Entering yesterday's season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, expectations were sky high for the New England Patriots. However, the defending world champions failed to live up to them – in spectacular fashion: The Patriots collapsed in the fourth quarter to lose the game 42-27.
Without the benefit of film review, let's take a look at some initial winners and losers from yesterday's game:
Loser: The entire defense
Disclaimer: The defense is not solely responsible for yesterday's loss, the offense's inability to consistently move the football is equally a reason for New England's ultimate demise. That being said, every time a unit gives up historic numbers it will be listed as losers on this list. Matt Patricia's squad surrendered 537 yards and 42, both highs of Bill Belichick's tenure as head coach, and looked lifeless in the fourth quarter while struggling against all of its typical strengths. It was beat deep, it struggled in the red zone, it had communication breakdowns. In short: It was really bad.
Winner: RB Mike Gillislee
The Patriots were able to move the ball with some efficiency on the ground and offseason acquisition Mike Gillislee was a big reason why. The 26-year old ran with patience and vision and was able to score all three of New England's touchdowns as a powerful goal line back. And while he ultimately was unable to help turn his team's fortunes around, Gillislee's performance was one of the few highlights for the Patriots yesterday.
Loser: The Patriots' wide receiver depth
After having lost both Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell to insured reserve, New England's wide receiver depth chart was down to four pure receivers. Unfortunately, the unit suffered another loss yesterday: The team's most productive receiver against the Chiefs, Danny Amendola, left the game with an apparent concussion in the third quarter. The 31-year old missing any game time would be another blow to a Patriots' offense that struggled with consistency yesterday.
Winner: K Stephen Gostkowski
Coming off an uneven season, Stephen Gostkowski looked like his automatic self yesterday. The 33-year old converted all five of his kicks – two field goals, three extra points – and there was never any doubt about his ball placement: All five of his attempts sailed staight down the middle. Furthermore, Gostkowski also was a weapon on kickoffs no matter if it was pushing them for touchbacks or placing them close to the goal line.
Loser: LB Dont'a Hightower
While teh entire defense deserves some blame for yesterday's performance, a few players in particular need to be singled out for one reason or another: Dont'a Hightower is one of them. Playing in his first game since the Super Bowl, Hightower – who did work as the defense's signal caller – lined mostly up on the edge. And while he was solid in this regard, the reason for his inclusion as a “loser” is that he suffered a leg injury in the third quarter that forced him out of the game. Health has always been a question mark for the 27-year old and seeing him suffer another injury is not only another tough break for him but the entire defense.
Loser: LB Cassius Marsh
With Hightower down, Cassius Marsh saw plenty of snaps along the defensive line. The former Seattle Seahawk, who joined the Patriots via trade on Sunday, proved to be a considerable downgrade from the defensive team captain. He could not keep track with Kareem Hunt on his 78-yard fourth quarter touchdown and also was responsible for a running into the kicker penalty. It was a debut to forget.
Winner: OG Joe Thuney
As noted above, the Patriots rushed for three touchdowns – and the first two came behind the left side of the offensive line, where second-year guard Joe Thuney served as a powerful downhill blocker in the running game. In general, Thuney has had a good game as both a run blocker and also a pass protector (an area, he had his issues in 2016) and was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise shaky offensive unit.
Loser: The Patriots' no-huddle and 4th down offense
The Patriots' offensive playcalling had two noticable weaknesses yesterday: 4th down plays and the no-huddle. New England attempted two 4th down plays – both were runs by Mike Gillislee, both were stopped short of the first down marker. The team opted to go with a run out of an I-formation each time, despite uneven results in similar situations. Another offensive issue was the Patriots' use of the no-huddle offense. While it worked really well in the first half, the team opted to go another way in the second. The results were far less satisfying.
Winner: CB Johnson Bademosi
While one new Patriot struggled noticably, Cassius Marsh, another had a solid performance: Johnson Bademosi, who joined the team via trade from the Detroit Lions. The 27-year old worked exclusively as a gunner in the kicking game and displayed solid speed and tackling abilities, registering one takedown. With Matthew Slater being out due to injury, Bademosi's performance played a key role in the Patriots shutting down Kansas City's talented special teams units.
Loser: SS Jordan Richards
Jordan Richards was on the roster bubble prior to cutdown day and yesterday's performance did not improve his standing at all. Even though the team gave him plenty of opportunities – he played 41 of 68 defensive snaps –, the former second-round draft pick struggled as a safety/linebacker hybrid that played close to the line of scrimmage. Richards finished with four tackles but was out of position multiple times, most prominently during Kareem Hunt's second-quarter touchdown pass.
The Patriots lost an ugly game to the Chiefs. Let's break it down.Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Thursday, September 7, 2017