By Traci McCartney // @traciamc
Thursday, September 7: 42-27 Loss
It was supposed to be a celebratory night. The New England Patriots had prepared a spectacle to unveil the brand new Super Bowl championship banner from their unlikely victory against the Atlanta Falcons this past February. They brought back standout players from each victory before, and the atmosphere was electric at Gillette Stadium.
The first game in a new football season is always so exciting, and a home opener after winning a Super Bowl just takes it to another level. The Patriots with Tom Brady at the helm are, after all, almost unbeatable at home. They had seemingly had a great offseason adding some offensive weapons to Brady’s arsenal, especially important with the season ending loss of Julian Edelman to a torn ACL in preseason. But Thursday night was like going to bed and having the best dream, to being woken up from a nightmare.
The first quarter, the Patriots looked strong: the offensive line was giving Brady tons of time, and on the first drive he spread the ball around connecting with newcomer Brandin Cooks, James White and Danny Amendola. With the help of a Kansas City Chiefs pass interference call, the Patriots were knocking at the door of their first touchdown of the season, and they went up 7-0 on a Mike Gillislee rushing touchdown. On Kansas City’s possession, Jordan Richards forced Kansas City Running Back Kareem Hunt to fumble and the Patriots recovered at the Chiefs’ 32 yard line.
Rob Gronkowski, returning after his back injury and surgery last year was virtually neutralized. Eric Berry did a stellar job defending him, and on the Patriots’ second drive, Brady threw 2 incomplete passes Gronk’s way and a bomb that was right on the money, initially called a touchdown, but upon review had touched the ground in the end zone – call reversed.
A pass to Danny Amendola didn’t quite get to the first down marker, but when the Patriots wanted to hurry up and rush to the line to get a play off on 4th and 1, the referees called an officials’ time out to measure. Instead of going for the 3 points on the short field goal from the KC 10 yard line, they decided to go for it and the hand off to Gillislee went nowhere – he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. What could have put the Patriots up 10-0 instead turned the ball over to the Chiefs. And they made the Patriots pay, tying it up.
Before the half, the Patriots were able to score 10 points on a 25 yd Stephen Gostkowski field goal and another Gillislee rushing touchdown, but with time running out, the Chiefs were able to move the ball down the field, and thanks to a Malcolm Butler pass interference call in the end zone that cost the Patriots defense 20 yards, Alex Smith connected with Kareem Hunt running in stride and into the end zone for his first career touchdown. The Chiefs closed the gap and the Patriots went in at halftime clinging to a 17-14 lead.
On their second possession of the second half, Alex Smith threw a bomb to Tyreek Hill (who should have been covered by either Devin McCourty or Stephon Gilmore) for a touchdown, and suddenly, the Chiefs were up 21-17. And although the Patriots were able to put 10 points on the board with another Gillislee touchdown and a Gostkowski field goal, that was where the good news ended.
The rest of the game, not only were the Patriots unable to score any points, but they couldn’t seem to stop the Chiefs. And that wasn’t the only bad news.
Both Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola were lost to injury and both taken out of the game. For the Chiefs, Eric Berry was also carted off the field with what could be a season ending injury. And while it appears Hightower’s injury is a sprain and he could be back even to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Amendola is in the concussion protocol, and his return is unknown. In addition, the Patriots made mistakes they don’t normally make.
While in the red zone, Brady was flushed out of the pocket and trying to make a play, threw a forward pass after going over the line of scrimmage. That penalty cost them a touchdown and they had to settle for the field goal. There was yet ANOTHER call to go for it on 4th and 1, and Gillislee was again stuffed on the Kansas City 40 yard line. There were not one but two running into the kicker penalties – on the same KC punt attempt.
In the second half, Brady’s completion percentage was just over 36…he normally averages somewhere in the upper 60s. The defense looked awful with the exception of a couple of Trey Flowers sacks, and they gave up 537 yds of offense, including 148 yards to rookie Kareem Hunt who no one seemed to be able to tackle. New England was even charged with a too many men on the field penalty, yet another special teams blunder.
As Coach Belichick said in his post game presser, “Bad coaching, bad playing, bad football”. The good news, Patriots fans? The last time the Patriots were blown out by the Chiefs and people thought Brady and Belichick were done? That would be 2014, when the Patriots also lost their opener of the season to the Miami Dolphins. They also went on to go 12-4 that season and win the Super Bowl.
I’m not at all guaranteeing that this season will end the same way, but if there’s one thing I DO know…Belichick and company will do everything in their power to remedy this situation. We’ll have to wait and see.
We’re on to New Orleans!
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