FOXBOROUGH – Time once again to ask the coach if the quarterback position will be evaluated this week.
Purely to keep the previous trend going, of course.
As most fans likely recall, the last time the Patriots suffered a huge loss to the Kansas City Chiefs actually turned out to be a good thing. Beginning with the press conference question from Hades, the “We’re on to Cincinnati!” presser extravaganza was the linchpin to an eventual win in Super Bowl XLIX. Now, three years later, the Patriots got spanked once again by the Chiefs, Tom Brady looked less than immortal in the loss, and one now has to wonder where the Patriots go from here.
Things may be different this time. In 2014, that Patriot team was a talented bunch which merely ran into a hot Chief team in their home stadium which normally is a tough place for the visiting team to win. This year, you have a Patriot team which seemed more into celebrating their championship, but also looking like a team decimated with injuries, perhaps too many to overcome.
Kansas City unveiled a new running back named Kareem Hunt, who bludgeoned the Patriots on both the ground and in the air. Tyreek Hill showed that he is much more than just about kickoff returns. Alex Smith had a near-perfect game passing, and the Chiefs ruined the banner celebration with a 42-27 win over the Patriots on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
All night long, except for perhaps the opening possession, the Patriots seemed both over-matched and disinterested in the game. The Patriots were for the most part out of sync, Brady seemed lost without Julian Edelman out there, the Patriot defense gave up several long plays, two of them for long touchdowns, and now seem in trouble with Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola being knocked out of the game with injuries. Those who were healthy to play seemed to have no answer for Smith, Hunt, Justin Houston, and Eric Berry.
On several occasions, the Chiefs actually tried to give the Patriots the game and the Patriots wouldn’t take it. The Chiefs were penalized 15 times for 139 yards, many of them undisciplined plays. Twice the Patriots had fourth down and short, twice they went with Mike Gillislee, and twice they were stopped. Instead of the usually reliable Brady sneaks, the offensive line could not open up holes for Gillislee on either play. Hunt fumbled away his first carry of the game, but the Patriots did not capitalize on it with the first of the fourth down stuffs, and Hunt went off the rest of the evening.
Offensively, it seemed that Brady never established a rhythm, and it seemed painfully obvious that he missed Edelman. Brandin Cooks did have one catch for 54 yards, but other than that he had no other catches of consequence. Rob Gronkowski was blanketed all night long by Berry, who played well all game long until leaving the game late with an Achilles injury. Amendola was the leading receiver for the Patriots, with 6 catches for 100 yards before he left the game in the second half on concussion protocol.
Gillislee, despite not being able to convert on two fourth down and short carries, scored all three touchdowns, all of them 2 yards or less. He finished with 45 yards on 15 carries and had some nice runs, and two of his touchdowns were done by running through Ramik Wilson and Derrick Johnson respectively. But his failure on the two fourth down carries proved decisive.
On defense, the Patriots miss the retired Rob Ninkovich, and literally capsized when Hightower was lost for the game with a knee injury in the third quarter. Hill caught a 75-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter when he blew by Stephon Gilmore, and Devin McCourty could not get over in time to help. Hightower’s injury forced more playing time from Cassius Marsh, but Hunt took a flat pass in the fourth quarter with Marsh in futile pursuit for a 78-yard touchdown to give the Chiefs the lead for good.
But the Patriots had absolutely no answer for Hunt all game long. The rookie from Toledo, making his NFL debut, had the best first NFL game by a running back since Billy Sims for Detroit in 1980. Hunt blew past tacklers all game long, and obviously caught the Patriots by surprise. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia were most likely bent on stopping Hill and Travis Kelce, daring the Chiefs to beat them running the ball. If this is the real Kareem Hunt, defensive film watchers across the league have some watching to do.
Smith had an atypical game, throwing for over 300 yards for only the sixth time in his career. He finished 28 of 35 passing for four touchdowns and a 148.6 rating. Hill had seven catches for 133 yards, Hunt had five catches for 98 yards. Hunt finished with 148 yards on 17 carries.
Brady was only 16 of 36 passing for 267 yards, no touchdowns, and a rating of 70.0.
The 42 points given up by the Patriots equals the most in the Belichick era. The Chiefs gained 537 total team yards, the most ever given up by a Patriot defense in the Belichick era. It was only the third time in Gillette Stadium history that the Patriots lost a game despite leading in the fourth quarter, the last previous time coming last year against Seattle.
It was as un-Patriotic a game as it gets. The joyous pregame show, featuring the unveiling of the fifth championship banner, rang completely hollow by night’s end. In his postgame press conference, Brady talked about a change in attitude, which supports why the team seemed more into the celebration and not the game. Belichick agreed, saying, “Whatever he said, go with it.”
This game never came down to late game clock mismanagement by Andy Reid. His Chief team was the more motivated team, and deserved the win. The Patriots will head back to the classroom, watch the tapes of the game, and get on to the next game.
To those of you who expected a 19-0 breeze of a season, get over it quickly, like your favorite team will also have to do.