KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs trudged into the locker room after their first loss with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, a streak that goes back six games to his Week 17 start last season.
Here's the thing, though: There was no sense of defeat in Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.
Instead, the Chiefs seemed downright emboldened by the way they fought back from a big halftime hole against New England. And if not for a litany of injuries to their defense and another clutch game by Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, which drove downfield in the final minutes to set up a winning field goal in their 43-40 victory, the Chiefs might have kept their winning streak going.
"We got down, we put ourselves in a huge hole and I'm just proud of my team and how we fought to get back in the game," Mahomes said. "We had the lead at one point and then we ended up not coming out with the win, but just that fight, it's something you can carry on and to the rest of this season."
All of which is true, of course. But the way the Chiefs performed under the lights in New England may have been more than just the stereotypical moral victory.
Mahomes threw two interceptions in the first half, when Bill Belichick's defense seemed to have the young quarterback confused. The Chiefs' running game was going nowhere and a defense missing lead pass rusher Justin Houston and its top three safeties to injuries looked like a sieve.
It was 24-9 at the break and could have been a whole lot worse.
But for the first time in his budding career, Mahomes not only was forced to make massive in-game adjustments but did so successfully. He wound up throwing four second-half touchdown passes, three of them to Tyreek Hill, and that same offense that scuffled through the first 30 minutes and found itself in a deep hole piled up 31 points over the final two quarters.
In fact, the Chiefs' offense was rolling so impressively in the second half that they may have scored their final touchdown too quickly. Mahomes found Hill over the middle, and one of the fastest players in the NFL turned up the sideline for a 75-yard score that knotted the game 40-all.
Two problems with that: There was still 3½ minutes left and Brady was on the other sideline.
The Patriots moved seemingly at ease against the Chiefs' porous defense, getting into position for Stephen Gostkowski to knock through a chip-shot field goal as time expired. And the old cliche of the last team having the ball would win wound up being spot-on.
"It was a heck of a football game," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "I was proud of how the guys battled. We will learn a lot from this game. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit early and you can't do that against a good football team. So, we learn from it and we move on."
Kansas City is still 5-1 with the toughest six-game stretch of the season already finished. There's another spotlight game coming up this Sunday night against Cincinnati, but that game will take place at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs tend to have a big advantage.
They're still a game ahead of the Chargers in the AFC West, and have beaten Philip Rivers and Co. on the road, along with picking up road wins over the Steelers and Broncos.
"You want to win. As a competitor, you want to win every single week," Mahomes said, "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. And so for us, we're going to take the things that we did in that second half to kind of get us back into it and kind of keep that stuff going as the season goes on."
The Chiefs still believe they're the best team in the AFC, and going toe-to-toe with the reigning champions on the road Sunday night only underscored that belief. Defensive tackle Allen Bailey even predicted that they would "see those cats again," alluding to a possible playoff showdown.
So, there was no sense of defeat in the Chiefs locker room on Sunday night.
There was a feeling of steadfast resolve and unwavering confidence.
"Guys showed character. Down what, 15 at halftime? Guys showed character," defensive tackle Chris Jones said. "It's a tough loss, a tough loss, but you learn a lot from that. You learn a lot about your team and about yourself and who you are. We are going to face adversity throughout the season and this team came together, we battled back, but they ended up kicking the field goal for the win."