Missing Their Superhero
On Monday night, Arrowhead Stadium was set to host a premier matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions, with two former regular season MVPs lining up behind center.
Instead, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs somewhat decisively made their way to 4-0 after defeating a short-staffed New England Patriots team – missing its star QB Cam Newton – by a score of 26-10.
However, the score was not quite indicative of how the game unfolded.
Mahomes struggled early, and KC only put up a meager 6 points in the first half.
Per usual, Mahomes was big late, leading Kansas City to back-to-back touchdown drives late in the second half to cement the win.
But while Mahomes was the key for the Chiefs, the same could be said for Cam Newton, who was sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this weekend – and whose absence was meaningful, to say the least.
Veteran backup Brian Hoyer – who has now lost 11 straight starts for three different teams – started in Newton's place, completing 15-of-24 passes for 130 yards and an interception.
Hoyer added in a fumble, and ultimately cost the Patriots more points than he earned. He was benched in favor of second-year QB Jarrett Stidham in the final quarter.
Stidham proved to be more effective out of the gate, executing a scoring drive that ended in his first career TD.
Stidham did, however, toss a pair of picks in just 13 pass attempts, and finished with a 39.3 QBR.
Hoyer and Stidham combined for three interceptions against KC, Newton has only thrown two picks through three games.
The clear gap between Newton and his backups was on full display, and Colin Cowherd believes Newton's unavailability showed Belichick how integral Cam is to the New England operation.
"Wow is [Newton] valuable ... I thought Cam Newton last night got himself a big, fat contract. The value of Cam not going to work is indisputable."
Prior to the Chiefs matchup, Newton had led the Patriots to a 2-1 record, with the one loss coming at the hands of the undefeated Seattle Seahawks. In those three games, Newton has passed for 718 yards and 2 TDs, in addition to running the rock for 149 yards and 4 TDs.
While the offense struggled without Cam, the New England defense played lights out and contained Kansas City's typically explosive offense, at least until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Pats defense limited Mahomes to just 236 passing yards, as he posted his worst QBR of the season (59.5) by a significant margin (23 points).
The Mahomes-led Chiefs failed to score a TD in the first half for just the third time since he became the starter in Kansas City, and in fact, all of those instances have come against New England.
And because of that, Shannon Sharpe believes the Pats could have escaped with a win if Newton were in the lineup.
"I hate saying this, but I believe Cam Newton would have pulled the upset considering how New England played last night. Now, maybe because Cam wasn't there [Kansas City] let their guard down. Maybe they would have done some things differently."
Cam holds an all-time record of 0-2 against Kansas City, and in those two contests, Newton posted a 58.4 completion percentage, 493 passing yards, 4 passing TDs and a single interception.
On the ground, Cam rushed for 132 yards and a TD in those two matchups.
The Chiefs secondary is stout, allowing only 195.0 passing yards per game, the third best mark in the league, and has only allowed 4 passing TDs through four games, third fewest in NFL.
However, this season, KC is allowing 161.0 rushing yards per game (29th in NFL), and Newton is tied with Cardinals QB Kyler Murray for most rushing TDs among quarterbacks (4).
With the win, Mahomes improved to 2-2 against New England, and has accumulated 1,166 passing yards, 10 TDs and 3 interceptions against Belichick's crew.
Here's to hoping we see these two teams meet again in the AFC playoffs.
With a healthy Cam, and motivated Belichick, the sky seems to be the limit for New England – even against the mighty Chiefs.