NFL: Chiefs lean on defense to beat Patriots in COVID-19-delayed game; Packers beat Falcons
Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman had short touchdown catches, the Kansas City defense shut down a Patriots offense missing quarterback Cam Newton and running back Sony Michel, and the Chiefs beat New England 26-10 Monday night in a game postponed by positive COVID-19 tests on each team.
Tyrann Mathieu returned a late interception for the clinching touchdown, and Patrick Mahomes added 236 yards passing in a somewhat shaky performance — at least, by his standards — as the Chiefs overcame an uncharacteristically slow start offensively to win their 13th straight game dating to Week 10 of last season.
The matchup between the Patriots and the Super Bowl champs was supposed to be Sunday, but it was put on pause when New England confirmed a player later revealed to be Newton tested positive for COVID-19. Later on Saturday, it same out that Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta’amu also had tested positive, forcing the NFL to postpone the game.
More tests, including one taken at 6 a.m. ET on Monday, returned no additional positives from either team.
In retrospect, the Patriots (2-2) probably wish the game was delayed even longer so they could get their QB back.
Brian Hoyer, who has now lost 11 straight starts for three different teams, was 15 of 24 for 130 yards and an interception before getting benched. Jarrett Stidham led the Patriots to a touchdown to close to 13-10, but he also threw two interceptions, including the pick-six to Mathieu that propelled the Chiefs to their fourth straight 4-0 start.
With the musical chairs at quarterback and the loss of Michel, who was placed on injured reserve with a quad issue earlier in the day, the Patriots turned to a scaled-back and run-heavy approach designed to keep them in the game.
Much of the way, coach Bill Belichick’s simple plan worked.
The Chiefs marched downfield for a field goal on their first drive, added another later in the half, but otherwise had a hard time getting into gear. Sammy Watkins wasted a scoring chance by fumbling in the red zone, Mahomes was under constant duress and the rest of his wide receivers were blanketed by the New England secondary.
In fact, the Patriots could have been leading had Hoyer not made two monumental mistakes.
The first came in the closing seconds of the first half, when the Patriots had used their timeouts to drive into field-goal range. Hoyer was sacked by Frank Clark on third down, and the 40-year-old journeyman didn’t realize he couldn’t stop the clock. It hit zero and the Chiefs took a 6-3 lead into the locker room.
Hoyer’s second mistake came late in the third quarter, when he again felt the pocket collapse on a third-down play. This time, the Chiefs stripped the ball loose and recovered it, keeping New England from another field-goal attempt.
Give the Chiefs enough chances and they’ll usually close it out.
Finally taking advantage of a swing in momentum, Mahomes hit Hill and Travis Kelce with long passes to move swiftly downfield. And when Hill took a jet sweep to the pylon for a touchdown, the Chiefs had some breathing room.
The Patriots answered behind a long run from Damien Harris, who had just been activated off IR, and a nifty catch by N’Keal Harry in the end zone. But the Chiefs kept moving on offense, taking advantage of pass interference and personal foul penalties by the least-flagged team in the league to set up Hardman’s touchdown.
When Mathieu was perfectly positioned to catch a tipped pass and take it to the house, the Chiefs were headed toward a winning start to a grueling stretch of three games in 11 days that includes a visit to the Buffalo Bills.
Packers 30, Falcons 16
Aaron Rodgers connected with tight end Robert Tonyan on three of his four touchdown passes and the Green Bay Packers remained unbeaten with a 30-16 victory over the winless Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
The Packers (4-0) opened a season by scoring at least 30 points in four straight games for the first time in franchise history. Todd Gurley’s two touchdown runs couldn’t stop the Falcons from their first 0-4 start since 1999, when they followed a Super Bowl season by going 5-11.
Green Bay was missing its top two receivers. Davante Adams sat out a second straight game with a hamstring injury and Allen Lazard had gone on injured reserve with a core problem.
Yet that didn’t slow down Rodgers, who capitalized on Atlanta’s depleted secondary and helped Tonyan deliver the most productive performance of his young career.
Tonyan had touchdown receptions of 19 and 8 yards to cap the Packers’ final two first-half possessions. He added a 21-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter.
The 2017 undrafted free agent from Indiana State finished the night with six catches for 98 yards along with his three touchdowns to set career highs in all three categories. Tonyan, who entered this season with two career touchdowns, has reached the end zone five times over his last three games.
Rodgers went 27 of 33 for 327 yards. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes without an interception this season.
After blowing two-touchdown leads in the fourth quarter each of the last two weeks, the Falcons (0-4) never were ahead in this one. Green Bay took the lead for good when Rodgers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Aaron Jones on the game’s opening series.
Atlanta already was playing without safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) as well as cornerback A.J. Terrell (COVID-19 reserve). That beleaguered secondary took more hits when safety Damontae Kazee got carted off the field and safety Jaylinn Hawkins left with a concussion in the second quarter.
Green Bay capitalized by scoring touchdowns on three of its four first-half possessions to build a 20-3 halftime lead. The Packers’ other first-half series ended less than a yard away from the end zone when Deion Jones stuffed Jamaal Williams on fourth-and-goal.
After making that fourth-and-goal stop, Atlanta kept the ball for over 10 minutes with a 20-play, 94-yard series that included two fourth-down conversions and ended with Elliott Fry’s 23-yard field goal. Fry’s kick cut Green Bay’s lead to 7-3.
But the Falcons gained just 14 yards on their other four first-half possessions. Atlanta’s offense fared better in the second half, but only after Green Bay had built a commanding lead.
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