Thursday Wrap: Kareem Hunt breaks the game

Kareem Hunt ran over and through the Patriots on Thursday night (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

You can’t say it wasn’t a fun opener, football fans. The Chiefs and Patriots gave us 69 points (nice), a host of fantasy plot lines, plenty to watch and think about.

Kareem Hunt was the unmistakable star in Kansas City’s 42-27 shocker at New England, giving us the most explosive rookie debut of the fantasy era. Hunt rambled for 148 yards on the ground, zipped for another 98 through the air, and finished with 246 total yards and three touchdowns. Look at some of the other players who smashed their rookie debuts; it’s very likely that signature significance applies here. If I were in a late draft this weekend that didn’t start play until Week 2, I would consider Hunt as a first-round selection.

Perhaps best of all for Hunt’s fantasy status, he had the backfield mostly to himself. Charcandrick West only touched the ball twice (albeit his carry went for a 21-yard score), and nothing else happened on a handful of rushing gadget plays. It’s also notable that Hunt wasn’t benched or punished after a first-snap fumble (something he never did in college). Andy Reid is going to use Hunt as his primary guy, the featured back. Saddle up.

Alex Smith at least marked his territory, giving us the game of his life (28-for-35, 368 yards, four TDs, 148.6 rating). That should quell the Patrick Mahomes tide for a while. Tyreek Hill (7-133-1, eight targets) got loose for a long touchdown on a New England coverage bust. Travis Kelce (5-40-0, seven targets; 1-4-0 on the ground) was marked closely by the Pats and didn’t do much, but no one should worry there. The worst piece of K.C. news — all-world safety Eric Berry suffered an Achilles injury and might be done for the year.

The Chiefs host Philly next week. It could be another pinball game.

We’ve seen some Patriots potholes over the years — everyone remembers the infamous loss to these same Chiefs back in 2014, on a Monday night — so there’s obviously no order to panic. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have circled the wagons before. But it was stunning to see the Patriots offense look pedestrian for much of the night (just 16-for-36 on completions; an ordinary 7.4 YPA; 3.5 per carry), and the New England defense was a sieve on the other side.

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I’ll be the last guy to shovel any dirt on Brady now, but for much of Thursday night, he at least looked like a 40-year-old quarterback. He missed a few throws he usually hits. He wasn’t in perfect sync with all of his receivers yet. These things take time. He’s obviously earned an extended leash, and I’ll rank him as such.

Brady didn’t throw for any touchdowns, in part because Mike Gillislee (15-45-3) scooped up three short scoring plunges. Is the cup half full or half empty for Gillislee? You love the cheap scores, but he was also stuffed on a couple of fourth-and-one attempts, plays that were partially stillborn by the unimaginative play calls (death to the jumbo package). Gillislee also wasn’t used in the passing game. It’s reasonable to expect Gillislee to keep the designated-scoring role here, but his owners might want to quietly explore trade avenues, just in case. Sometimes these stand-alone games can lead to fantasy overreactions; it’s the only show in town, and we’ve all been in an eight-month jones for pro football.

The rest of the New England backfield was tricky to figure, as usual. James White was handy if unspectacular on 13 touches (10-38; 3-30). Rex Burkhead only had four touches (3-15; 1-8); Dion Lewis (2-9-0) half that. I’m figuring Burkhead will have a few splashy games down the road, but no one can confidently say when they’ll come.

Chris Hogan was the bust of the passing game (one catch on five targets; he did add 3-17-0 on the ground), but receivers come with built-in variance. I still expect a meaty role for him. Danny Amendola was reasonable as the Julian Edelman fill-in (6-100-0), though he had one bad drop and got his bell rung in the process. Brandin Cooks ran plenty of deep routes and clicked on one; no touchdown, but he at least gave us 3-88-0 on seven targets (he also drew two pass-interference flags). Rob Gronkowski (2-33-0) couldn’t corral an early touchdown throw, and for the most part was invisible.

New England’s Week 2 trip to New Orleans looms as a delicious, intriguing match.

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