November 27, 2005
Unprepared Patriots Meet Predictable Fate
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
KANSAS CITY -- Bill Belichick has known many happier Thanksgivings than 2005.
The Patriot head coach was badly needed to concoct the perfect game plan to beat the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, Arrowhead Stadium being one of the toughest road venues for any NFL team to win in. But he was even more needed at home in Annapolis, Maryland, at his mother Jeannette’s side. His beloved dad and mentor Steve passed away last Saturday night at home, and the funeral was Wednesday. Belichick spent most all week at the one place he needed to be.
With Dante Scarnecchia minding the store, the Patriot head coach, after being whisked by Bob Kraft’s private jet down to Annapolis immediately following last Sunday’s win at home against New Orleans, tended to his family business while all of Patriot Nation, the United States Navy, and the Belichick family deeply mourned. Belichick came back to Foxborough as soon as he could, and got back to the business of trying to lead his team into battle on Sunday.
The hearts of all Patriot fans will remain with Belichick for quite some time. But such sentiment means nothing to anything Chief, as the home towners took full advantage of an already dilapidated Patriot team not being ready to play Patriot football on Sunday. Their 26-16 victory over the Patriots is an unfortunate consequence of a team needing as much preparation as they could get, but simply weren’t in a position to get it this week.
Ask Trent Green what he thinks of Belichick losing his father, for example. Green will respectfully answer with something like “My goodness, I know how he feels!”, followed by “But look at what I did against Oakland when my dad passed away!” Green shredded the Patriot defense for 323 yards (which may have happened anyway had Belichick been able to put in a full week’s work), and had relatively easy pickings in doing so. The Patriots have been totally unable to stop tight ends this year (Tony Gonzalez had 4 catches for 63 yards) or the deep ball (Dante Hall hauled in a 52-yard scoring toss, leaving a totally fooled and befuddled Ellis Hobbs in his wake).
But there were other things going on which may have had its roots in the coach being away for most of the week. As previously stated, Green having a great day was something that likely was inevitable under any circumstances. But other things went wrong for the Patriots which haven’t generally been part of what has gone wrong this year.
You can extol the praises of Larry Johnson all you want. But he is no Priest Holmes, and the Patriots could have done a much better job of stopping him. Johnson bludgeoned the Patriots for 119 yards on 31 carries. He ripped through a slew of Patriots who could not tackle him at the first level (Tedy Bruschi, for one, had several missed tackles in the first half). He was the benefactor of huge holes opened up (Vince Wilfork was a main culprit here, getting pushed around by guard Brian Waters for much of the game). The Chiefs did get All-Pro tackle William Roaf back, and this helped greatly. But the Patriots did not have the schemes at hand to stop Johnson, never mind the energy to make the instant stuffs they usually make.
Tom Brady had a putrid first half, with a passer rating of 15.0 and two interceptions. Granted, both interceptions were off deflected balls (both picks made by Greg Wesley). Brady was off kilter for most of the game, overthrowing receivers and looking like he had no clue as to whom to throw to. Brady did manage to come up for air in the second half, but by then it was too little, too late. Brady ended the game with a passer rating of 42.5, four picks, three off tipped balls, and three of them by Wesley. Against the 29th ranked pass defense in the NFL, this was not what the Patriots expected.
Finally, all game long the Chiefs played with more intensity than the Patriots did. The Chiefs do not have the luxury of playing in a weak division like the Patriots do, and needed this win more than the Patriots did. The Chiefs played like their hair was on fire, while the Patriots played most of the game like Steve Belichick was everyone’s dad and not just the head coach’s. It could be that both the Patriots and Chiefs wind up with 10-6 records, but the Patriots will be division champs while the Chiefs will likely be sitting at home in January.
Give the Patriots credit for trying to make it a game in the second half. Brady rallied the Patriots for two second half touchdowns, both one-yard scores (run by Patrick Pass, pass to Christian Fauria). But the Patriots were done in by three cataclysmic plays, the long bomb to Hall and the final two interceptions (Sammy Knight had the final one, late in the fourth quarter after Tim Dwight tried to haul in a 23-yard toss from Brady but wound up knocking the ball up in the air).
If you leave preparation out of the equation, the Patriots once again showed that they cannot defend the pass with any degree of consistency. They did very well in the second half, but that was after the Chiefs had built up a 26-3 lead and played conservative the rest of the way. Prior to that, Green had a Brady-esque day, spreading the wealth around in an unbelievable fashion. Samie Parker had 76 receiving yards, Hall had 66, Eddie Kennison had 65, Gonzalez had 63 and Johnson had 53. Green finished with a passer rating of 127.6.
The bomb to Hall exemplified this plight for the Patriots. Hobbs, the defender, guessed run (it was second down and seven) and let Hall run right by him. His safety help, Michael Stone, lumbered over but was in no position to do anything. Hall caught Green’s perfect pass in stride and was gone. This is once again a case of poor coverage likely borne out of poor scheming (lack of adequate safety help) and inexperience (dreadfully wrong guess by Hobbs).
Despite all this, the Patriots are still in a good playoff position. They have only one strong team left (Tampa Bay, at home) and a bunch of division tussles which will all favor the Patriots on paper. This was still another loss that the Patriots could sustain and not be devastated by it. All it really does is further cement their ultimate playoff seeding as a four (they do win a tiebreaker with Pittsburgh if they finish with the same records, which may not be out of the question). Either way, the Patriots will be looking at four games if they want a third straight Super Bowl win.
Belichick will want zero sympathy from everyone. He’ll continue to get it anyway, and rightfully so. To be able to pull off a win here on Sunday would have required the full attention of the coach to come up with a way to turn Green into Drew Bledsoe or Chad Pennington. But this was simply one Sunday where Belichick could only stand and watch as a more desperate team did what they had to do, and Belichick this week doing what he had to do.
Meanwhile, a lot of Patriot fans sat down to dinner Thursday and said a few thank yous that Belichick coaches their favorite team, as well as a few sentiments for the coach’s family during this trying week. It will turn out that Belichick has a lot to be thankful for, though this week would have been hard for himself to believe that.
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