FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The defending Super Bowl champions were booed off the field at halftime after yet another lackluster offensive performance. Quarterback Tom Brady showed up at his postgame news conference with his right elbow wrapped in an elastic bandage.
In between, there was a second-half rally that fell short, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat New England 23-16 on Sunday to send the Patriots to their second loss in a row.
“You hear cheers. You hear boos. That's part of being in sports,” Brady said after the Patriots (10-3) fell further behind Baltimore in the race for the AFC's top seed. “I tried to go in and play better."
Brady completed 19 of 36 passes for one touchdown, one interception and a total of 169 yards that was his second-lowest of the season. He also took off on a fourth-and-6 to scramble for 17 yards — his longest run since 2014.
But he also took an unspecified hit to his 42-year-old right elbow that the notoriously secretive team couldn't hide.
Brady said the wrap was nothing to worry about.
“It's fine," he said, adding with a laugh: “It'll probably be on the injury report, but I'll be there next Sunday."
A Patriots team that once had designs on an undefeated season — largely on the strength of its defense — is now a game behind the Ravens (11-2), who own the tiebreaker. The Patriots' perennial first-round bye could be on the line when they play Buffalo in two weeks.
“Hopefully, we've got a lot of football left,” coach Bill Belichick said during a post-game news conference in which he spoke so softly many of his responses were inaudible.
Asked about the officiating, he shook his head and said nothing. Asked if his players were frustrated by the calls that went against them, he said: “That's the National Football League. You've got to continue to compete."
It was the third time in four weeks that Brady had the third-best quarterback rating in the game. This time, he was outplayed by Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes; Patriots running back James White also pitched in with a 35-yard pass as New England pulled out some trick plays to resuscitate the sputtering offense.
Brady also threw a flea-flicker to Julian Edelman for his only TD pass. New England's other touchdown was on a 10-yard run by Brandon Bolden, who lined up as a receiver and took the handoff on a sweep.
"Just trying some different things to give us a little spark or momentum," Brady said. “You know, we had a couple big ones tonight on the flea flicker and then on the other one with the halfback pass. So, those were good plays, those were good momentum plays, and I wish we could have made a few more of the other ones, too."
In a rematch of last year's AFC title game, which the Patriots won 37-31 in overtime, the Chiefs got out to a 23-7 lead in the third quarter. New England's only first-half touchdown came on a drive aided by two pass interference penalties for a total of 39 yards.
But Nate Ebner blocked Dustin Colquitt's third-quarter punt, setting the offense up at the Kansas City 19 with about five minutes to play in the quarter. Two plays later, Bolden ran it in; the 2-point conversion failed, and the Patriots trailed 23-13.
That's when things started to go against them.
On a third-and-4 from their own 35, Mahomes completed a pass to Sammy Watkins for a first down. Belichick challenged not just the spot of the ball but also whether there had been offensive pass interference.
Both calls were upheld.
That left Belichick with just one challenge left, which he used the same drive when Travis Kelce's fumble was ruled down. The Patriots won that one, and marched to the 15 when Brady hit N'Keal Harry on a screen.
The first-round draft choice barreled toward the end zone, jumped and reached inside the pylon, but the officials ruled he stepped out at the 3. Replays showed they were wrong, but the Patriots had no challenges left.
The Patriots settled for a field goal, and those four lost points were crucial at the end of the game when New England was in range for another field goal that would have tied it.
“I thought it was a touchdown. I'm pretty sure everyone else saw it was a touchdown," Harry said. “It's something that is out of our control."
The Patriots aren't ready to panic.
They also lost two games in December last year, then recovered to win their sixth Super Bowl. The schedule has Cincinnati (1-12) next week, followed by the rare meaningful AFC East matchup against Buffalo (9-4). They finish against Miami (3-10).
“I don't want to make any predictions," Brady said. “I may have certain experience doing things, but this particular team as a whole hasn't been through different situations. ... We have three big games to go, and we've got to get back to winning football."
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