KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The last time the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots met was for a spot in the AFC Championship game in January 2016. The Patriots defeated the wild-card Chiefs 27-20, putting an end to a season that saw the Chiefs win a playoff game for the first time in 22 years.
Now the Chiefs and Patriots will do battle again as they open the season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in what could be a playoff preview.
“We look forward to the challenge of playing New England,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I know they’re a good football team. They’re the world champs.”
For three quarters during Super Bowl 51, however, it looked like the Atlanta Falcons would stake their claim as the best team in football. The Falcons led 28-3 in the third quarter and held a 28-9 lead entering the fourth.
But the Patriots rallied back as Tom Brady engineered the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, leading New England to a 34-28 overtime win in Houston. Now the Chiefs will get to see firsthand how they stack up against the Super Bowl champs.
“It’s a big, big challenge for us to play the defending world champs on the road to kick off the NFL season,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “That’s why you play the game. That’s why we’re all here. Pumped about it.”
The Chiefs went 12-4 last year and won the AFC West for the first time since 2010. Repeating as division champs won’t be easy and the team will no doubt have its hands full with New England. In their previous meeting, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns while Brady completed 28 of 42 passes for 302 yards and no interceptions.
“Everybody has a hard job,” Chiefs safety Eric Berry said of defending the Patriots. “Everybody has to hold their own and play good football. Any given time, he can go to any one of them.
“They are all solid players so you have to keep that in mind and just trust that every play you could be the guy that is getting the shot.”
In the postseason matchup in 2016, the Chiefs actually outgained the Patriots in total offense 378 to 340 and won the time of possession 37:51 to 22:09. But those statistics matter little to Reid.
“The end result was we lost,” Reid said. “So it doesn’t matter time of possession and all that. You got to come out on the right end of the stick.”
The Chiefs might have a better chance of doing that Thursday as they seemingly have more playmakers on offense now. Even so, season openers can be a mixed bag. Last year, the Chiefs trailed the Chargers 24-3 at home in the third quarter before Smith rallied the team to a 33-27 win in overtime. New England, meanwhile, edged Arizona 23-21 as Brady sat out the first four games because of Deflategate.
So when the AFC rivals square off again Thursday, anything can happen — and Reid said there may even be a few surprises from the last time they met.
“Normally there are a few changes,” Reid said. “It’s macho to change things up and give you a few different looks, but when it gets down to crunch time you probably go back to the things you’re most familiar with.
“You’re going to get a few wrinkles. Every team has wrinkles for you and you just got to make sure you adjust to them.”
CHIEFS AT PATRIOTS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Records: Kansas City 0-0, New England 0-0
TV/Radio: KSNT (27.1), KDVV-FM (100.3)
Line: New England by 9