Well, I'm excited to move on. If we want to summarize last night's debacle, we just have to look at the Patriots second half output:
Drive 1: Fumble (Patriots recover on the NE 21)
Drive 2: Fumble (Chiefs recover on the NE 9)
Drive 3: Interception (Chiefs return to the NE 13)
Drive 4: Touchdown to Brandon LaFell
Drive 5: Interception (Chiefs return for a touchdown)
And then he was benched. Sat down? Any other player gets yanked in that situation, so let's be consistent.
Brady was deservedly benched.
On a week that saw Marcus Cannon benched at left guard, only to be reinstated at left tackle in order to get Nate Solder off the field, Brady looked terrible. And that's okay- it happens. But this game is a certain type of special.
It's not at Kansas City, where a playoff team sets the noise record with one of the most impressive fan bases in the league.
Or maybe, yes. This game should have happened because our expectations for this Patriots team needs to be updated. Recalibrated.
Two of the Patriots worst losses of the past five seasons have happened this year. The Patriots hadn't lost a regular season game by more than one score since Week 9 of 2010 against the Browns prior to this year- now they have two in the first quarter.
After the first week, the heat was an easy outlet for blame. While it's not preferable, it's completely understandable. The defensive scheme was a disaster and the offensive line was a point of concern. It was rectified against the Vikings with a power running game, which disappeared against the Raiders. And it never had a chance to show up against the Chiefs.
And it's easy to note the Chiefs outstanding fanbase who made it near impossible for the Patriots to adjust (although Kudos to center Bryan Stork for not messing up a snap the entire game. I didn't even notice a guard tapping him to snap). But that's just like blaming the heat: it's ignoring the issues at hand.
This week will be brutal on the radio, on television, and on almost every outlet. Tom Brady was terrible, Jimmy Garoppolo scored a touchdown on his first drive, and AFC East quarterbacks are the controversy du jour.
But let's nip this one early. It's not as simple as blaming Bill Belichick the coach or Bill Belichick the general manager. It's not just Brady having a bad game (or bad first quarter of the year). It's not just the offensive line, the defensive line, the cleats, or the heat.
It's a complete failure by the team as a whole, and the only direction to move is towards reconciliation.
Belichick the GM versus Belichick the Coach
You'll be hearing this one, and let's get this straight: Any GM who manages to get Pro Bowl caliber players like Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins should be furious when the coaching staff manages to put together a sub-par unit on the field. If the coaches can't find a way to use Aaron Dobson, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, and any of the other weapons in the game plan, that's on the coaches.
On the other hand, any coaching staff that is forced to bench eight of its nine offensive lineman over the first four weeks of the season, after trading a locker room leader and one of the only proven outfits on the line (even in decline), should reasonably be upset with their general manager.
Of course, in this case, Belichick would be pretty crazy to be yelling at both the GM and the head coach. It's not the fault of one or the other; it's the fault of Belichick, the entity.
Darrelle Revis is Wasting Money
It seems as if no one is afraid of throwing at Revis anymore and it's clear that the Patriots have followed Greg Schiano's lead in Tampa and further neutered his ability. Revis was the most successful corner because he was allowed to track the opposing team's top target. He can drop into zone, and that's well and good and a nice wrinkle to have on the defense, but to heavily feature zone over man- or to play the dreaded off-man- is to not give him a chance to shine.
Revis hasn't been excellent. His reaction time is slow, he's a step too late, and he seems to be an obvious target for hitch routes. Still, it's not a coincidence that literally every single cornerback that has been on the Patriots since 2009 have suffered from the same issue. It's what derailed McCourty after his rookie season: an over-emphasis on not allowing the big play, which allows opposing quarterbacks to take the underneath route every single snap.
While Revis hasn't been the star everyone expected, it's hard to blame him when the coaching staff isn't using his abilities to their full potential.
Sitting Aaron Dobson
If Dobson is sitting because the coaches don't expect him to gain separation, why did they even bother to draft him? Dobson has a skill set and the coaches just aren't capitalizing on his ability. By sitting both Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, the team headed to the Chiefs without a single outside receiver.
Naturally, the Chiefs were content to stack the box against the run and congest the quick passing lanes- it's like Belichick forgot that the Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is part of the Rex Ryan coaching tree. This is Beating the Patriots 101 and the Patriots did part of the Chiefs' job for them.
Rex would always challenge Brady by dropping everyone into coverage, but disguising which players up front would be rushing and who would be covering. By removing the outside receivers, the Chiefs field was cut in half and they were able to stay in their passing lanes, while also being in the area to stop the run.
There's no reason to bench Dobson. He needs to play.
What do to on the Offensive Line
Prior to the game, guards Marcus Cannon and Jordan Devey were benched. Josh Kline has remained inactive.
Rookie Cameron Fleming was inserted at right guard. He was benched for Ryan Wendell, the formerly benched center.
During the game, both Sebastian Vollmer (the final drive of the first half) and Nate Solder (the end of the second half) were benched in favor of putting Cannon back on the field.
Rookie Bryan Stork went wire-to-wire in his first game. Dan Connolly hasn't been benched for play this season.
This is not a good situation. Logan Mankins wouldn't fix this. Dante Scarnecchia couldn't fix this. This is the result of gross negligence to the interior line position, a role that has been the ruin of the team every single year since 2007, and that fault lies with Belichick the GM.
Moving forward, the best chance seems to be Cannon and Vollmer at tackle, since Solder has been the worst lineman not-named-Devey in three of the four games this season. Connolly needs to stay at left guard, with Stork at center. Honestly, playing Wendell at right guard might give the team the best chance moving forward.
But that's the issue. The offensive line, the most important non-quarterback of the offense, is resorting to playing the least-bad players, instead of "this player has outplayed and deserves time." All the rotations are just hurting any cohesion the team wants to develop and just delaying any hope of progress.
What does this mean?
This is an evaluation of systemic issues, not individual play. The linebackers were not very good against the Chiefs, both getting stuck in traffic in run defense and getting sucked in against the play action pass. The receivers weren't getting open, Brady was throwing passes in the dirt and looked generally uninterested.
Over the past two games, Josh McDaniels has opened the first drive of the half with a total of 11 passing plays and 1 rushing play. This is an example of a systemic issue, a base disconnect between what is on the roster and what the coaches want to put on the field.
The talent on the defense allows for tight man coverage, to give the defensive line that extra second to reach the quarterback. There's no reason to be playing off-zone coverage, especially against a quality starter like Alex Smith.
The team needs to realize that they are not a viable passing attack and that in order to generate any form of consistency, they need to start running the ball and doing so with a purpose. Shane Vereen should not be running inside, especially not when the Chiefs are stacking the box. Stevan Ridley needs to be more involved. Until the offensive line becomes a unit, running the ball should be the top priority.
The Patriots were absolutely embarrassed on national TV. You can be certain the team is in for a long week, especially with the Bengals on Sunday Night. The offense needs to self-reflect and take advantage of the talent that is on the roster- not the talent the coaches wish they had. The defense needs to understand that they do have talent. They just have to use it.
The first quarter of the season is over and it seems as if the Patriots have just as many questions now as they did in the opening week. It's time for the entire team to work together to find the answer.