Disappointing Loss for the Patriots on Banner Night
The Patriots banner night was ruined as the team suffered an embarrassingly dismal loss the Chiefs to start the 2017 season. From top to bottom, New England looked outmatched and underprepared. They also weren’t helped by a string of injury issues, including Malcolm Mitchell being put on injured reserve, Danny Amendola suffering a concussion, and Dont’a Hightower leaving with a knee injury.
Before we get into everything that went wrong for the Patriots, we need to address the Chiefs. They played a fantastic game last night. Alex Smith defied all expectations and played exceptionally, shoving it in the face of everyone who said he would be nothing more than a game manager (myself included). Kareem Hunt had a great welcome party to the NFL, running all over Bill Belichick’s defense. However, the way they celebrated towards the end of the game was embarrassing. They have every right to be excited; they came into the house of the defending champions on their banner night and knocked them out by playing fantastic football. Instead of handling it with class and acting like they’d been there, they show-boated and looked like baffoons. In reality, this game will mean nothing unless they win games in the playoffs, so as a team they should absolutely be happy and proud of themselves, but understand what this was: a great REGULAR SEASON win against one of the best teams in the league. And before anyone tries jumping down my throat and calling me a sore loser or anything like that, I hate arrogant show boating no matter what team it is. The Patriots did it to the Chargers nearly a decade ago and it still frustrates me to this day because that’s not how winning teams act.
Moral of the story: great win for the Chiefs, but celebrate that way if you do that to New England in January.
The game wasn’t quite as lopsided as the score made it seem. The contest was within one point halfway through the fourth quarter, and then within one touchdown and a two point conversion until the last few minutes of the game. However, the Patriots played well for maybe a quarter, before falling off the rails on both sides of the ball.
The one caveat that the Patriots offense has is that they were playing through injuries. Losing Amendola was a big blow because the team had to throw Phillip Dorsett in. Dorsett has only been in New England for a week, and his limited knowledge of the playbook cut the Patriots play selection down significantly. However, the injuries aren’t an excuse for the disappointing night by Tom Brady, the head scratching play calls from Josh McDaniels, and just the general lifelessness exhibited from start to finish.
Brady did not play BAD; he just wasn’t Tom Brady. His throws were off target from the first snap of the game, and his decision making was unimpressive. He missed blatantly open receivers, and took way too long to make throws that could have been game changing plays (ex. his deep ball to Brandin Cooks in the fourth quarter would have been a touchdown if thrown a second sooner). You shouldn’t expect this to be a trend from Brady, but it certainly wasn’t the way anyone wanted or thought the season would start.
The Patriots offensive line was progressively worse throughout the night. Their pass blocking was fantastic to start, but by the end of the game Brady had no time to do anything. Their inside run blocking was horrendous, as the Patriots’ running backs couldn’t get any holes up the middle. The one success they had was in stretch runs, which was aided by fantastic receiver and tight end blocking.
There were only a few positives for the Patriots offense on Thursday night. While Rob Gronkowski didn’t have a great statistical night (that’s what happens when Eric Berry is covering you) he looked strong and healthy, and his run blocking was immaculate. The fullback is the most underrated position in football, and James Develin is the perfect example of that. He blows up holes and has a measurable impact on the Patriots running game. Mike Gillislee also had a decent debut. He scored three touchdowns, but was also unable to convert on fourth and short when the team needed it the most.
New England’s defense was a whole other story. They were horrendous from top to bottom. Their only highlight was their first play of the game when they forced a fumble from Kareem Hunt. After that, they were steamrolled. There was no push from the front seven, and the lack of communication in the secondary was embarrassing. The Patriots’ cornerbacks and safeties seemed to be confused and unsettled on nearly every play. It was those confusions that led to Tyreek Hill getting a wide open touchdown on Stephon Gilmore (who must have expected safety help over the top), and a Kareem Hunt touchdown on Cassius Marsh (who should have had safety help over the top).
The lack of depth in the Patriots front seven was staggering. New England’s linebackers were manhandled all night, and the defensive line looked helpless against the Chiefs running game. It seems a little bit of a stretch to call it a lack of talent, because the Patriots are returning Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts, but it certainly seemed like they were playing out of their league. The run defense should have been MUCH better than it was, especially considering they were one of the top run defenses in the league last season. The pass rush for the Patriots wasn’t horrific, but that’s most likely because the Chiefs ran a lot of quick crossing routes that don’t give defensive ends much time to get to the quarterback.
One of the main issues seems to be at linebacker, evident by the fact that the Patriots spent most of the game playing with four safeties on the field. That will need to be addressed going forward, whether that be through acquiring another player or working new schemes in to mitigate some of their lack of talent.
The Patriots looked completely unprepared to play this game, and the Chiefs took advantage. The team has a lot to work on, including defensive communication, defensive toughness, and getting their new receivers like Phillip Dorsett up to date on the playbook to prevent a limited offensive scheme.
It was an embarrassing loss for the team, but that may be exactly what the team needed to get their heads on straight and realize that they have flaws just like every other team. Now they have 10 days to prepare for the New Orleans Saints, and I would bet we won’t see another performance like this one.
Until next time – B$
P.S. Eric Berry is a fantastic player and I feel terrible that he was injured. He was on Gronk like a glove all night. He actually held Gronk on a couple plays that could have been called, but he’s a crafty veteran and did it so the referees couldn’t really see it as the play was happening. Just a fun player to watch.