KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs probably scrapped whatever defensive game plan they were pondering the moment they learned Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
There’s no way they would have blitzed the crafty MVP the way they did his understudy Sunday.
The new pressure-filled plan worked against Jordan Love, though. The Chiefs brought the heat just about every down, and the Packers were unable to counter it until the fourth quarter. Kansas City hung on for a 13-7 victory that snapped Green Bay’s seven-game winning streak.
“I thought our defense did a nice job. We didn’t hold back,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Guys played hard and aggressive, and you’ve seen things happen when teams are favored. You have to bear down every week the best way you can.”
Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, forcing the three-time All-Pro to miss his first game since the 2017 season. Love responded by going 19 of 34 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception, both coming in the fourth quarter as the Packers tried to rally from a 13-0 deficit against the defending AFC champs.
Love’s touchdown pass to Allen Lazard with 4:49 left gave them a chance. But Patrick Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill on third-and-10 near midfield with less than two minutes left for a first down that allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock.
“Aaron’s had experience where he can get you out of some situations,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said, “but you know, that’s why I think when you have a young quarterback, you have to have the right plan as a coach. … I think this falls on me not having a good enough plan to go out there against that pressure, especially with a young quarterback.”
Patrick Mahomes was just 20 of 37 for 166 yards — his fewest in a full game in his career — along with a touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. And while the Chiefs (5-4) managed just 237 yards of total offense, that was enough to edge above .500.
“I feel like we’re close,” Mahomes said. “You can see drives here and there where we’re the team everybody knows and loves, but you have to consistently do that throughout every single drive in a game. We’re just not executing.”
The Packers (7-2), who are 6-12-1 without Rodgers since 2008, only managed 301 yards of offense.
More than any quarterback or offense, though, the difference in the first half was Green Bay’s special teams.
Mason Crosby yanked a 40-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter. He had a 37-yarder blocked in the second period. And when the Packers punted later in the half, one of their downfield blockers accidentally touched the ball with his toe and the Chiefs recovered, eventually turning it into a chip-shot field-goal.
The Packers nearly did the same thing when Amari Rodgers muffed another punt early in the second half.
The officials weren’t a whole lot better. They whiffed on the first-half punt — it took the Chiefs challenging the call for it to be reversed — and referee Shawn Smith had to stop the game numerous times to adjust the clock.
It probably would have ruined any offensive flow had the Chiefs and Packers not done it on their own.
The Chiefs, whose high-flying offense has turned heads on the way to three straight AFC title games, went three-and-out on their first two drives of the second half. The Packers also went three-and-out to start the second half, then watched as Love got sacked by Tyrann Mathieu on third down to force a punt on their next possession.
Green Bay finally put together a solid drive early in the fourth quarter, when Love completed seven straight passes. But after back-to-back incompletions, Love threw a pass toward Davante Adams — who was back from his own positive COVID-19 test last week — that was picked off by L’Jarius Sneed near the Kansas City goal line.
The Packers scored on their next drive, but the Chiefs made sure it happened too late to matter.
“I think we started having a better answer for them at the end,” Love said, “but yeah, they were bringing it all-out on defense. They were heating us up. We just weren’t able to execute on those plays we had against it. If we could have had one big play, maybe we wouldn’t have seen it so much and things would have been different.”
SUPPORT FOR A-ROD
There was plenty of support for Rodgers in the Arrowhead Stadium crowd. Not only were No. 12 jerseys plentiful, one fan held a sign that read, “We Stand With Rodgers.” The embattled quarterback has been sharply criticized for claiming to be “immunized’ against COVID-19 despite never getting vaccinated. Rodgers also drew the ire of many this week for a free-wheeling interview in which he claimed to be “in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now.”
Packers: CB Eric Stokes left in the first quarter with a knee injury. DL Kenny Clark had to be helped off with a sore back in the second quarter, and LG Jon Runyan joined him in the locker room with an illness a few minutes later.
Chiefs: RT Lucas Niang hurt his ribs in the first half. He was already starting in place of Mike Remmers (knee), forcing third-stringer Andrew Wylie to finish the game.
Green Bay returns home to face Seattle on Sunday.
Kansas City visits Las Vegas on Sunday night.
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