SOCIAL DISTANCING AT HOME — When Tom Brady began his long run as Patriot quarterback, he was thrust into a game where the Patriots were trailing, 10-3. He tried valiantly to rally the team but two Hail Mary passes misconnected and the 10-3 score stood as the final.
So if for some reason this becomes the beginning of a long run for Jarrett Stidham, try not to remember the two interceptions as the Patriots would go on to lose to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, 26-10 on Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium at Kansas City. Stidham was thrown into a tough battle with the Patriots, mainly starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, committed a ton of very costly mistakes and with a little better execution could have been leading the game throughout the second and third quarters.
Hoyer was named the starter for this game, pushed back to Monday night thanks to a positive test for COVID-19 for Cam Newton, and another positive test for a Chiefs practice squad quarterback. Bill Belichick went with Hoyer as the starter, despite the fact that Hoyer is a journeyman quarterback who has played for seven different NFL teams and is on his third stint with the Patriots. Stidham started the game on the bench, but came into the game late in the third quarter after Hoyer killed off still another drive with a sack inside the red area.
This column suggested that Stidham should have started the game and not Hoyer. As things worked out, Stidham might have given the Patriots a better shot at winning the game given that the game stayed close all the way into the fourth quarter. Even though other players had some adverse moments in this game, the game was very competitive until the very end, and two major gaffes by Hoyer pretty much spelled the difference in the game.
The first gaffe happened at the end of the first half. Seemingly in position to tie the game going into the locker room, the Patriots had the ball at the Kansas City 14, facing third and ten after James White was nailed for a four-yard loss on a screen pass to the left. Hoyer had forgotten that the Patriots were out of timeouts. On third down, Hoyer dropped back, surveyed the field, then was besieged by Frank Clark. Hoyer had plenty of time to throw the ball away and get a field goal attempt in. But Hoyer scrambled to his left, Clark tackled Hoyer, and Hoyer sprang up calling for time. The team had none, and time expired in the half as Belichick exploded in disgust on the sideline.
The second gaffe was more damaging. Late in the third quarter, with the score still 6-3 Chiefs, the Patriots had the ball at the Chiefs’ 10-yard line in a third and five situation. Hoyer dropped back, again took too long to survey the field, and was strip-sacked by Taco Charlton. Ben Niemann recovered the fumble, and Patrick Mahomes marched the Chiefs 85-yards in seven plays to give the Chiefs a 13-3 lead.
Belichick finally replaced Hoyer with Stidham at the end of the third quarter. The first two plays were 51 rushing yards by Damien Harris, finally getting playing time with Sony Michel out with an injury. Going into the fourth quarter, Stidham led the Patriots to their only touchdown of the night, a nifty four-yard scoring toss to N’Keal Harry on a nice fade pass.
Hoyer never looked like a capable backup at any time. He misfired on three throws to kill off the first three offensive possessions. The last of these was an overthrow of Ryan Izzo over the middle, which resulted in an interception by Juan Thornhill. What little success Hoyer enjoyed was in the second quarter prior to the half-ending sack. Hoyer finished with 15 of 24 passing for 130 yards, one interception, and a passer rating of 59.4.
Hoyer wasn’t the only one who had a bad night. Julian Edelman had some bad drops, one of which resulted in a fourth quarter pick-six by Tyrann Mathieu. Devin McCourty dropped a sure interception on the third offensive play of the game. J.C. Jackson also dropped an interception early in the fourth quarter.
Referee Tony Corrente also made a critical mistake which cost Shilique Calhoun an interception in the second quarter. Chase Winovich had Mahomes in the grasp for a sack, but before Mahomes seemed stopped, Winovich popped the ball loose and Calhoun picked it off in the air and returned it to the Kansas City 5. But Corrente ruled Mahomes in the grasp before the ball popped loose. In a postgame press conference, Corrente said to a pool reporter that Mahomes “was being controlled”, which led to the stoppage in play. Despite being hounded after the game by reporters as to why he didn’t throw a challenge flag, Belichick correctly pointed out that forward progress cannot be challenged. But to the naked eye, the ball popped loose before Mahomes was stopped.
Up until the fourth quarter, the Patriot defense did a nice job in slowing down the electric Chief offense, and for the most part did a nice job of ball control in the first three quarters before the game got out of hand in the end. Despite the loss, one should point out that it was only 6-3 Chiefs until the tail end of the third quarter, and should have been at least 9-6 Patriots if not for better time management and situational football from Hoyer.
Harris, finally starting a game this year after three weeks on IR, had 100 yards rushing on 17 carries for a 5.9 average. 41 of those yards came on one carry late in the third quarter, but he managed to get some good carries when they were to be had. The offensive line was also in limbo again, with Shaq Mason missing the game due to a calf injury and David Andrews still out. The Patriots rushed for 185 yards as a team, and averaging 5.3 yards per carry, very good numbers by the team that should have been contained by a Chief defense more concerned about the run than the pass.
One thing that might help Stidham going forward is not to have Damiere Byrd leading the team in targets. Byrd led the team with 80 yards on five catches. White had the most catches with seven, returning to the team for the first time following the death of his father. Stidham should find a way to make Harry the leader in targets rather than Byrd, who doesn’t have Harry’s skill set and size.
Mahomes finished with 19 of 29 passing for 236 yards, two touchdowns and a 113.6 passer rating. Normally this would be considered “good” in that you held Mahomes at bay, but in the end he made the plays to win. Travis Kelce had 70 receiving yards to lead the champs. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 91 all-purpose yards.
The Patriots come home to take on the woeful Denver Broncos. If Newton remains asymptomatic, he could return and play next week. Or, with a bye week following, Belichick could rest Newton again and go with Stidham, unless he feels Hoyer is still a better option. Against a bad opponent at home, Stidham should get another chance, especially starting the game instead of coming in in relief.
The Patriots may be 2-2, but both losses are to two teams with a combined 8-0 record. Worse, the Patriots are now 2 games behind the division-leading Buffalo Bills who are 4-0. The Patriots have a chance to get right back into the thick of things in the AFC, with an easy game at home and a bye week on the horizon. They had good moments against both Seattle and Kansas City, though in the NFL a loss is still a loss.
This writer once again votes for Stidham to start next week. You have to see what he can do, and this is the time to do it.
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season