The Rear View Mirror – Game One
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Patriots 42-27 at Gillette Stadium on Thursday Night Football. The Patriots began with the night reminding everyone of their late-game comeback in the Super Bowl, and ended the night running out of gas and being outscored 0-21 in 4th quarter of the regular season opener.
Devin McCourty's open field tackle on Travis Kelce ended a Chiefs’ drive in the 4th quarter.
Photograph by Steven Senne (AP Photo)
Nine Observations from Game One…
1. Safety Devin McCourty (in on ten tackles) recovered a Kareem Hunt fumble in the 1st quarter, hit tight end Ross Travis to break up a deep pass along the right sideline in the 2nd, and tackled wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas for a loss at the goal line in the 2nd. McCourty also chased down Kareem Hunt after his long run in the 4th quarter to (briefly) keep it a one-score game.
2. On the bad side, Devin McCourty and cornerback Stephon Gilmore seemed to be on different pages of the playbook when they allowed wide receiver Tyreek Hill to split them for a wide-open 75 yard catch and score.
3. New England’s defense surrendered five “big plays” gaining 20 or more yards. In the 4th quarter Kareem Hunt (five catches) had a 78-yard catch-run-and-score when blitzing safety Jordan Richards was too slow coming off a pick at the line to pressure quarterback Alex Smith and “front seven” players Cassius Marsh and Kyle Van Noy had no chance to keep up with the speedy running back in coverage.
4. Part of the Kansas City coaches’ game plan appeared to be pounding rookie running back Kareem Hunt to the right side (ten carries for 60 yards), often over defensive linemen Lawrence Guy or Alan Branch. Hunt also had success running up the middle (six carries for 30 yards).
5. The one time Kareem Hunt ran to the left, he followed outstanding blocking from three tight ends aligned in a bunch formation: Tight end Demetrius Harris blocked down on defensive end Deatrich Wise, De'Anthony Thomas overwhelmed safety Patrick Chung, and Travis Kelce cut-blocked Malcom Butler. Linebacker Elandon Roberts seemed to slash too far inside on the pursuit and was caught by tackle Eric Fischer, opening a lane for a 58-yard run up the sideline. That 4th quarter run essentially ended the competitive portion of the contest.
The Patriots’ offense began taking on water after Danny Amendola left the game
Photograph published by SI.com
6. Wide receiver Danny Amendola did his best filling in for Julian Edelman who was lost in the preseason with a serious knee injury. Amendola sprinted the length of the field at the team introduction (like Edelman) and was Brady’s favorite target, catching six of seven pass attempts for 100 yards.
7. The Patriots’ offense successfully converted four of eight short-yardage run opportunities (third-down, fourth-down, and goal line runs with two or fewer yards to go). In the 1st quarter, linebacker Justin Houston pushed tackle-playing-tight end Nate Soldier into the backfield and safety Eric Berry crashed the line to stop Mike Gillislee (45 yards and three touchdowns) on a fourth down attempt. Again in the 4th quarter, Houston stood up Soldier from the tight end position before pushed through the big guy and stopping Gillislee short on a fourth down conversion.
8. Weird moments from quarterback Tom Brady (16 completions on 36 attempts), including two badly overthrown balls up the left side line, Dwayne Allen in the 1st quarter and Chris Hogan in the 3rd. Brady also had a touchdown pass called back in the 3rd quarter because he had crossed the line of scrimmage, and in the 4th he pump faked into the back of center David Andrews, knocking himself down for one of Kansas City’s three sacks.
9. How bad did New England play? In the 3rd quarter, Branden Bolden and Cassius Marsh on the punt return team committed back-to-back running into the kicker penalties. Credit to Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt who executed better the more he got hit: Kicking 36, 49, and then 59 yards over the three play attempts.
…And One Comment about Game Two.
Ten days after the defense surrendering 537 total yards to Alex Smith’s team, New England will look to rally against Drew Brees’ New Orleans Saints. In a situation reminiscent of the start of the 2014 season (a 33-20 opening-day loss to the Miami Dolphins), this Patriots’ team is still trying to develop into a challenger.