1. The New England Patriots didn’t offer much of a challenge to Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith. Smith made two huge plays to Tyreek Hill and Kareem hunt, but the Patriots defense let him walk down the field at will.
He'll be remember for his deep passes today (3-4 for 178 2-0 on passes over 20 yards), but A Smith was 21-21 for 146 on passes < 10 yards— Eric Eager (@PFF_EricEager) September 8, 2017
If you can’t see that tweet, Alex Smith was a perfect 21 of 21 on passes shorter than 10 yards down the field. The best way for opposing teams to beat the Patriots is to lead extended drives and to no make any needless mistakes.
Smith took the passes the Patriots left open and lived to play another down. Not every quarterback is as patient as Smith, but teams like the Texans- with an even better defense than the Chiefs- could be able to replicate the Kansas City game plan.
2. Who is going to replace Julian Edelman? A little bit of everyone, according to how the Patriots used their receivers.
New England Wide Receivers— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 8, 2017
Cooks: 39 routes, 21% slot
Hogan: 39 routes, 64% slot
Amendola: 15 routes, 73% slot
Dorsett: 15 routes, 20% slot
Danny Amendola played 73% of his 15 routes in the slot, while Chris Hogan was second with 64% of slot snaps on his 39 routes. Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett played 21% and 20% in the slot, respectively, revealing their preferred usage on the sidelines.
Hogan did absolutely nothing out of the slot against the Chiefs. He’ll need to step up his game if Amendola misses time, or the Patriots need to come up with a new strategy because the “chuck it and pray” offense with Tom Brady won’t work.
3. “Brady and the New England passing offense was out of sync for much of the game, perhaps feeling the loss of WR Julian Edelman,” according to PFF. “The game looked similar to the 2015 games that Edelman missed, as Brady eschewed his usual short and intermediate passing game for lower percentage, longer developing routes.
“The result was a ridiculously high 2.94 seconds in the pocket (Brady usually gets rid of the ball in the 2.3-2.4 second range) and his going 5-for-19 on passes lasting 2.6 seconds or longer. Brady was 2-for-10 for 81 on deep (20-plus yard) passes, good for a passer rating of only 60.8.”
The Chiefs flooded the shorter zones of the defense and forced Tom Brady to hold on to the football and throw it deep down the sidelines. While the Patriots were content to let Alex Smith play his game, the Chiefs took away Brady’s bread-and-butter with the short routes and forced him to try and connect far down the field.
It’s important to remember that the Patriots defense that you see in week 1 will not be the same defense that you see in the second half of the year, and that the offense will also evolve.
But the Patriots need to find a way to open up the short passing game. My money is on James White.
4. Brady threw a greater percentage of passes deep against the Chiefs than he did against any other team over the past decade.
Today 47.3% of Tom Brady's passes traveled 15+ yards through the air. Again highest this past decade, while his average rate was 20.0%. https://t.co/u4RmRogtt3— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 8, 2017
Tom Brady's average depth of target today was 16.1.— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 8, 2017
Across 142 games this past decade, his prior high was only 13.6. https://t.co/CvVM6E7w6q
And that’s nearly 2.5-times his average rate during that span and an average of 2.5-yards deeper than average. That’s not a sustainable offense and it looked like desperation at times when the game wasn’t yet out of hand.
5. Brady finished the day completing 16 of 36 passes, or 44.44% of his attempts. That ranked the fourth-worst in his entire career and his worst since 2004. His four worst games have surprisingly all come at home.
1. 2004 week 4 vs Dolphins: 7 of 19 (36.84%); Patriots win 24-10.
2. 2003 week 6 vs Giants: 8 of 21 (38.1%); Patriots win 17-6.
3. 2003 week 10 vs Cowboys: 15 of 34 (44.12%); Patriots win 12-0.
4. 2017 week 1 vs Chiefs: 16 of 36 (44.44%); Patriots lose 42-27.
t-5. 2016 Divisional Round vs Texans: 18 of 38 (47.37%); Patriots win 34-16.
t-5. 2013 week 5 at Bengals: 18 of 38 (47.37%); Patriots lose 13-6.
t-5. 2007 week 12 at Ravens: 18 of 38 (47.37%); Patriots win 27-24.
While I don’t think we should be worried that two of Brady’s five worst accuracy games have come in the past four games- he did hit 76.19% against the Steelers (25th best of his career) and 69.35% against the Falcons- it is certainly worth monitoring with the Texans back on the schedule in two weeks.
I should also note that Brady has completed 60% or less of his week 1 passes just four other times: 2003, 2006, 2013, and 2014. Two of those years ended with a Super Bowl trophy and the other two resulted in conference championship appearances and subsequent deep fundamental shifts in roster identity.
6. And if the blueprint to affect Tom Brady is to have multiple All Pros on your defense, including multiple studs in the secondary and on the defensive line, then there shouldn’t be too many teams with the personnel to act out the game plan.
The Seahawks and Giants are definite problems in the NFC, with the Cardinals a possible option. The Chiefs and Broncos are two more. The Texans need another star in the secondary to emerge, but they have the potential.
We’ll see if any other team is able to 1) shadow Chris Hogan with an All Pro cornerback; 2) shadow Rob Gronkowski with an All Pro safety; and 3) generate pressure on Brady with an All Pro edge defender. Hopefully a few of these teams will be eliminated over the course of the year.