FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Just like in his memorable primetime debut two weeks ago in Denver, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn't look scintillating in the first half against New England Sunday night. But his second half performance lit up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard, although this time his comeback fell short in a 43-40 loss to the Patriots.
“I think we just started hitting on the throws I was missing earlier,” Mahomes said after finishing with four touchdown passes in a blazing second-half rally. “I felt like we moved the ball well the entire night, just have to find ways to score in the red zone.”
Mahomes certainly looked pedestrian and off-kilter in the first half, heading to halftime 14-of-23 passing with 164 yards and two interceptions for a passer rating of just 46.3. The Chiefs trailed the Patriots 24-9 with only three field goals on their scoresheet. He admitted he might have felt a little too amped early in the game.
“Yeah, I missed some throws,” Mahomes said. “That happen in this league, but whenever you're playing good football teams, you can't miss those throws.”
He also made two big mistakes, turning the ball over twice. The first interception by Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower setup up a New England touchdown, while the second pick by safety ended a likely Chiefs' scoring threat just before halftime.
“The first one, he had come to the line of scrimmage, I thought he was coming in on a blitz and I just lost him,” Mahomes said. “And then on the second one, just in the 2-minute drill, we were rolling, just got a little too greedy. I thought I had could throw it a little higher and (Travis) Kelce could go get it, and I kind of got hit as a I threw and just left it short.”
But Mahomes turned a new leaf in the second half. First he scrambled outside the pocket to his right, finding running back Kareem Hunt behind the Patriots secondary for a 67-yard touchdown pass. He finished the third quarter connecting with Tyreek Hill on a 14-yard touchdown pass that brought the Chiefs to within 27-26.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said he saw his quarterback push through in the second half and settle down.
“He did a nice job,” Reid said. “But again, the objective is to actually win the game and we didn't do that. At the same time, when you have one like this, you go back and learn from it.”
The Chiefs and Patriots combined for six scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Mahomes completed Kansas City's rally from 15 points down with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Hill.
The touchdown toss to Hill on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line raised some debate during the game. Hill made a sliding grab for the score, but it wasn't clear if he was the intended receiver or running back Kareem Hunt, who was also in the area.
“A magician never reveals his tricks,” Mahomes said behind a sly smile when asked about the play after the game.
After kicker Stephen Gostkowski gave the Patriots a 40-33 lead with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left, Mahomes brought the Chiefs back in one play.
Mahomes took possession following the kickoff on his own 25-yard line and found Hill for a third time behind the New England secondary for a 75-yard score.
That left Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with too much time left, however.
“I'm glad when he was running, Tyreek was running to score,” Brady said. “I said, 'Good, score quick.' Because then we had enough time. They had one timeout left, and it gave us a little time to go down and kick the field goal.”
The Patriots great methodically drove his team down the field in setting up Gostkowski for a 28-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
Mahomes completed 9-of-13 passes in the second half for 188 yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers for a sterling 151.4 quarterback rating.
He also rewrote franchise history in the process. His 352 passing yards on the night gave him a fifth-straight game topping 300 yards, making him the first quarterback in team history to pull off that achievement. He also tied the club record for most 300-yard passing games in a season.
His 1,865 yards passing on the season also rank most in club history, eclipsing Alex Smith's total of 1,637 yards last season.
Together with his Week 17 start against Denver last season, Mahomes has 2,149 passing yards in the first seven games of his career. That eclipses the previous best of 2,103 yards by Cam Newton in his first seven games. His 18 touchdowns in seven games rank behind only DeShaun Watson's 19 touchdown passes set last season.
Despite the glossy numbers, however, Mahomes left Foxborough unsatisfied.
“You want to win,” Mahomes said. “As a competitor, you want to win every single week, but you learn from everything in this league. You learn from every experience that you have. You're not going to win every single game.”
Brady on Sunday night became the first quarterback to win 200 regular season games. Yet at the end he raced across the field following the game to meet Mahomes, a significant gesture from the winningest quarterback in NFL history to a 23-year-old whose record as a starter fell to 6-1.
“He made some big (throws),” Brady said. “He made a lot of big ones. The one at the end to Tyreek was a great throw, and he had some other great throws.”
The meeting after the game ended on a note of optimism for Mahomes.
“He gave me congrats on playing a good game, and of course I did the same to him,” Mahomes said. “I just kind of told him good luck for the rest of the season and we're going to go out there and hopefully we can keep playing and hopefully we might get to see him again.”