Everything was going fine for the Patriots’ offense against the Chiefs when they were up 17-7 with the ball, facing second-and-6 at the New England 44-yard line with 3:06 left to go before halftime.
And then Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady forgot who the Patriots are as an offense, and they couldn’t get back on track for the rest for the rest of the game.
Against that Chiefs defense -- which was just fine playing coverage often with eight players against the five receivers for the Patriots -- and at that point in the game, New England needed to be more concerned with bleeding the Chiefs to death instead of delivering a knockout blow.
But from that point until early in the second half, Kansas City thwarted the flurry and gained more strength and confidence down the stretch. Body blows would have done them in.
It was a tough sequence:
Second-and-6: Brady tries to force a pass to Chris Hogan, when he had James White in the flat fully capable of making a player miss and a big play.
Third-and-6: Brady forces a comeback to a receiver he doesn’t have much of a history with, Brandin Cooks, instead of giving to White again.
Did they forget what happened in the Super Bowl?
Second half started with much of the same:
First-and-10: Patriots try to send a message with a deceptive play off play-action, trying to slip Hogan uncovered to the backside. Hogan couldn’t get into his route because of good defense, and no one else was open.
Third-and-12: Brady sees pressure that isn’t there (a staple against teams where he can’t get a feel for how they’re going to cover) and throws a deep comeback to Hogan against coverage that isn’t close. Underneath, both White and Dion Lewis had one-on-one matchups if the ball get into their hands.
The next time the Patriots got the ball back, there were trailing 21-17.
Mix in the Patriots’ inability to shove the more physical Chiefs off the ball in three short-yardage situations that would have prolonged drives, and you have a clunky debut for the offense.
Here are the positional ratings against the Chiefs:
Quarterback (2 out of 5)
This was almost vintage Brady against a Rex Ryan defense. The opponent spins the dial with coverage, the Patriots can’t run the ball well enough to keep them honest, Brady starts feeling pressure that’s not there, and he begins to force the ball out of frustration. … Brady definitely had his moments with 11 “plus” plays (tight and pressure throws, decisions), but he also had 10 “minus” plays. It was basically a tale of two halves. Brady had an 8/3 ratio in the first half, and 3/7 in the second half. … When Brady watches the film back, he’ll be ticked he didn’t settle for more underneath routes. … Things did not get off to a good start when Brady failed to hit Dwayne Allen on the first play from scrimmage. Brady didn’t need to float the pass, he could have easily put it on him. A play that has to be made. But he quickly rebounded. … Brady made a poor decision when had a touchdown wiped off the board when he went over the line of scrimmage. Brady had both White and Lewis open before that, and should make that play.
Running backs (2.5 out of 5)
Fairly nondescript game all around. Mike Gillislee looked good on three touchdowns, and showed good patience on his 16-yard run, but would have liked to have seen either more of a split with Rex Burkhead (5.0 average on three carries), or go quicker with James White and Dion Lewis. Instead of going one way or the other, McDaniels decided to sprinkle in a little of everyone. Less is definitely more when it comes to volume of runners. … FB James Develin has to make a higher percentage of his run blocks.
Offensive line (2.5 out of 5)
The unit gave up 35 percent pressure, which is a little higher than average, but most of that (including all three sacks) came late and when the Chiefs knew the Patriots were going to pass. In order of best to worst performance, we’d go like this: Shaq Mason (clean sheet), David Andrews, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and Joe Thuney . … Cannon was good until the fourth quarter, when Justin Houston knew what was coming. … Not many can block Houston when his ears are pinned back. Andrews had a tough time with the strength and quickness of the Chiefs when they put a player over the center. Andrews, however, often battled to a draw. … Thuney had a tough time against DE Allen Bailey, who is definitely back to full strength after being injured last season. What a strong human. … Solder was inconsistent but better than the last time we saw him (Super Bowl). All of the Patriots’ blockers have had huge issues with cut blocks and downfield blocks. Dante Scarnecchia will be all over them this week.
Receivers (4 out of 4)
It’s not their fault that the Chiefs, which returned the entire secondary (even backups) from last season, largely covered the heck out of them. It would have been helpful if McDaniels mixed in some motion, especially with Rob Gronkowski, to help create space. But he didn’t do that in this game. And it didn’t help that this officiating crew let a lot of contact go down the field. They might be hearing from the league office this week. … Chiefs safety Eric Berry was great against Gronkowski, and often had help. That’s going to be a problem without Julian Edelman. McDaniels will have to find a better way to make the extra attention paid to Gronkowski work to the Patriots’ advantage. … Marcus Peters was sensational against Hogan. Again, not the receivers’ fault. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap. … Brandin Cooks had a great debut with a great back-shoulder catch, three penalties drawn and a 54-yard bomb from Brady. … Danny Amendola was good but not outstanding before leaving with injury. He was open a lot, and that was because of the defense, not anything he did.
WR Brandin Cooks: Did a little bit of everything in his debut. He’ll have huge days against worse defenses against the Chiefs (most are).
RG Shaq Mason: A clean sheet against a defensive line as physical as the Chiefs is good work.
RB Mike Gillislee: The only thing lacking was the amount of carries. You have to wonder: Is that the plan with him? That could be a little bit concerning.
OC Josh McDaniels: The Patriots’ plan in this game this game was a problem, and that sweep in the red zone was a total failure and cost the team points — and so was that flea flicker. And what happened to throwing to the Patriots’ 63 different running backs?
LG Joe Thuney: Didn’t give up any sacks, but he had the toughest time blocking on a down to down basis, and he again whiffed on a screen block. Those can be huge plays if executed.
RT Marcus Cannon: Put in a bad position due to game circumstances and matchup, but the simple fact is that two sacks allowed are two sacks allowed.