Given how high Tom Brady’s standards are, this will likely be one of those games that will bother him for quite a while.
Brady went out on Thursday night and went right at the Chiefs, going no-huddle after each big play and moving the offense with quick precision as they marched 73 yards on 9 plays and got on the board 7-0. But from there, things fell apart and you could essentially feel like things might begin to take a turn for the worst after Brady and the offense failed to capitalize on a play that could have completely changed the game.
That play came on the ensuing possession by the Chiefs when Kareem Hunt fumbled the football on Kansas City’s first play from scrimmage, putting Brady and the offense back in business at the Chiefs’ 32 yard line.
But that drive would go on to set the tone for an irritating night after the Patriots seemingly punched it in thanks to what appeared to be a tremendous throw (which it was) to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone for an apparent touchdown (which it wasn’t). Two plays later the Chiefs denied a first down rush to Mike Gillislee on 4th down and just like that, you had the feeling like it might be one of those games where that play came back to haunt them.
Ultimately, it did as the Chiefs took over and drove it the other way, with Alex Smith engineering a 12 play, 90 yard drive that ended in a 7-yard touchdown that knotted the score at 7-7.
That was just the first of two key 4th down stops, with the second one coming in a key moment in the fourth quarter on another 4th-and-1 trailing 28-27 at the Chiefs’ 40yd line. That seemingly took the wind out of the Patriots’ sails, and Kansas City would then go on a 14-0 run to put the game away.
Brady said after the game that failing to convert on those two drives just came down to execution and effort.
“I think it’s just better execution,” said Brady. “I mean, situational football’s always important to us and short yardage and a lot of things that we need to do a better job of. So, it was just a very poor effort. We’re going to have to do a lot better.”
That was just the type of night that it was. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith dominated the game and had a career night after missing just 7 of the 35 passes he attempted for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns. He hit guys in stride and stymied a Patriots’ defense that, in their first full game together, seemed to struggle with communication and losing Dont’a Hightower certainly didn’t help their situation.
Meanwhile Brady finished 16-of-36 for 267 yards and no touchdowns. His completion percentage of 44% was well below his standards, with Brady having finished that low just once in 2016, which was in the playoff game against the Texans when he finished 18-of-38 (47.4%).
What killed Brady was he had unusually bad success on first down, finishing just 5-of-14 (36%) for 125 yards along with two sacks. First down has usually been an area of success for Brady, with the veteran finishing 2016 completing 108-of-160 (68%), but that just wasn’t the case against Kansas City.
The biggest problem with that is it contributed to the team facing 3rd-and-7 or longer on 7 of their 15 attempts and overall they finished 5-of-15 (33%), which played a significant role in the loss. Brady, himself, was 5-of-11 on third down (45%) with just three passing first downs. Both Amendola (1) and Rob Gronkowski (2) accounted for them.
That’s not the type of excellence we normally see from Brady, who said overall they just need to play with more urgency because things obviously just weren’t good enough Thursday night.
“I just think we need to have more urgency and go out there and perform a lot better,” said Brady. “That is a winning attitude and a championship attitude that you need to bring every day. We had it handed to us on our own field.”
“It’s a terrible feeling, and the only people that can do something about it are in that locker room. We’ve got to dig a lot deeper than we did tonight because we didn’t dig very deep tonight.”
Hopefully they’ll dig a little deeper when they face the Saints one week from Sunday.