Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt recovered from a shaky start to set an NFL record and lead the Chiefs to a 42-27 upset of defending Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots.
Hunt had never lost a fumble in 856 college touches, but was stripped by Patriots safety Jordan Richards on his very first NFL carry Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
The Chiefs were already trailing 7-0, but escaped without any damage after a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski was overturned, a replay review revealing the ball hit the ground. The Patriots were then stopped on fourth-and-one and the Chiefs offense took over at their own 10-yard line.
The Patriots made it look easy on their opening drive, going 73 yards in nine plays for a drive that took just two minutes, 52 seconds and ended with Mike Gillislee's two-yard touchdown run.
After New England built a 17-7 lead, Hunt's three-yard touchdown reception from Alex Smith with 17 seconds remaining in the first half capped a 12-play, 92-yard drive and gave the Chiefs some momentum heading into half-time.
Kansas City took their first lead on a perfect 75-yard pass to Tyreek Hill, who was hit in stride by Smith.
The score gave Hill a touchdown of at least 65 yards in five straight games to set a new NFL mark.
But Hunt was the star. After former Buffalo Bills running back Gillislee scored for the third time to give the lead back to the Patriots, Hunt took a Smith pass 78 yards. Hunt went over 100 rushing yards on a 58-yard run up the left sideline to set up Charcandrick West's 21-yard touchdown.
Hunt, a third-round pick from Toledo, finished with 17 carries for 148 yards, a score and five receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Hunt is just the third player in NFL history with three touchdowns and over 180 yards from scrimmage in his NFL debut and first since Billy Sims in 1980. The 246 yards from scrimmage was the most ever by a rookie in his first NFL game.
"I just had to forget about it," Hunt said of his fumble during an interview with NBC Sports. "I just had to go out there and make up for it."
Hunt's 78-yard score proved to be the difference.
While Hunt played extremely well, Smith led the way. Smith threw for 368 yards and had just seven incompletions in 35 attempts while tossing four touchdown passes for the first time since 2013. The 368 passing yards were the second-most of Smith's career, behind only a 386-yard outing on October 4, 2015 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chiefs had three scoring drives of at least 90 yards, more than all of last year.
SMITH THRILLED FOR HUNT
"What a day for that kid, especially after that start," Smith said of Hunt. "He put us on his back. He played like a vet. I couldn't be happier for him."
All that talk of an undefeated season for the Patriots went out the door after one game.
The Patriots clearly are not as invincible as many thought they would be this season and the injuries are adding up. New England lost wide receiver Danny Amendola with a concussion on Thursday. Amendola caught six passes for 100 yards, but was injured on a punt return. He was returning kicks because of preseason injuries to primary returners Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones.
The Patriots are not out of the Super Bowl talk, but mounting injuries will be tough to overcome. Brady was not sharp Thursday, going 16 of 36 for 267 yards and zero touchdowns.
The Patriots have been here before and bounced back to win a Super Bowl. If they do get there, they just might have to go through the Chiefs.