You can nod your head if you’ve seen this one before. The Kansas City Chiefs physically dominated the Patriots at the point of attack on both sides of the ball and used a suffocating defense and an opportunistic and explosive offense to send the Pats to the locker room with plenty to digest on the wrong end of a 42-27 pasting at home.
The 42 points and 537 yards allowed were the most ever by a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team.
The turning point in this game was at the end of the first half. Leading 17-7, the Patriots got the ball at their 40-yard line with a little over three minutes to go and a chance to open up a big lead at intermission. After a nice gain by Dion Lewis on first down, Brady missed on his next two throws forcing a three and out. Worse, the incompletions took no time off the clock and the Chiefs got the ball back with plenty of time to go down the field. And they did just that, as they carved up the Patriots defense for a 92-yard scoring drive just before the half that cut the lead to 17-14 and you could feel this one turn.
Brady and the offense had the chance to put some distance between themselves and an opponent at halftime but couldn’t capitalize. Instead, the Chiefs outscored them 35-10 from that point on.
The Patriots defense showed that they have a lot of work to do and it can begin with the game plan. With Dont’a Hightower playing on the edge, the team played a lot of dime coverage which forced Kyle Van Noy into the middle and wearing the green dot. While he may find more comfort in that down the road, on Thursday night he looked uncomfortable and out of sorts. Speaking of out of sorts, in the dime look, the team went back to having Jordan Richards play a linebacker role in the Pat Chung kind of look. David Harris barely saw the field and the Chiefs took advantage.
But as we pointed out in our pre-game matchups, when the team ran this look in the preseason, opponents ran right at it and were very effective. Richards looked as lost as in preseason. He’s too slow to cover effectively and isn’t physical enough in the running game. Kansas City ran right at this group and did it extremely effectively rushing 27 times for 185 yards with two touchdowns, averaging a hefty 6.9 yards per pop.
Impressive rookie running back Kareem Hunt had a fantastic night, rushing 17 times for 148 yards and catching five passes out of the backfield for 98 more and a pair of scores. With Hightower out after getting his knee rolled up, the team put newcomer Cassius Marsh out on the edge and the Chiefs went after him in coverage and Hunt caught a short Alex Smith pass and took it to the house.
Hightower and the Patriots defense had a tough night.
Smith positively carved up the Patriots much ballyhooed secondary to the tune of 28-35 for 368 yards with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Including long scoring passes to Tyreek Hill (75 yards) and Kareem Hunt (78 yards), it wasn’t a banner night (pardon the pun) for the secondary. We spent the summer talking up the speed of the Patriots offense, well on Thursday night, the Chiefs put on an absolute clinic with team speed with their offensive weapons. The Chiefs scored just one touchdown drive of 90 yards or more in 2016, on Thursday night they had three.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots are now dangerously thin at wide receiver. After losing Julian Edelman to IR in the preseason, just hours before the game, they placed 2nd year pro Malcolm Mitchell on IR with the hopes that he can return later this season. Then Danny Amendola, who was having a very good night with 6 catches for 100 yards suffered a concussion, leaving the team with Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and newcomer Phillip Dorsett. But credit the Kansas City secondary. They played extremely well all night long and were sticking to their receivers like glue. Quarterback Tom Brady had all kinds of time to throw, except that there was no one to throw to. The windows were very tight and the Chiefs contested every throw. Brady’s numbers were uncharacteristically poor 16-36 for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Chris Hogan, shadowed by Marcus Peters much of the night had one catch for eight yards. Rob Gronkowski was blanketed by All-Pro SS Eric Berry all game and had just two catches for 33 yards. We expected to see the backs utilized much more than the team did in this one. James White caught just three passes for 30 yards and Rex Burkhead caught one for eight yards.
The running game was flat out not good enough. And the Patriots came into this one with the mindset that they were going to run the ball. They ran the ball 30 times for just 107 yards, good for only a 3.6-yard average. What was worse is that three times needing 2 yards or less, including two, fourth and one plays, the Chiefs stuffed them. That’s called dominating the point of attack and that is what Belichick’s teams normally do to the opposition. The Patriots had six red zone opportunities and came away with just three touchdowns. That isn’t going to be good enough. Normally at home when you score 27 points, you should be coming home with a win, however, this wasn’t a normal game by any stretch of the imagination.
One bright spot in the running game was newcomer Mike Gillislee who scored all three Patriots touchdowns in the goal line situations.
So there remains a lot of work to do, especially on defense because the Patriots have nine days to fix some issues before they face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense. If Hightower and Amendola aren’t available, it is going to put even more strain on the respective units. Bill Belichick will have his work cut out for him but if there is one thing we’ve seen before, don’t bet against him, he and the coaching staff can figure this one out.
If there is a silver lining to this one, we can now put the silly 19-0 talk to bed. That and those even sillier blue towels that were barely seen on television last night. Looked like NBC was trying to limit how much those were visible on the screen. But make no mistake, this one wasn’t a fluke. The Chiefs (as we tried to point out) were a 12-win team a year ago and they dominated this one. Just like they did against the Patriots in a nationally televised game three years ago.
We’re on to New Orleans….