FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — An NFL game is full of ebbs and flows when teams capitalize on opportunities or regret missed chances.
The Chiefs could spend some time during the offseason with the latter, especially with a series that contributed to turning the game in favor of New England.
Down 7-3 early in the second quarter, Chiefs punt returner Frankie Hammond Jr. fielded a punt at his own 43-yard line before returning it 19 yards to the Patriots’ 36.
Hammond’s return provided excellent field position, but the Chiefs squandered the opportunity by going three-and-out before punting it back to the Patriots.
“You got to be able to take advantage of that when it comes, when you get opportunities like that with that kind of field position right on the fringe of field goal range,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “I mean, you get any yards there, you probably got points, and we weren’t able to do anything. Looking back, certainly a missed opportunity there.”
Smith is right, of course.
Punter Dustin Colquitt pinned the Patriots inside their own 5-yard line, and then an unnecessary roughness penalty against Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola moved the ball back to the 2.
The Chiefs appeared in good shape and any stop there gives the team another shot with field position.
But quarterback Tom Brady engineered an 11-play, 98-yard drive that consumed 5:36 off the clock, capped off when Brady plunged over the goal line on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Patriots were now up 14-3, and had all the momentum with the Chiefs finishing the first half with two field goals.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities like we have been doing,” Kansas City left guard Jeff Allen said. “When we’re in the red zone, we’re getting three and they were getting seven. When you’re playing a big-time game like this, you got to be able to convert.”
The Patriots certainly converted well in the first half, going 6 of 8 (75 percent) on third-down efficiency.
Kansas City wasn’t bad, converting 7 of 11 (64 percent) on third-down attempts through the first two quarters.
But the series with a chance to put points on the board proved a crucial miss when considering the opponent.
“We have to take advantage of every opportunity when we’re playing a great football team like the Patriots, but you have to have a quick mind,” Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson said. “When you miss things and don’t take advantage of the opportunity, you got to kind of let things go and just play on the next drive and capitalize the rest of the game.”
The Chiefs went on to lose 27-20, ending a magical season that saw a 10-game winning streak on the heels of a 1-5 start and the team’s first playoff win in 22 years.
There were a lot of reasons the Chiefs went down Saturday. The inability to capitalize on Hammond’s punt return is sure to be in the discussion.
But Hammond didn’t want that to be the case.
“That’s part of the game,” Hammond said. “There’s going to be ups and downs to any football game, so that to me wasn’t a turning point or anything like that. It was just executing and that’s basically what it comes down to, just 11-on-11 and us executing.”
Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.