Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Patriots Crushed By Chiefs, 41-14

The Chiefs destroyed the Patriots last night, 41-7 in Kansas City. The loss dropped the Pats to 2-2 on the season, tied for first in the AFC East. And things don't get much easier next week -- the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals come to Foxboro, off a bye week, and playing very well.

As for the game last night, it was worse -- much worse -- than what I'd predicted four weeks ago. Even though I thought they'd lose their second game at KC, the blowout score, the 3-0 loss in the turnover battle, and the the absolute domination by the Chiefs' offense were shocking. Most everyone realized the Patriots O-line would have problems against a very good KC defensive front-seven. But the Patriots defense looked confused and worn out most of the game.

Here's a blowout version of the good, the bad, and the wicked ugly. Guess which one has the most items :)

The Good

Wide Receiver Brandon LaFell finally showed up: 6 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. LaFell was the only reliable receiver, with KC controlling Julian Edelman (4 catches, 23 yards), and Rob Gronkowski (2 for 31, 1 touchdown). With both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins inactive, the Patriots needed more LaFell early in the game, but it's nice to see him progressing in the offense.

Defensive end Chandler Jones' first two series were mostly lights-out -- although he did lose run-contain twice. He was a beast in the backfield, getting a sack and two tackles (for a total of 2 yards given up). But he looked tired before the first quarter was over, and he was a non-factor the rest of the way. Could be he was too hyped from the excitement of a Monday night game, and went too hard early on to sustain the effort for the entire game.

Quarterback Jimmy Garppolo finished 6 of 7 for 70 yards and a touchdown -- for a QB rating of 147.9. It helped that he played against a soft zone and some backup players, but he still looked good. He was especially in sync with rookie running back James White.

Believe it or not, the interior offensive line played better this week. There was one jailbreak in the game (another was actually a botched screen pass), and the inside pocket was kept much cleaner than the outside. Rookies Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming started at center and right guard, respectively, and they were in improvement over whom they replaced. Not great, but better already -- which bodes well.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater made two terrific plays on punt coverage. Not much of a silver lining, but he proves every week that his two Pro Bowl berths were not flukes.

The Bad

Cornerback Logan Ryan looked completely lost, and he was benched in the second half. He gave up huge chunk plays, missing tackles that let Chiefs receivers run for lots of YAC.

The offensive coaching staff barely escapes the worst category because there just isn't the talent on the field. It looks like they are developing players instead of getting the maximum reps for the best 11 players. This might help them late in the season, but at the moment, the offense is in shambles.

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower looked like he was making progress the past few games, but he lost outside contain too often and got blown up on multiple plays by blocking backs. He should mostly win battles when a back takes him on, but he couldn't shed the blocks and it was easy pickings for the Kansas City running game.

Speaking of looking lost, linebacker Jerod Mayo got beaten badly in pass defense and had an inexplicable misread at the goal line that gave KC and easy rushing touchdown early in the game.

The other defenders who had at least one really bad play: safeties Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, and Tavon Wilson, linebacker Jamie Collins, linemen Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork, and cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and... well, the entire secondary, really.

Chandler Jones after the first quarter; disappeared faster than a David Copperfield rabbit.

The Wicked Ugly

Quarterback Tom Brady was not on his game, and might have been the worst player on the field. With the game still easily within reach, Brady eschewed an easy first-down run, throwing instead -- and the incomplete pass meant a Patriots punt. He had two terrible interceptions, one where no receiver had a chance and the other on an undercut route that went for six points the other way. He also had two fumbles... just an all-around bad day.

Left tackle Nate Solder looks like he's missing his binky out there -- traded guard Logan Mankins. Ever since Mankins left, Solder has looked worse and worse. He was so bad last night, Marcus Cannon replaced him, and Cannon isn't very good himself.

The defensive play-calling was really bad. The Chiefs beat almost every blitz for a big gain. And when the Pats had KC pinned back at their own 14, they gave up 86 yards and a touchdown on just 3 plays. It almost looked like there was no defense on the field.

The offensive game-plan was really bad. They came out in the heavy formation, indicating they would run. And then they outsmarted themselves, passing three times and then punting back to the Chiefs, who went right down for 7 points. Don't get cute, Josh McDaniels -- when you take a receiver out for an extra lineman, run it!

The disparities were strikingly in favor of the Chiefs. Time of possession: 36:27 to 23:33. Rushing yards: 207 to 75. Turnovers 3-0. Red zone chances: 6 to 1. Offensive plays: 66 to 49. And because of that, tackles made by the defense: 40 to 56.

So where does that leave us? 2-2 and tied for first, and with luck building for a better second quarter of the season. Though that won't be easy, with the game this weekend against Cincy and division tilts against the Jets and Bills. But if you believe they are working combinations to find the best players, then things should improve as the season goes on.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: For only the second time in his Patriots career, Brady started a game but had a worse QB rating (59.9) than another Patriots QB in the same game (147.9). Trivia question: name the other game (answer below).

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Blowouts are rare, but this one just seems to foreshadow bad things this season."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 2-2!

PPS. Trivia answer:
On opening day 2007, Brady got hurt in the first quarter, and Matt Cassel outperformed him on the day (116.0 to 83.9).

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