Playing a day later than originally scheduled, the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots each had their struggles on Monday. But, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense eventually got going with a pair of shovel passes for scores, while the K.C. defense racked up four takeaways in a Chiefs win. Then it was time for Aaron Rodgers to shine. Another sterling night was had for the Green Bay Packers quarterback, who threw four touchdowns, with three going to Robert Tonyan, as the Packers remained undefeated with a win over the still winless Falcons.
1) Though it came to be due to unfortunate circumstances, Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champions found themselves centerstage on Monday night for a second straight week. It was hardly the shining example of the Chiefs at their best, such as the previous week's dismantling of the Ravens was. But following a most unconventional week and facing a defensive mastermind across the field, Mahomes and Co. are still undefeated. A pair of shovel passes by Mahomes ignited enough offense and an often-overlooked defense -- despite being without Chris Jones -- made things miserable for a Cam Newton-less Patriots offense. This was hardly the Chiefs offense we're accustomed to, but Mahomes is still magnificent and his supporting cast is still phenomenal. Even the greatest cannot dazzle us every game. And what does a game in which Mahomes wasn't at his best look like? Well, he had 236 yards passing, the two scores and a 113.6 rating. That's a line most QBs would love to have. More than anything, Mahomes and the Chiefs are 4-0 (for a record fourth straight season) because they found a way to win even though they didn't look their best and were playing amid difficult circumstances. That's what champions do.
2) The Patriots defense confounded Mahomes for a good portion of the night. Devin McCourty dropped an early interception and Mahomes was stunningly ruled in the grasp for a sack by Chase Winovich to force a punt in the first half. Had that play been ruled a fumble (one that would've likely been returned for a score) or McCourty held on, well … who knows? Bill Belichick has done well corralling Mahomes before tonight and it's likely to happen again when these teams cross paths. Mahomes did a lot of un-Mahomes things and seemingly never got in a flow. Alas, the Patriots (2-2) could only contain the Chiefs offense for so long and could only do so much with the New England offense offering nothing in response to the Chiefs' second-half offensive surge.
3) New England's offense surprisingly out gained Kansas City, 357-323. It was hardly emblematic of a woeful night for the Patriots offense, though. In his third stint with the Pats, Brian Hoyer was shockingly making his first start on Monday. A veteran of 12 seasons, Hoyer hardly looked as such on a crucial first-half ending play in which he was sacked by Frank Clark with no time on the clock. Looking for six and a lead, but in field-goal position to tie it, Hoyer did the one thing he couldn't do – take a sack. It was hardly a veteran play and allowed the Chiefs to hang on to a 6-3 halftime lead. He threw a pick in the red zone later in the game and Hoyer's role as interim starter was only a cameo as Jarrett Stidham took over in the fourth. Together, they combined for four turnovers (three interceptions). This was perhaps an example of what life would've been like had the Patriots not signed Newton and why they're very much looking forward to getting him back.
4) Sure there was no Newton leading the Patriots. But the Chiefs defense was still outstanding. It did what it was supposed to do, wreaking havoc on the opponent in front of it. Ten points allowed, four takeaways, two sacks and a 4-0 start. That's what happened Monday as four defenders were responsible for takeaways and big games were had by Mike Pennel, Daniel Sorensen and on down the line. While the offense found life in the second half for K.C., the defense was consistent throughout.
-- Grant Gordon
1) The Matt LaFleur-Aaron Rodgers connection continued to work its magic Monday night. Despite being without top targets and downfield threats Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, Rodgers still looked very comfortable dinking and dunking his way to 327 yards and four TDs, three of which came in the first 30 minutes. The 36-year-old gunslinger utilized his personnel's strengths and targeted his running backs and tight ends efficiently, converting 27 of his 33 attempts (81.8%) as Green Bay improved to 4-0. Tight end Robert Tonyan (6/98/3) and running back Jamaal Williams (8/95) feasted without flaw on a plethora of underneath passes and screens against Atlanta's vulnerable defense. With things clicking in the passing game, Aaron Jones was used situationally after waltzing a six-yard catch into the end zone for the Packers' first score. He tallied a game-high 71 rushing yards on 15 carries, and caught all five of his targets for 40 yards and a score.
2) It was an all-sizzle-no-steak kind of day for a Falcons offense that statistically ranks among the NFL's best. Todd Gurley (16/57/2) and wideout Olamide Zaccheaus (8/86) managed solid outings, but that was about it. After punting on their first two drives, the Falcons (0-4) strung together a 20-play, 94-yard drive that started on their 1-yard line … and it ended with a field goal. Matt Ryan was decent (28-of-39), but the bulk of his 285 yards came on drives that concluded with punts or a turnover on downs. Questionable designations shrouded Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley entering the night, but both took the field with the intention of making an impact. Neither would make a dent in this one. Ridley was held without a catch (five targets) for the first time since his debut in 2018. As for Jones (4/32), his night ended after he re-aggravated his hamstring injury and didn't play in the second half.
3) The Packers defense, while far from terrible, needed to show it can do its part to maintain leads as the season raged on. A stout showing against Atlanta heading into a bye week should provide a confidence boost. Za'Darius Smith, one of the league's best pass rushers, returned to form after a relatively quiet first three games, recording eight tackles, five QB hits, four tackles for a loss and three sacks. Whether it was flushing Ryan out of the pocket or helping to take Gurley down, Smith was often the first one to make his presence felt. Darnell Savage, Kevin King and Adrian Amos all did their part in keeping Atlanta's receivers out of the end zone. Amos provided the biggest highlight with a deflection on an underthrown ball to Ridley in the end zone on fourth down to basically seal it for Green Bay late.
4) Picking apart secondaries is Rodgers' M.O., but injuries did their part to make an already daunting task nearly impossible for Atlanta. Already down two starting safeties, the Falcons lost backup Damontae Kazee for the night (and possibly longer) after an Achilles injury in the second quarter. The team was also without rookie Jaylinn Hawkins (head) in the second half. The Falcons surrendered three touchdown passes on Green Bay's first four drives, putting them in a hole they wouldn't come out of. Atlanta's front seven pressured Rodgers at times and limited Green Bay to a season-low 88 rushing yards, but the porous coverage made Rodgers' night a relatively easy one.
-- Jelani Scott