on pedigree alone, never mind the likes of Mahomes, Travis Kelce,
Isiah Pacheco (injured but expected back soon) et al. But as the final three weeks of the regular season count down, it only gets more difficult.
Listen, when you’re as close as the AFC is right now, wins are hard to get, you better enjoy it, each one and they’re very important,” Reid said.

New England Patriots most to blame for Week 15 loss to Chiefs

“This one is no different than that because of the situation.
I liked the way some of the guys approached this thing, the leaders stepped up and did a nice job.”

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