Kareem Hunt, Alex Smith Lead Chiefs to Week 1 Win over Patriots

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2017

Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27) eludes New England Patriots defensive end Cassius Marsh (55) as he runs for a touchdown after catching a pass from Alex Smith during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/Associated Press

For the first time since 2014, the New England Patriots are 0-1.

They can thank the Kansas City Chiefs for that.

Although the Patriots entered Thursday night's season opener at Gillette Stadium energized after they unveiled their Super Bowl 51 banner shortly before kickoff, the Chiefs—led by a surprisingly high-powered offense—shocked the reigning champions with a 42-27 win. 

Alex Smith was a major reason why. 

After No. 10 overall pick Patrick Mahomes II shined throughout the preseason, Smith—long renowned as a conservative game manager—delivered a signature performance by completing 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, including several deep shots. 

The first came early in the third quarter, when Smith found Tyreek Hill (seven catches, 133 yards) streaking down the right sideline for a 75-yard bomb to give the Chiefs a 21-17 lead: 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tyreek Hill. To. The. House! (via @NFL) https://t.co/kvhjHyqOzc

Smith then served up a repeat to open the fourth quarter as rookie running back Kareem Hunt found himself on the receiving end of a 78-yard catch-and-run that propelled Kansas City back up by a point, 28-27, following a Cairo Santos extra point: 

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Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Alex Smith, game manager. 🙃 (via @NFL) https://t.co/Rh315u2q6O

ESPN Stats & Info (via ESPN's Chris Sprow) put those two explosive plays in perspective: 

Chris Sprow @SprowESPN

Alex Smith 75-Yard passing touchdowns, per @ESPNStatsInfo: 2005-16: 2 Tonight: 2

Hunt looked tremendous in his NFL debut. After fumbling on his first NFL carry, he amassed 148 yards and a score on 17 carries to go with five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns on what proved to be a historic evening, according to Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info): 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Kareem Hunt - 246 scrimmage yards Most Scrimmage Yards in 1st Career Game - NFL History via @EliasSports https://t.co/OR0Bocj2fN

As ESPN.com's Mike Clay noted, Hunt more than justified his feature-back usage: 

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

Fumble aside, Kareem Hunt looks like what we expected so far. Elusive, breaking tackles. Have to like that.

All told, Smith finished with 10.5 yards per attempt—a number that eclipsed Tom Brady's lackluster mark of 7.4. 

Bradywho became the fifth 40-year-old quarterback to start a season opener in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Info—had one of his more forgettable performances in recent memory. The five-time champion went 16-of-36 for 267 yards and no touchdowns. 

With the Chiefs secondary making life difficult for Brady, the Patriots leaned heavily on their power running game. 

That meant heavy doses of free-agent signee Mike Gillislee, who finished his Patriot debut with 15 carries for 45 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came from within two yards of the end zone. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

The Patriot Effect. https://t.co/SliT87p6vs

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks chipped in with three catches for 88 yards, but it wasn't enough as New England struggled to generate chunk gains without Julian Edelman. 

If there's a positive for the Patriots, it's that they know about rebounding from big losses to the Chiefs. 

After falling to Kansas City 41-14 on Monday Night Football in September 2014, the Patriots won 10 of their final 12 games and proceeded to win Super Bowl 49 over the Seattle Seahawks. 

In other words, it isn't time for New England to panic, especially with a winnable showdown on deck in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints. 

The Chiefs, meanwhile, will try to build on Thursday's upset when they host the Philadelphia Eagles at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 17. 

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